Ljubljana related

13 Mar 2019, 16:00 PM

STA, 12 March 2019 - The UK-based company Ascent Resources has announced it will appeal against the Slovenian Environment Agency's decision that it will have to seek an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for its gas extraction project in the far north-east of the country.

 

"The partners plan to appeal the decision within the prescribed 15-day period," the UK company has said as quoted by Your Oil and Gas News portal.

The key ground for appeal will be that all six expert government agencies which the agency is required to consult as part of the screening assessment process concluded that no EIA should be required on the basis that the project to re-stimulate two currently producing wells was not likely to have significant effects on the environment.

The Slovenian Environment Agency (ARSO) failed to follow the findings even though bound to so, having not undertaken any independent assessment of the likely impacts of the environment, Ascent Resources said in the post.

Ascent Resources has been extracting and selling untreated natural gas from the Petišovci field in cooperation with its Slovenian partner Geoenergo, but the partners have been unable to get permits for hydraulic fracturing and for a new gas processing plant due to repeated appeals by environmentalists.

The company said that the partners had applied for the screening assessment in May 2017, so they also plan to challenge ARSO's latest decision for not being issued within the two-month period prescribed by Slovenian law. "The failure to comply with other provisions of Slovenian law as well as breaches of EU law will be detailed in the appeal."

Related: Ascent Resources CEO - Company May Sue Slovenian Government Over Fracking Permits (Video Interview)

Meanwhile, Ascent Resources welcomed ARSO acknowledging that the proposed project cannot be regarded as "fracking" as defined by the European Commission in its recommendation in 2014.

Ascent Resources has been working with legal experts in Slovenia and London to prepare claims for damages as "a result of the numerous and continued failures and delays by ARSO and the ministry to comply with Slovenian and EU law".

It said that "any potential claim for damages will take into account the amount invested by Ascent in the project, currently in excess of EUR 50m, and future expected profits from the development of the field which is estimated to be a multiple of the existing investment".

Related: PM Surprised By Hunt Lobbying for UK Fracking Company: “In Slovenia We Operate in Line with the Law”

12 Mar 2019, 16:28 PM

STA, 11 March 2019 - Simon Zajc, who currently serves as a state secretary at the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry, is the candidate for new environment minister, Miro Cerar, the leader of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), announced on Monday.

Addressing reporters in Ljubljana, Cerar said Prime Minister Marjan Šarec agreed with the party's proposal for Zajc to succeed Jure Leben, who resigned in late February after becoming embroiled in allegations that he was involved in a tender rigging in his previous capacity as Infrastructure Ministry state secretary.

In the previous term, Zajc served as MP for the SMC, but failed to get re-elected in the 2018 general election. If appointed, he will become the tenth Slovenian minister of the environment and spatial planning.

Cerar said that the candidate would be able to continue on the course set by outgoing Minister Leben, ensuring continuity at the ministry.

Noting that Zajc had been picked for a state secretary by Leben, Cerar said that the candidate was "surely capable of coordinating people", adding that he had proved himself as an MP and vice-chair of the parliamentary Agriculture Committee.

Before being elected an MP in 2014, Zajc, 38, who graduated from the Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, also worked as a radio and TV host.

He also managed car fleets of large companies and headed a video production and mobile app company, hosted events, wrote for the Slovenian edition of the Cosmopolitan magazine and performed as a stand-up comedian.

Before the formation of the SMC in 2014, Zajc was a member of the Slovenian Youth Party (SMS). He also unsuccessfully stood in the 2018 local elections for a member of the Ljubljana city council on the SMC's ticket.

The prime minister's office quoted Šarec as saying that Zajc was an optimal choice for the new environment minister at the moment "if we want the work that has been started to be continued".

The remaining coalition partners have responded positively to the nomination or said the name had been expected.

The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said it wished for Zajc to understand the connection of his ministry with the Infrastructure Ministry, headed by SAB leader Alenka Bratušek.

Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) leader Karl Erjavec said supporting Zajc in the vote in parliament would not be a problem, adding that "the current state secretary is acquainted with the content and issues in the field, which makes him an appropriate staffing solution".

Social Democrats (SDS) head Dejan Židan believes the SMC had given a thought to proposing Zajc. "Prime Minister Marjan Šarec will also give the proposal a thought before nominating him, and we support such proposals."

