Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lignite - environmental triple whammy for Glenavy!

As some of you may be aware the community around Glenavy and Crumlin is now trying to juggle with three environmental hot potatoes.

-  Firstly there is the existing UFBP plant with its horrendous track record for water and odor pollution.  It has racked up close to 1000 complaints for nuisance odor over the last five years and numerous prosecutions for water pollution.
-  Then there is the proposed Moy Park Incinerator, the primary focus for CALNI.
-  Finally over the last few months the issue of open cast lignite mining has come back to the fore.

There are strong suspicions that all three projects are linked.  UFBP is owned by Glenfam who are Moy Park's partner in the incinerator project.  Glenfarm also have an investment in a local mining technology company.  The underlying technology in poultry litter incinerators was originally designed to burn lignite.  Oh yes, and the proposed incinerator site is only a few hundred meters from the original open cast lignite mine!! ...

The Antrim Coal Company is presenting to the Antrim Council planning committee tomorrow afternoon to take them through their plan to re-open the mine.  A delegation from CALNI will be attending.

A friend was doing some research into the ownership of Antrim Coal, some of which can be traced back to Peabody Coal, a listed US company.  He emailed me through details of their environmental record (below).  Based on the Newsweek results they have the worst record of all 500 public companies included in the 2009 & 2010 studies, scoring "1" out of a possible "100"!

It really begs the question of whether Glenavy and Crumlin will soon be Northern Ireland's Sellafield.  We already have the worst odor pollution in the province.  If Moy Park have their way we'll have a large scale incinerator.  If we're lucky we'll also have a Peabody Coal venture up and running before the decade is out!

All fifteen miles from Belfast City Centre as the crow flies, not to mention adjacent to the drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people.



Environmental track record
Peabody Energy has been tagged as a major offender of environmental degradation en route to becoming the worldwide leader in low cost energy. It has a long history of opposing efforts to mitigate the negative environmental effects of coal production and combustion. It was an active opponent of efforts to enact a strong Clean Air Act in 1970, of acid rain provisions in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, and throughout the current efforts to significantly strengthen mercury provisions.[12] In a recent report from the National Coal Council, headed by many major executives of Peabody Energy, they called for more than doubling U.S. coal consumption by 2025.[13] Although Peabody Energy’s production has shown negative impacts on the environment, they are taking steps to restore the American Chestnut tree population in Kentucky impacted by formercoal mines. They have been recognized for innovative approaches to stewardship that aim at restoring rangeland, wildlife preserves, wetlands, and hardwood forests.[14] InNewsweek's 2009 Green Rankings, Peabody Energy was ranked #500 out of the top 500 largest US companies based on their environmental impact - they received a environmental impact score a score of 1 out of a possible 100.[15]
And the Newsweek results from 2010, top 500 US companies - bottom 2 0  (ie from 481 - 500)
481Tyson Foods»Food and Beverage51.564.5639.0427.56
482Ralcorp Holdings»Food and Beverage51.438.9223.4513.71
483J. M. Smucker»Food and Beverage51.076.3530.2914.67
484Edison International»Utilities50.973.1838.9051.11
485Smithfield Foods»Food and Beverage50.443.3834.9748.84
486Duke Energy»Utilities49.672.3953.7452.84
487Vulcan Materials»General Industrials48.557.539.3548.28
491Cliffs Natural Resources»Basic Materials43.232.9829.1335.42
492NRG Energy»Utilities37.762.7822.0340.65
493Archer-Daniels-Midland»Food and Beverage33.982.5819.5121.54
495American Electric Power»Utilities30.291.4037.8948.32
496CONSOL Energy»Basic Materials28.782.193.1951.01
497Monsanto»Food and Beverage28.191.997.5546.47
499Bunge»Food and Beverage18.821.2019.4920.10
500Peabody Energy»Basic Materials1.001.0028.4654.46

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Derogation extended to 2014 - Sky continues not to fall

The sky continues not to fall for Marfrig and the Northern Ireland Poultry industry with the announcement of the renewal of the Nitrates Directive Derogation to 2014.

From the outside it appears that Moy Park has had an exceptional year.  It returned to strong profit and acquired O'Kane Poultry giving the merged group a very strong hold over the local industry.  Last week's big news was that the O'Kane turkey processing business which was under severe threat due to a change in EU legislation is back with a vengeance; with a new multi million pound plant supported by InvestNI and the European Development fund commissioned in time for Christmas!!

All of this is great news for the Northern Ireland economy and everyone at CALNI welcomes it wholeheartedly.

It does of course further undermine the notion that the sky is falling and the local industry could fold at any moment!!


t:  dannymoore_ni


23 November 2010

Ministers announce renewal of the Nitrates Derogation to 2014

Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA and Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA have announced that the Nitrates Directive derogation has been renewed for a further four years. 

Approval of the local derogation application has been secured in Brussels following a positive vote by the EU Nitrates Committee. The nitrates derogation enables intensive grassland farms to operate at higher than average stocking rates in return for undertaking additional measures to manage manures and chemical fertilisers.

