Tartu to take Estonia to court over pulp mill plan
The City of Tartu is to take action against the state's decision to move forward with the national designated spatial plan for the establishment of the infrastructure necessary for the operating of a pulp mill not far from Tartu, daily Postimees reports.
The notice of appeal is currently being drawn up and will likely be submitted to Tallinn Administrative Court at the beginning of May.
Tartu City Government on Tuesday received a response signed by Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center) to the request of Tartu City Government and Tartu City Council to stop the handling of the national designated spatial plan for the establishment of a planned billion-euro pulp mill in the Tartu area. As previously reported, the state wishes to move forward with the planning procedure.
City Secretary Jüri Mölder said that the city considers the arguments listed in Aab's letter to be devoid of meaning, inclluding the main point that there is great national interest in the choice of location and the functioning of the pulp mill.
"The central government has incorrectly applied the provisions of the Planning Act; the conditions that are written and should function together, have been unfulfilled from the perspective of launching a national designated spatial plan," Mölder said. "We are of the opinion that the state lacked the right to launch planning for the establishment of a pulp mill in this manner. Talk about great national interest and arguments to describe and defend that interest are not convincing as it has been mentioned in the state's statements that everything has been done exactly as the investor has wanted."
The perspective of the entire appeal depends on how serious the procedural mistakes made by the state are considered in court to have been, Mölder said.
Decision to build near Tartu premature
Tartu Mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform) justified taking the matter to court by saying that the government has made mistakes in launching the national designated spatial plan.
"For example, a preliminary choice has essentially been made, even though the point of the national designated spatial plan is to find a suitable location by analyzing locations in several counties," Klaas said. "Currently, at a very early stage of the national designated spatial plan, they are putting their foot down and saying that it will be built here, there is no Plan B and that the opinion of the local government does not matter. This kind of attitude is not democratic, not European and not acceptable."
Mölder also highlighted the issue that a preliminary choice has essentially already been made, limiting the planning area to Viljandi and Tartu Counties and setting a preliminary criterion — the vicinity of a river and transport infrastructure.
"Whether the mill is upstream or downstream along the Emajõgi River in Tartu, its impact on the environment and city are relatively similar," Mölder said. "There is no point in investigating locations on one or the other side of the river. This kind of narrowing down of the location based on the business interests of one investor is not the meaning of the law and is in our opinion a significant procedural error."
Mölder said that the city government acknowledges that the city's planned appeal will end up seeing the same fate as the attempt of NGO Eesti Metsa Abiks ("Helping Estonian Forests") to seek help from court as all three instances of the court rejected the appeal.
"The perspective of the entire appeal depends on how serious the procedural mistakes made by the state are considered in court to have been," Mölder said. "We believe that the mistakes that the central government has let slip are serious enough that the court should substantially deliberate our appeal. Regardless of risks that concern the perspectives of accepting the appeal into handling, we think that it is necessary to utilize all opportunities to present our standpoints."
Tartu City Council on Thursday will discuss a bill aimed at tasking the city government with going to court against the state regarding the launching of the national designated spatial plan. Preparations for the appeal have already begun.
Editor: Aili Vahtla