The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) expects that the new minister will continue Leben's work, saying that the "issues that have piled up in the field of environmental protection ... demand quick and thoughtful response and opposition to certain lobbies which only pursue their own interests".

Zmago Jelinčič, the head of the opposition National Party (SNS), said that "emergency replacements" would not result in solving the issues Leben had started to tackle.

These issues are the reasons for Leben's resignation in the first place, Jelinčič said, expressing doubt that the new minister will be able to do anything.

All our stories on the environment and Slovenia can be found here

18 Feb 2019, 16:05 PM

STA, 15 February 2019 - The European Commission has approved EUR 44.3m for Slovenia for projects as part of the LIFE programme for the environment and climate action, including EUR 27.3m for projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The European Commission has announced it will provide a total of EUR 116.1m for twelve major environmental and climate projects in ten countries.

The funds from the programme, combined with other sources, will mobilise a total of EUR 3.2bn in additional support for projects supporting Europe's transition to a low-carbon, circular economy, the European Commission said.

Slovenia will get EUR 17m for integrated projects carried out together with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Portugal.

The projects are expected to contribute to the preservation of the natural environment and biodiversity and improvement of the management of the Natura 2000 network of nature protection areas.

The European Commission noted that Slovenia had one of the highest biodiversity rates in the EU, with around 38% of its territory being included in Natura 2000.

The LIFE programme is already present in the country, and the additional funds are aimed at securing its long-term functioning and greater inclusion of stakeholders.

Slovenia will also get EUR 27.3m for projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which will focus on the implementation of the national goals.

The projects relate to the construction of infrastructure, emission-free road traffic, carbon sequestration and improvement of energy efficiency of buildings.

17 Feb 2019, 09:24 AM

STA, 14 February 2019 - The Postojna city council has decided to demand full closure of the Slovenian Armed Forces' main training area known as Poček, a vast area of forests and meadows in the south-west of the country. The municipality's official stance is now expected to be the basis for the Defence Ministry to decide on further steps.

Given the long-standing opposition to the army's training in the Poček area, the decision was largely expected. It came after Defence Minister Karl Erjavec asked the mayor in January to lay down the parameters acceptable for Poček to continue operations.

Erjavec said at the time that if the demands were such as to prevent Poček from remaining the main training area, the ministry would try to find other solutions.

The Poček military ground features an almost 2,000-hectare unpopulated area owned by the government and managed by the ministry since independence in 1991.

The wider area subject to restrictions when war games are under way comprises some 8,200 hectares, enabling the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) to train there and occasionally have international exercises and training with NATO parter countries.

It is no coincidence that Poček is the SAF's main training area as it was a military training ground before, used from the mid-1970s until 1991 by the Yugoslav army.

While Poček had been used as pastures for horses of the Vienna royal court from the early 18th century until 1915, Postojna, being a border area, was heavily militarised between 1915 when Italy declared war on the Austro-Hungarian empire and occupied the area, and WWII.

Since the area was in state ownership, it was relatively easy for the Yugoslav army to turn it into its training area, having purchased some more land from private owners in the 1970s.

But in 2000 the municipality held a consultative referendum at which Postojna locals decided on Poček's gradual closure.

Despite the people's will, Postojna and the ministry reached in 2004 an agreement on the military infrastructure in the area setting down their interests.

The accord, from which Postojna withdrew last December, set some limits on military activity, for instance a ban on shooting at weekends and on holidays, or limiting night shooting to ten days a month and until 11 PM from the beginning of June to the end of September.

But Mayor Igor Marentič says the army does not always stick to this. "Shooting is being carried out all months and at all times, regardless of tourism, and it is annoying even if it is announced in advance."

Water safety among major concerns

There are four things that bother locals: the noise coming from shooting and low flyovers, closure of air space (which affects the local airport), closure of the Poček area during exercises, and most notably water pollution.

Although locals could perhaps put up with occasional air space closures, pollution of the Malenščica water source for Postojna and Pivka would be a risk to public health.

While Marentič says the municipality has not commissioned any water monitoring or tests, the Karst Research Institute says its research has proved that waters from the Poček area travel underground towards the source of the Malenščica.

