Taavi Aas: Environmental Board needs to pay for stopping roadworks

Taavi Aas at Reidi tee opening ceremony.
Taavi Aas at Reidi tee opening ceremony. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center) finds that if the Environmental Board's call to stop clearing on the Kanama-Valingu highway section comes with additional expenses for the contractor, the board should pay. TREV-2 is asking for €1.7 million in compensation.

The contractor of the Kanama-Valingu section of the Greater Tallinn Ring Road had to stop construction work. The Environmental Board banned clearing of trees on the side of the road until the end of July to protect nesting birds. What could happen next? Should the environment minister ask the board to change its decision or are things the way they're supposed to be?

Things are not alright. The decision was very sudden. This means at least a part of the work needs to be postponed that in turn means expenses. While these decisions need to be made at times, those making them must also understand the consequences. I'm of the mind that anyone who orders something shut down needs to be prepare to cover the cost.

TREV-2 has asked for €1.7 million in compensation. The decision was made by a state agency. Does that mean the state needs to compensate the contractor?

The sum needs further deliberation as the closure was not absolute, meaning that a part of work can still be done. The Transport Authority will have to negotiate. However, I believe compensation should be paid not by the Transport Authority but the body that made the call.

Could we see a rapid political solution? For example, sending a political signal and asking the board to return to recent practice?

These proposals have already been made. However, we cannot just politically order agencies to make or lift precepts. The proposals have been made and appeal to the fact this has not been common practice before. A transitional period would have been in order. The agency was willing to meet half-way.

But again, I clearly feel that the body making the decision needs to consider the consequences. The situation today is that the Environmental Board has the power to make such calls virtually overnight and entirely without consequence. Such situations should be solved on the legislative level. It is not good when state institutions have to argue with one another.

The Nature Conservation Act clearly states that consciously disturbing wild birds, especially during the period of nesting, is strictly prohibited. How should the law be amended?

That's just the problem that effects need to be analyzed together. The reality in Estonia is that it coincides with the best time for roadbuilding. It is largely impossible to construct roads in the winter.

Looking at the long run, this means that clearing should take place during a fixed period of time that would change the entire process. And it cannot be a case of changing that process overnight and telling the parties to make the best of it.

What would constitute a positive scenario for the Kanama-Valingu section?

The positive scenario is that some work can continue, which is very good. And we will propose that bodies who make such decisions take financial responsibility.

The Environmental Board does not have the money. They will simply apply for funds from the government reserve.

I believe that once the board is held liable, such decisions will be weighed very thoroughly.

Allow me a question on a different topic. The Ministry of the Environment refused to approve the sea area plan. They have a series of fundamental counterarguments. What does all of it mean for wind farm developers?

It means that all of these projects will be postponed as proceedings are impossible without a plan. I believe that green energy should be an important environmental goal. On the other hand, the ministry is looking at everything else, not how Estonia could generate green energy.

I believe that the planning solution already takes into account a lot of aspects. Potential wind farm locations have been dialed back with every new layer of nature conservation restrictions.

Why this happened again and what they are after will be included in the environment ministry's reply. But basically, we can spend an eternity analyzing everything and not getting anywhere. The decision to move forward needs to be made eventually.

Is this what you will be telling your dear fellow Center Party member [Minister of the Environment Tõnis Mölder]?

It is indeed.

In the end, approving the plan needs to be a consensual decision of the government. Is the expectation for a time-out to discuss the plan in greater detail or rather approving the plan and moving forward quickly?

The proposals need to be analyzed. But again, proposals for studies can be made indefinitely, as well as new aspects in need of studying and protecting found. Moving forward with offshore wind energy requires decisions.

It is impossible to drag these processes out indefinitely. While reasons for refusal to approve the plan need to be analyzed and heeded if they are justified, a decision should eventually be made.


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Marcus Turovski

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: