Ecoclub filed a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court of Ukraine. We are appealing the decision of the Eighth Appeals Administrative Court, which supported the woodworking enterprise Kronospan in Horodok, and annulled the decision of the Rivne Regional Administrative Court from July 1, 2022.
We still believe that positive conclusion on the plant construction issued by the local Department of Ecology and Natural Resources was illegal and do not reflect the lack of analysis in the report on planned activities and all information about possible dangerous consequences. Therefore, Ecoclub continues to appeal the decision in the highest instance – the Supreme Court.
What do we demand, and will Kronospan work after the final decision of the Supreme Court?
On the 1st of July Rivne Regional Administrative Court canceled positive environmental impact assessment (EIA) conclusion for Kronospan, which woodworking plant is currently being constructed in Horodok (near Rivne). The Court stated that the conclusion on the plant’s safety was issued without a thorough analysis and an attention to public comments, so the assessment needs to be revised. This is one of the few cases in Ukraine in which the court considered compliance with the entire EIA procedure and the safety of the planned activity. More info here. Kronospan disagreed with the conclusion of the Rivne District Administrative Court. The court satisfied the plant’s complaint and indicated that Kronospan complied the EIA procedure correctly (took into account the results of the public discussion and did not allow other violations in the EIA field).
Reasoning for the appeal to the supreme court
Ecoclub believes that the decision of the Lviv Administrative Court of Appeals is illegal because:
– The public was not informed about the public hearings on December 23, 2019 in accordance with the legal procedure;
– Kronospan violated the requirements of the law when they added additional information to the EIA report on the last day of public hearing; 100 pages of additional information were added to the report. This made it impossible for the public to learn the details and submit comments or suggestions in time.
– During the development of the EIA report, Kronospan representatives did not define the background concentrations of pollutants, despite requirements defined by the law.
– The conclusion about the permissible level of pollutant discharges to the Ustya contradicts the information about the state of the river. Such information is contained in reports of the Department, scientific works and studies.
– The department did not check the information about the dangerousness of Kronospan’s planned activities, although it issued a positive conclusion on the construction. During the preparation of the report, the developers did not fully calculate the potential dangerousness impact caused by all pollutants.
“Information about the levels of pollutant exposure at the boundaries of sanitary protection zone and residential buildings may indicate manipulation with data to create an impression of the safety of the planned activity. And the calculation of the risk of disease development was not carried out in accordance with the methodological recommendations of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine,” says Vitaly Kitovskyi, lawyer of the Ecoclub.
– It is possible to determine the environmental conditions of the planned activity only if it is permissible: at first, it is necessary to establish whether the activity is safe at all, and only then to allow it and determine the conditions of implementation.
– The court ruling is based on evidence obtained in violation of the Law. Kronospan engaged an expert who did not conduct his own research and gave opinions on legal issues.
– Reports of scientists paid by Kronospan cannot be evidence: their authors are not forensic experts, they were not warned of criminal liability for falsity of conclusions. The content of such conclusions creates doubt about the objectivity and impartiality of the authors.
Why the victory in this case is important
The EIA procedure is designed to create conditions under which future activities will not negatively impact the environment and human health. Therefore, before planning any potentially dangerous construction or reconstruction, it is necessary to calculate the amount of pollution which such activity can cause.
Other vital components of the procedure is a public participation in decision-making. People near the enterprise have the right to live in a safe environment. Challenging the conclusion of the EIA may prompt Kronospan to reconsider its potentially harmful impact on the environment.
This case can serve as an example for other legal campaigns of concerned citizens who wants to live in safe and clean environment. Here is what Nataliya Kholodova, Ecoclub project coordinator, says about it:
“Investments, which improve the region’s economic situation and create new jobs, are extremely important, especially during a full-scale war. However, human health and the environment should not suffer from the economic ambitions of investors. On the example of this legal campaign, we saw: despite the falsity of the data in the EIA report and legal intimidation of the public, Kronospan received a positive conclusion and, as a result, a construction permit. We want future enterprises, factories, plants to be responsible for implementing the Law and not endanger people’s lives.”
What is next
The Supreme Court judgment is final, so it cannot be appealed. If the Court sides with Kronospan, there will be no other options for legal protection at the state level. In addition, such a decision will affect the implementation of the Law of Ukraine On Environmental Impact Assessment: investors will preserve the ability to neglect the involvement of the public in decision-making process regarding the construction of potentially dangerous objects for people and the environment.
If the Supreme Court reverses the decision of the Lviv Administrative Court of Appeals, Kronospan could suspend operations and go through the environmental impact assessment process again.
“We will continue to defend a safe environment for residents of Horodok and Rivne communities. This fall, Kronospan announced the implementation of a new procedure with the EIA. Ecoclub has prepared proposals that must be considered in the new report. After the release of their report, we will analyze whether the plant really plans to reduce its impact on the environment and human health. In the meantime, we are waiting for the case to be considered in the Supreme Court, and we believe in a fair judiciary,” says Nataliya Kholodova.