It adds that rain water in sensitive karst areas seeps underground very fast without having the opportunity to be cleaned, so it urges preventive measures.

Meanwhile, soil tests carried out by the ERICO institute in 2006 and 2009 showed "a strongly increased content of some heavy metals, primarily lead and copper", but its monitoring since 2016 has shown the heavy metals have not increased compared to previous measurements.

Also, Malenščica water monitoring by the Environment Agency, the ministry and the local water suppler have proved the concentrations were in line with drinking water standards.

The ministry has told the STA it is preparing a risk analysis to establish if certain military activity could have negative consequences for water quality in the area, while the municipality is drafting a bill to protect the water source.

Is a different solution still possible?

Erjavec indicated at his meeting with the mayor the army could go abroad for major war games and transfer some of its activity to other parts of Slovenia.

But pundits believe the attitude to Poček might be different if the SAF strictly respected the agreed rules and if the locals felt they benefited from it in some way.

Some foreign partners cannot understand the locals' opposition, but a well-placed source says "not a single job in this area is connected with Poček and the SAF does not get its supplies locally".

"If Poček is of national importance then the government could finance that, it would be only fair if the burden was shared by the local community and the state."

The ministry says it does not pay the municipality any compensation. However, on the basis of the 2004 accord, it co-funded local public infrastructure to the tune of EUR 3.1m and transferred property worth EUR 1.5m onto it in 2004-2018.

At the moment, the two sides are at odds over EUR 300,000 the ministry should pay for the new fire and rescue centre in Postojna, while it is also contesting the payment of EUR 1.3m in the duty for the use of land in Poček for 2013-2015.

Asked whether Postojna is opposed to Poček because it wants to develop into a green tourist destination, the mayor says this is not entirely so and stresses they have absolutely noting against the Slovenian army as such.

He notes, however, that while it is practically impossible to get an environmental permit for anything, "there are planes coming from other countries, shooting above this small tourist town".

"It's no longer appropriate to carry out such large-scale shooting with such heavy weapons only a kilometre in air line from the first settlements," he told the STA before the city council opted for closure.

Just yesterday, Defence Ministry State Secretary Klemen Grošelj told the parliamentary Defence Committee "intensive dialogue" was under way with the local community.

15 Feb 2019, 10:30 AM

STA, 14 February 2019 - Magna Steyr has welcomed the deal reached on Wednesday that persuaded an NGO not to challenge the environment permit for its paint shop in Slovenia any further. However, the multinational said the agreement did not make it possible to launch production at Hoče as yet, so its part of the job would be done at its Austria location for the time being.

 

The Austrian-Canadian automotive group said that it was obligated to meet the commitments to supply cars to its business partners by the agreed deadlines. The company said it had expected to be able to launch production at its EUR 160m Hoče plant near Maribor this week.

"Since this is not possible at this time, we will carry out this part of production temporarily at our Graz factory by introducing extra shifts," the multinational said, expressing the hope that a final solution allowing the earliest possible launch of production at Hoče would be found as soon as possible.

The company undertook "organisational preparations" on Monday to move production to its main facility in Austria's Graz due to uncertainty surrounding the environmental permit for the Hoče plant.

The Environment Ministry rejected the sole appeal against the environmental permit submitted by the Regional Environmental Association of Environmentalists (ROVO) from Novo Mesto, in the south-east of the country.

The ROVO threatened to take its appeal to the Administrative Court but changed its mind after yesterday's meeting with government officials who promised that the government would amend the special law on Magna investment so as to allow for the plant to have been built in a water protection area.

However, Magna will still need to wait for a 30-day period within which appeals with the court are still possible to expire. The period has been running since last Thursday when the ministry rejected ROVO's appeal.

13 Feb 2019, 18:00 PM

STA, 13 February 2019 - The Slovenian start-up PlanetCare has developed filters specifically designed to catch microfibres shed from textiles and clothes during washing and drying.

Since every load of laundry produces a large amount of microfibers that end up in the food chain and pose a threat to animals and humans, PlanetCare has designed filters for washing machines to remove these microparticles.

For now, the start-up focuses primarily on end-users, creating a range of add-on filters for existing washing machines, while also negotiating with home appliance manufacturers to install built-in filters. Their latest innovation is an industrial filter for larger laundry facilities.

