Court for Bulgaria over bird impact

BULGARIA: The European Commission is taking Bulgaria to court over its failure to protect unique habitats and important species in its granting permission to wind projects.

Enel's 21MW Shabla wind farm in Bulgaria
Enel's 21MW Shabla wind farm in Bulgaria
The case concerns the Kaliakra region, a migratory route and resting place for highly endangered species, where large numbers of wind turbines have been authorised without what the commission called "adequate assessments of their environmental effects".

"Although Bulgaria is committed to increasing the protection of rare species and habitats in the region, the reverse appears to be happening," the commission said in a statement.

Under the EU Birds and Habitats Directive, any project that may have a significant negative effect on sites that are part of the network of protected areas should undergo a prior assessment before being approved. Also, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive mandates that any project likely to have a significant effect on the environment is adequately assessed before being approved.

Bulgaria has authorised thousands of wind turbines without adequate assessments of their effect on Kaliakra's habitat and species, and on the thousands of birds and bats that fly over the site each year on their way to and from Africa, the commission said.

In June 2012 the commission contacted the Bulgarian government and issued a reasoned opinion – the precursor to legal action - and while Bulgaria has since taken steps to restrict the damage and prevent further developments, its previous actions have led the commission to refer it to the EU Court of Justice.

This move will only add to the woes of the Bulgarian wind industry, whcih has seen development stall this year following the government's imposition of a retroactive grid access charge for renewable energy projects. The country added 153MW of capacity in 2012, bringing the total to 657MW, but has added next to nothing in 2013.

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