STA, 29 July 2022 - The Administrative Court decreed that the planned Mokrice hydropower station on the river Sava cannot get a building permit until it has ruled on legal action brought against the project by the Slovenian Native Fish Society.
Announcing the decision on Friday, the society said it was important because it blocked the investors' plan to obtain a partial building permit from the Ministry and Spatial Planning and start with the plant's construction despite their legal challenge.
Mokrice, located near the border with Croatia, is the last hydro plant to be built on the lower Sava, four having already been completed as part of a project started 16 years ago. Under initial plans the Mokrice plant was slated for completion as early as 2018.
The investors - state-owned companies HESS, Infra and ELES - can appeal against the court's decision but the society says the Administrative Court has warned them that "hard to repair damage" to nature that could be caused by such a project can only be prevented so that the ministry does not issue a building permit until the court's final ruling, while it can continue with the administrative procedure to issue such a permit.
In its decision the court refers to case law, that is the rulings already reached by the Administrative Court and Supreme Court in the Mokrice plant case.
This is the second time that the Slovenian Native Fish Society is challenging the project after the former government decided that the public interest of producing renewable energy overrides the public interest of nature conservation in the Mokrice hydro power project.
This was after the Administrative Court in late 2021 overturned the ministry's original decision of December 2020 on the grounds that the environmental impact assessment procedure must be completed before the public interest procedure may by initiated.
The Janez Janša government took the decision on 20 May this year, after it has already been voted out in the election, which the society finds is problematic even from the aspect that the government was by then relegated to its caretaker role when it should have no longer taken such decisions.
They say the decision does not include "many of the expert bases and basic ichthyological studies, the lack of which had already been pointed out in the Administrative Court's previous ruling".
The society finds it unacceptable that a free flowing river should be ruined to produce electricity, arguing that in optimal conditions the plant would generate electricity equalling only 1% of the country's annual consumption.
They also are disappointed because the Robert Golob government has backed the project as well.
An appeal to annul the previous government's decision was also made by the Youth for Climate Justice earlier this month but incumbent Environment Minister Uroš Brežan said the project was a step in the right direction in view of climate neutrality goals and it also considered nature conservation.