Announcing the derogation renewal, Minister Gildernew commented: “Operating under a derogation makes good economic sense and is good for the environment. It enables grassland cattle farms to maximise the efficient use of manures for grass production. This EU approval is the conclusion of a lengthy application process and detailed scrutiny by the EU Commission of the scientific case we put forward to support our application.

“DARD advisers will be providing information workshops for farmers who are considering applying or reapplying for a derogation next year. I would encourage those farmers to attend these meetings as they will get advice on whether the derogation is the best option for their farm business to take.”

Also commenting on the nitrates derogation renewal, Minister Poots said: “Renewal of the derogation is good news for local farmers and the environment. Some 150 grassland farmers currently benefit from the derogation. The derogation is important as it allows the sustainable use of grazing livestock manures to meet the higher crop nutrient requirements on these intensively stocked cattle farms.”

“As the derogation helps to protect water quality and promotes best farming practice, I would encourage more farmers to consider applying next year to benefit from the provision which has been secured by the Departments.” 

Notes to editors: 

1. The EC Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) requires Member States to introduce action programmes to reduce nitrates from agricultural sources entering the water environment and to review their action programmes every four years. 

2. One key measure of the Nitrates Action Programme is an upper farm limit of 170kg nitrogen per hectare per year (N/ha/year) from livestock manure.

3. The Nitrates Directive allows farmers with intensive grassland farms and higher than average stocking rates to apply to operate under a derogation and extend this limit to a maximum of 250kg N/ha/year.

4. NI was successful in its application to the EU for renewal of the Nitrates Derogation for the period 2011 – 2014.

5. Farms operating under the nitrates derogation must undertake additional nutrient management measures which include:
· preparing a fertilisation plan by 1 March each year;
· preparing an annual fertilisation account and submitting it to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) by 1 March the following year. 
· having at least 80% of the agricultural area in grassland; and 
· having a farm phosphorus balance of no more than 10kg phosphorus per hectare per year.

6. Anyone wishing to obtain derogation for 2011 must submit a completed application form to the NIEA on or before 1 March 2011. Application forms will be available from the or by telephoning 028 9262 3189.

7. DARD Countryside Management Delivery staff at your local DARD Office can provide more information on the Nitrates Directive Derogation. 

8. All media enquiries DARD Press Office, Tel: 028 9052 4619. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lough Neagh Ice - the last time?

January 2010 saw the whole bay from our house out to Rams Island and Langford Lodge Point frozen and snow covered, giving probably the largest extent of ice anywhere in Ireland - perhaps even in the UK.   The picture shows yours truly out on the ice near the mouth of the Glenavy River at sunset.  Scott's of Sandy Bay can be seen almost two miles in the distance.

The bay is covered with a sheet of ice a little more often than most people realize, every 10 years or so; and it's generally possible to walk out on some of the shallow inlets where the water is two to three feet deep, making it relatively safe.  There are stories of my Grandfather falling through the ice on a horse and cart in 1947; my dad plunged into the water when riding a bicycle across the mouth of the Glenavy River in 1963 (to a barbecue in front of Hillis's shore);  I've had a few near misses over the years; but thankfully we all lived to tell the tale.

However, it is much rarer for the main bay to be frozen strong enough to walk on; notably it is effectively open water so needs dead-calm conditions for 3-4 days for ice to build to sufficient thickness.  The last time we were out on the ice between our house and Rams Island was in February 1986 when it was frozen on and off for a month!!.

Before that, the most amazing "frost fair" of my lifetime was a week of hard frost in January 1982 when we also had 5ft snow drifts.  There were hundreds of people out on the ice.  The older generation were quick to mobilize, driven by memories of the winters of 1947 and 1963, when the Lough was frozen for six to eight weeks - events deeply embedded in our folklore.

Quite a few people of that generation walked the two miles from Sandy Bay out to Rams Island on the ice; a feat I've never managed in my lifetime.

Sadly, if the Moy Park Incinerator were to go ahead the thermal pollution would ensure that the bay never freezes again; and that part of our heritage would be lost forever.  It seems like a little thing, but it means a lot to all the people from around the shore.

The ill-informed suggest that the heat would offer wildlife relief during severe cold spells.  This isn't really a factor.  First, Lough Neagh is only 15 miles form the coast so respite is always nearby; and the open water in the middle of the Lough never freezes anyway.  More important though, there are unique cold-water-fish spawning grounds in our part of Lough Neagh, including for protected species like "Pollen."  They need low water temperatures (<5C) to breed.  Those same factors that allow the bay to freeze from time to time are an essential part of the ecosystem.

Destroy them and the whole Lough Neagh ecosystem will be impacted, not just the heritage of a few families around the shore!


t:  dannymoore_ni

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not in anyone's back yard - NIMBY Series Part 2

Time to come back to the second update in the series on the emotional challenges of being a NiMBY and standing up to 'The Man'.  I had planned to finish the series with a post focussed on the idea of "not in anyone's back yard" but pulled it forward by popular demand.

