Helguvík Environmental Impact Decision Annulled Skip to content

Helguvík Environmental Impact Decision Annulled

Minister of the Environment Svandís Svavarsdóttir annulled the decision of the Icelandic National Planning Agency yesterday that all operations related to the Helguvík aluminum smelter, currently under construction in southwest Iceland, would not have to undergo a joint environmental impact assessment.

The Icelandic Environment Association (Landvernd) and the Nature Protection Association of Iceland filed an impeachment against the Planning Agency’s decision from March 25, 2009, that a joint environmental impact assessment of the strengthening of Sudurlína, the electricity transport system of southwest Iceland, and other projects related to the Helguvík smelter would not be necessary, Morgunbladid reports.

The minister’s ruling states that it was right to annul the Planning Agency’s decision because of “formal faultiness” and lack of information provided on whether more than one project obliged to undergo environmental impact assessment is planned in the same area and/or whether projects are dependent on each other.

The matter has been sent back to the Planning Agency and the Ministry of Environment stresses that “no substantial standpoint” has been taken.

Minister of Industry Katrín Júlíusdóttir told Morgunbladid that she and Svavarsdóttir had discussed the matter earlier this week. “I believe it is a formality issue,” the minister said, adding that Svavarsdóttir’s decision will neither delay the Helguvík operations nor impact the stability pact.

Ágúst Hafberg, managing director of the business and development division at Nordurál – Century Aluminum, which is responsible for constructing the Helguvík smelter, said he cannot understand the environment minister’s ruling and that it is unclear what impact her decision will have on the project, to which Nordurál has already dedicated ISK 15 billion (USD 120 million, EUR 75 million).

Hafberg said that ideas on a joint environmental impact assessment because of the Helguvík smelter had first surfaced in 2006. These ideas had been abandoned with the ruling of former Minister of the Environment Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir in April 2008.

“We have worked with the government on an investment agreement and a stability pact. This is at odds with the promises given to us by Althingi [the parliament] and the government,” Hafberg said, adding that the executives of Nordurál will review the minister’s decision and ask for a more detailed explanation for it.

Click here to read more about the Helguvík smelter.

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