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Minister Rabbitte meets with expert panel chair Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness

electricity pylons

Dublin, 31 January 2014

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte T.D. today (31 January 2014) met with former Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness, chair of the expert panel convened to oversee the preparation of reports on the best underground route options to compare with the Grid Link and Grid West high voltage power lines currently being designed.

The Taoiseach and Minister Rabbitte agreed this week that the Minister would ask Mrs Justice McGuinness to consider what work, if any, her panel might usefully undertake to establish that there has been parity of treatment between the North South project, in terms of the work undertaken to date, and Grid Link and Grid West, in terms of the studies that are now proposed. The Chairperson said that she would discuss the issue with the expert panel “to consider what, if anything, we can do.” Mrs Justice McGuinness also indicated that she would be convening a meeting of the panel as early as possible.

The Minister noted that “the expert panel will not be asked to express a preference or to make any recommendations in relation to overhead or underground options. Rather, they will be asked to ensure that the underground studies are complete and objective, and are comparable to similar studies of overhead options for the two projects. In effect, the panel will certify the integrity of the process, with the commissioned material being put out for public debate and, ultimately, for consideration and decision by the planning authorities.”

Electro-magnetic fields (EMF) will not fall under the remit of the expert panel. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, arising from the Cabinet decision, will engage expert assistance to review and report on international developments, since 2007, on any potential health effects of electro-magnetic fields emanating from transmission grid infrastructure. In 2007, an Expert Group established by the then Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources published a report on “Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields”. The forthcoming review will bring that 2007 report up to date.

Note to Editors:

North-South transmission line
The North-South transmission line is a critical and strategically urgent transmission reinforcement and is of critical importance in the broader North-South context. This is because, as well as reinforcing the grid in the North East region of the State, the transmission line will be a vital link in maintaining the security of electricity supply for Northern Ireland into the future. Planning for this project has been underway for the last 10 years, with a planning application already submitted for the part of the project in Northern Ireland, and that planning process is in train.

Electro-Magnetic Fields
Responsibility for electro-magnetic fields (EMF) rests with the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. Minister Phil Hogan agreed this week that he will engage expert assistance to review and report on international developments in the scientific literature on potential health effects of EMF emanating from transmission grid infrastructure. It is anticipated that this study will provide the best available information on:

· published, peer reviewed scientific literature relating to non-ionising radiation and associated epidemiological matters,

· work carried out under, and findings of, relevant international bodies, as well as

· relevant international and national standards and guidelines covering the period 2007 to date.

The study will serve as an update on a report, “Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields”, which was produced by the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources in 2007.

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