Over the last three years Moy Park and the Poultry Industry have excelled at planning the idea than an incinerator is vital for the survival of the industry into the Northern Ireland psyche.  Seven thousand jobs depend on it - or so the story goes.  The recurring rhetoric has been that there is "No Plan B" and there are "No Alternatives."  If you've read my other posts you'll appreciate that I think this is scaremongering of the worst kind, there are alternatives and if either investors or industry analysts thought that the Moy Park business was hurtling towards the precipice Marfrig shareholders would be charging for the exits.

All that said, the rhetoric has been very sticky within political, business and government circles in Northern Ireland.  I've met with senior members of the assembly, NIO, InvestNI and the business community on other issues over the last few months.  The CALNI campaign has reached the level where it inevitably comes up in conversation.  Without fail the retort is that "well, it has to go somewhere!"  There have even been times when it has got quite nasty, with people accusing me of just trying to pass the problem onto someone else, muttering expletives about NiMBY's under their breath, and being emphatic that if it has to go somewhere it might as well be Glenavy!

All the scientific, planning, business and technical factors some to zero and the discussion degenerates into playground politics; why are CALNI trying to push this onto someone else!!??

Let me make my position and the position of everyone involved with CALNI completely clear.  We think incineration is the wrong technology to solve the problem and we would not wish the Moy Park Incinerator on any community in Northern Ireland. 

We are out and out NiABYs, "Not in Anyone's Back Yard!"

Early in our campaign we came across a quote from Michelle Gildernew, now agriculture Minister, where she emphatically stated that she wouldn't bring up a family within ten miles of one of these plants. I'm firmly of the same view having digested all the information available.

Stepping back, at the most basic level incineration is a very contentious issue in Northern Ireland as in many other parts of the world.  Three of the five major parties in the assembly are firmly against it in their manifesto (Sinn Fein, the SDLP & the Alliance).  The others appear to be pro incineration at the party level (so long as it is in someone else's back yard); but anti at the local level.  Diane Dodds MEP of the DUP is case and point; she praised the decision to progress the Glenavy Incinerator, but led the fight against the Incinerator on the North Foreshore!

Through 2009 we had a rather strange situation which set the local councils in Lisburn and Ballymena at loggerheads.  Ballymena took the position that they were pro Incineration ("in Glenavy"), within the Lisburn Council area.  They began to actively lobby other councils beginning with Carrickfergus, asking that they throw their weight behind Incineration ("in Glenavy").  This came to an abrupt halt once someone pointed out that after a formal site selection survey the top ranking site to locate a poultry litter incinerator in NI was the vacant Mitchilen Plant (in Ballymena), with the site ranked second at Kilroot, in the Carrickfergus council area!

From my perspective, all this stress and conflict stems from the strategic direction chosen by the Moy Park executive team.  The simple truth is that they have put the full weight of their commercial and political machine behind a solution that splits the political parties in Northern Ireland; and more specifically no community wants in their locality or should have to bear.  The proposed plant is not acceptable in anyone's back yard!

My suggestion is that they acknowledge that no community in Northern Ireland wants this solution; and focus their energy on developing some alternatives that are palatable across our society.  They have the power to shape the future of Northern Ireland in a positive way and could set a great example to all of industry by choosing a path to litter disposal that reflected local opinion.

There are plenty of great alternatives out there, as you'll see in my "What there are alternatives!!??" series of posts.  Most of the successful ones initiate virtuous circles where everyone wins.


t:  dannymoore_ni

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On Conspiracy Theories

Over the last week we got a lot of positive feedback on the blog.  However, one or two people accused me of scaremongering or peddling conspiracy theories.

Having the benefit of working in multinational public companies earlier in my career and more recently at a senior level I can assure you that every CEO and executive team of note either has a "five year plan" or is in the process of developing one.

Quite simply there is almost always a strategic plan; it will have been agreed with the company board, and generally where there is significant debt by the banks funding the business.

In the case of Marfrig, they have been exceptionally active in the M&A market in the last three years.  They almost certainly have a clear driving vision, Moy Park appears to be a cornerstone of their plans, and the plan is much bigger than just dominating the Northern Ireland market!!

Worth remembering that one man's conspiracy theory is another man's strategic plan.... and where billions of dollars of investment is involved there is always a plan!


t:  dannymoore_ni

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Marfrig, Competition and the Environment

Quite a number of people have contacted me over the last few days in response to my first two posts on "Standing up to 'The Man'"; where of course Marfrig is The Man.

The feedback has concentrated on three areas, (i) the threat posed by monopolies to our local beef and poultry farmers, the people who see the threat fear for their livelihoods;  (ii) InvestNI's apparent predisposition to throwing huge amounts of money at foreign companies like Marfrig; while legitimate local firms are shunned;  (iii) environmental issues in other parts of the World, including the problems raised in the article below where Marfrig and other South American beef processors are linked to the destruction of the Amazon.

It is great to know that the company is already on Greenpeace's radar.  We will reach out to them over the coming weeks.

At the same time, it has to be said that the threat to our environment and drinking water supply stemming from discharge of large volumes of warm water into Lough Neagh seems uniquely pointless.

Even if the incineration was the desired route, the plant could be located somewhere where the waste heat is put to good use, as in last week's article on alternatives.  Dumping all that heat is an economic crime as well as environmental vandalism.


t:  dannymoore_ni