Almost 1,500 jobs in the Midlands could be threatened, if Bord na Móna fails to secure an extension of planning permission for a large power plant near Edenderry, Co Offaly.
The company has said it will close the peat-powered station, at Clonbullogue, if it does not receive a favourable outcome to challenges to the continuing operation of the plant. The closure would result in the direct loss of 45 jobs.
However, briefing notes for the new Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Denis Naughten, show that the true impact on employment in the region could be greater, as closure of the Edenderry plant could undermine similar peat stations operated by the ESB, at Shannonbridge, Co Offaly, and at Lanesboro, Co Longford.
Bord na Móna supplies peat to the two ESB plants, which have permission to operate until 2019.
The company has estimated that the full impact on employment, as a result of the closure of the three plants, including jobs in upstream supply industries and jobs supported by the trickle-down effects of wages and salaries of workers at the plants, would be 1,443.
Last October, the High Court quashed an extension of planning permission for the Edenderry power station.
An Taisce had sought a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant permission for the station to operate until 2030.
Mr Justice Michael White agreed that Bord na Móna should have carried out an environmental-impact assessment of its extraction of peat. However, he granted a six-month stay on the order, to allow time for An Bord Pleanála to decide on a new planning application, involving a wider environmental-impact assessment.
In anticipation of the ruling, the semi-state company submitted a fresh application for planning permission with Offaly County Council. While the local authority granted permission, it was appealed to An Bord Pleanála, by both An Taisce and Friends of the Environment. A decision on the case is still awaited.
Bord na Móna has committed to closing all peat-burning energy stations by 2030.
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