‘No new job losses in peatland rehabilitation plan’ – BNM

Bord na Móna’s plan for suspending peat harvesting and beginning its Enhanced Peatland Rehabilitation Scheme (EPRS) “ensures that there will be no new job losses across Bord na Móna”, according to the company.

Furthermore, operations at peat-based businesses, including Derrinlough briquette factory, Edenderry Power Station and the Kilberry horticulture facility, will continue as normal and will be supported by existing peat reserves.

The process to move Edenderry to 100% renewable sustainable biomass will also continue. The company said it will review the “new timeline” for the transition to a non-peat product base and operations model that will take place over the next few years.

Bord na Móna announced yesterday that it had suspended peat harvesting and is beginning work on the EPRS. The company said that the move “provides clarity for employees who have been concerned by the ongoing uncertainty around planning for peat harvesting, which has become increasingly challenged since last year’s High Court case”.

That High Court case resulted in a ruling that, in the absence of legislation providing an alternative for complying with European environmental law, all peat extraction operations on bogs over 30ha require planning permission.

A planning permission application process with An Bord Pleanála is ongoing. Bord na Móna said that, in the meantime, its intention is to “explore alternatives to peat as we continue to reduce the amount of peat required from harvesting”.

Impacted employees will be reassigned from peat harvesting works into EPRS operations, the company said.

Bord na Móna will work with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment to work out the details of the EPRS over the coming weeks.

The EPRS is being described as “the most extensive [programme] of its kind ever undertaken in Europe” and a “key part” of Bord na Móna’s ‘Brown to Green’ Strategy.

Peat rehabilitation involves engineering and ecology works designed to encourage and accelerate natural restoration processes. The peatlands, once “rehabilitated”, will include peat forming bogs, wetlands, grasslands and native woodlands. The plan also involves research and analysis of the greenhouse gas mitigation and sequestration that is expected to result from rehabilitation.

“This enhanced rehabilitation scheme will reassign employees out of harvesting straight into rehabilitation operations ahead of our original target later this year,” said Tom Donnellan, Bord na Móna CEO.