Bord na Mona set to lay off 150 workers due to environmental issue
A peat-fired power plant has been closed temporarily over environmental concerns.
Bord na Mona is set to lay off about 150 workers due to a suspension of operations at an ESB power plant in Co Longford.
ESB shut down its peat-fired power plant temporarily in Lough Ree over environmental concerns.
Tanaiste Simon Coveney confirmed in the Dail on Thursday morning that 148 staff at Bord na Mona had been put on protected notice and that it would continue until ESB resumes operations at Lough Ree.
It comes after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated legal proceedings against Bord Na Mona following the discovery that the temperature of cooling water discharged from the plant into the river Shannon was too high.
Mr Coveney said Bord na Mona had “no choice” but to cease all operations at nearby Mount Dillon works as a result of the closure of the Lough Ree power plant.
He said staff were informed by the company on Thursday morning.
“All impacted staff, 72 permanent full time and 76 seasonal employees, will be put on temporary unpaid lay off from Thursday the 18th of July,” he said.
“This will continue until Bord na Mona is informed by ESB that Lough Ree power station will return to normal operations.
“This is expected to be in the period between four to 12 weeks’ time.”
The ESB confirmed that it had made the decision to temporarily halt operations at Lough Ree Power until a licencing issue is resolved.
In a statement the electricity provider said: “ESB is required under its license to return cooling water from Lough Ree Power back into the River Shannon in such a manner so as not to raise the downstream river temperature by more than 1.5C above the upstream intake temperature.
“A new condition imposed by the EPA some years after the station was commissioned required this condition to be applied over a smaller cross-section of the river.
“While the station normally complies with this obligation, there are specific times of the year where low flow in the river can give rise to brief excursions above this limit.”
I asked the Government today not just about the 150 workers directly affected, but about the whole future of Bord na Móna. A #JustTransition to a low carbon economy must mean new State investment to ensure there continue to be good jobs in rural Ireland. https://t.co/JsvXIRZIXI— Brendan Howlin (@BrendanHowlin) July 11, 2019
The ESB said it commissioned a study to find ways to satisfying the condition at all times but none of the options were deemed feasible.
“As a consequence of this particular licencing issue, ESB made the decision on Friday July 5 to temporarily suspend operations at Lough Ree Power until such matters are resolved,” the statement read.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin said that the Government needed to outline a plan for the future of the semi-state company to ensure that no worker is left behind as a result of the government’s climate action plan.
He said a just transition to a low-carbon economy must mean a new state investment to ensure there continues to be jobs in rural Ireland.
“Communities are fearful for their jobs,” Mr Howlin said.
“Lough Ree will be the start but many more people will be worried today.
“Families who have depended, in many cases for generations, on Bord na Mona want to hear clearly from the Government that it will stand by them and ensure that nobody will be left behind and that they will be supported with whatever resources are required.”
In response Mr Coveney said the state would work with Bord na Mona, the workers and their families, to ensure a just transition away from peat as a power source in the years ahead.
He also said that the state had made the “right strategic decision” to move away from generating electricity by using coal and peat.
The Tanaiste added that it was a policy decision that has been in place for quite some time and that as a result Bord na Mona had already begun to diversify.
Bord na Mona has been contacted for comment.