According to PlanetCare, their filters were tested by leading research institutions with results confirming the filters successfully remove a significant quantity of microfibres.

Last week, the start-up presented their product at the international trade fair ISPO Munich. They took part in a group study on microplastics where they showed how to turn plastic waste into raw material by first grinding it and then using a 3D printer to transform the waste into a PlanetCare microplastic filter.

Since last year, PlanetCare, Sympatex Technologies, the Plastic Soup Foundation, the Plastic Leak Project initiative and the Italian Institute for Polymers, Composites and Biomaterials have been working on a study examining Sympatex's materials to find the most effective way to reduce the amount of microfibres in washing machine waste water.

You can learn more about PlanetCare at the company’s website

17 Jan 2019, 16:30 PM

STA, 17 January 2019 - Its waters sparkling in the sun, the Alpine Lake Bled is considered the epitome of picture-perfect and millions have photographed the vista with the island and the little church perched on top. But look below the glistening surface, and the picture is much murkier.

The lake ecology has been deteriorating, mostly due to the surge in swimming, fishing and boating, and rapid development of the lake shoreline. The lake water has long been designated as good or acceptable, but by 2021 it may fall afoul of the water quality standards prescribed by the EU, according to the Environment Agency.

Tourism is putting pressure on local infrastructure

For waters to improve, it is necessary to reduce the intensity of the use of the lake area. "A sustainable improvement and stabilisation of the situation in the lake can only be achieved by removing the causes of pollution and by taking measures to reduce the intensity of the use of the lake area," said Špela Remec Rekar a limnologist (inland water researcher) at the Environment Agency who has been monitoring Lake Bled water quality for several years.

She notes that the number of tourist nights in Bled had almost trebled between 1994 and 2016. Traffic on and around the lake has surged, and there are more and more swimmers and fishermen. Infrastructure, including sewage, has not been keeping up with the increase in visitors.

Remec Rekar said that aside from improving sewage, traffic around the lake should be scaled back and the bird population reduced. But the most important measure would be to ban the feeding of fowl and fish.

Fish feed a problem for the water

Fish feeding has been a major factor in the deterioration of water quality. The law stipulates that each fisherman may bring in five kilo of carp fodder per day, which for Lake Bled amounts to over ten tons of nutrients being introduced to the water each year. This drives up phosphorous levels and supports the development of dangerous cyanobacteria.

The municipality is aware of the problem and is already mulling limiting carp feeding, but it says this is a process. "We have to join forces with all stakeholders and determine what is possible, sensible and feasible," said Tomaž Rogelj, the director of the Bled Tourism Office.

Last year the municipality bought an electric boat for cleaning the lake surface, which removes organic waste such as leaves as well as man-made pollutants. But Remec Remškar says that given the size of the problem, this is a negligible improvement.

11 Jan 2019, 11:50 AM

STA, 10 January 2019 - The local community of Moravče, a town north-east of Ljubljana, called a news conference on Thursday to allege that lorryfuls of toxic waste from the site of a 2017 fire at the Kemis waste-processing facility near Vrhnika had allegedly been dumped at a brownfield site in Moravče, allegations that Kemis denied.

Milan Balažic, a former Slovenian ambassador to Australia who was elected Moravče mayor in last year's local elections, laid out the case to the public, urging the government to impose an immediate ban on waste disposal at the site, or else face legal action in Brussels.

"A few days ago we obtained documents proving that tens, hundreds of heavy lorryfuls of toxic waste from the Kemis fire site were buried in Moravče in 2017 and 2018," Balažic said, warning that the site is located in a water protection area criss-crossed with surface waters.

As a result the toxic water is dripping into the local brook, which falls out into the Radomlja river and from there into the Kamniška Bistrica and into the Sava, Slovenia's longest river, he said.

"You understand that what has been hidden in the Moravče valley will not stay there," the mayor said, adding that "we can easily say that this is an environmental time bomb ticking at Ljubljana's doorstep".

The dump site is located on the site of an abandoned quartz sand quarry operated by the company Termit.

Asbestos, glass wool, plastic and oils in the soil

"After 2000, Termit started filling up the holes with building waste material, at least that's what's been published, including asbestos, glass wool, plastic and various oils, all of which became a serious threat to the soil, water and air in the Moravče valley," Balažic said.

He noted that the locals voted against further disposal of waste in a 2007 referendum.

Balažic accused the previous mayor, Martin Rebolj, to have colluded with the management of Termit to go around the result of the vote so that waste kept piling up at the site and even increased "to 100,000 tonnes a year".

Speaking about the waste from the Kemis fire site, Balažic said that "lorries with skull symbols" were spotted carrying waste in the valley even during Christmas and New Year holidays, with "eyewitnesses reporting that workers in hazmat suits were burying the material".

Alongside Balažic, the press conference was also addressed by Ljudmila Novak, a local who serves as MP for the opposition party New Slovenia (NSi). "Lately, we have been noticing that the tap water is strongly chlorinated and the feeling is that it's not drinkable at all."

As an MP Novak will demand a list of companies that bring material to the site, which she indicated came from Slovenia and abroad, as well as official data on the quantities, substances and oversight.

"We're wondering whether the state is wilfully burying its head in the sand, considering hazardous waste removal and processing is not regulated in Slovenia," Novak said.

"We are seeing absurd situations; a company brining in 200 or 300 kilos of building material from Koper. How is it viable for a company to haul such building material from Koper to Moravče? Either it doesn't pay or they are hauling materials that don't belong here," said the head of a local initiative Jurij Kočar.

He reported that from Kemis "130 tonnes of waste water sludge, two tonnes of building waste, presumably from the fire site, and some 60 tonnes of waste of unknown origin" were dumped at the Moravče site in March 2018.

The Kemis fire site restoration officially completed in 2017 and the hazardous waste was officially transported abroad for incineration. "These are official explanations, but it would be interesting to know what from Kemis in fact ended up in Moravče," he added.

Companies reject the allegations

Both Termit and Kemis denied all the allegations, Kemis issuing a statement saying that all hazardous waste from the May 2017 fire and restoration of the site "has been transported abroad for incineration" and that the company had documents to prove that to anyone at any time.

But Kemis admitted to small-scale cooperation with Termit prior and after the fire. "In 2017 it transported about 60 tonnes of non-hazardous waste to Termit, that is unpolluted building material, and in 2018 about 200 tonnes of non-hazardous waste collected from our business partners."

"The claims about Kemis made at the press conference today are completely untruthful," Kemis said, urging the speakers at the press conference to present the public evidence on what was in fact brought to Termit from Kemis.

At the press conference, the Moravče mayor urged the government to ban disposal of all waste in Moravče, prosecute those responsible, commission an independent report to the determine the level of pollution in the Moravče valley, and see to the removal of waste and restoration of the site.

Unless measures are taken, Balažic threatened further steps. "We will initiate legal proceedings against the company Termit, and Slovenia will be reported to the European Commission and other relevant EU bodies for breaking the Stockholm declaration and national and EU law."

Environment Minister Jure Leben has already ordered inspection of the site. "I'm the first to be impatiently awaiting the results. Measures will follow," Leben said on his Twitter account.

Meanwhile, chief environment inspector Vladimir Kajzer told TV Slovenija that seven inspections had been conducted at Kemis over the past three years and that no flaws were detected.

07 Jan 2019, 12:24 PM

January 7, 2019

The administrative court suspended the implementation of the decree on the removal of brown bears from nature, which the government endorsed at the end of last November. According to the decree, 200 bears were planned to be taken out of Slovenian forests. Among these, 175 were supposed to be shot, while the remaining 25 were expected to die due to accidents or other causes.

Related: Brown bear photography in Slovenia

In December, the environmental protection organisation Alpe Adria Green (AAG) brought an action against the decree and a request for an interim injunction. The group is convinced that the decree violates the Nature Conservation Act, the Habitats Directive and the Constitution. The AAG noted that the government endorsed the decree despite numerous complaints on its drafting, and that the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning did not answer the requests for an explanation as to why such a number of bears had to be removed from nature. At the same time, the AAG expressed its expectation that the decree will also be annulled.

This is not the first time that the court has intervened in the destiny of large wildlife in Slovenia. The same decree that involves bears previously included eleven wolves to be taken out of nature, but after a public hearing the wolves were removed from the proposed cull. The Environmental Ministry took this decision after two judgments of the administrative court, which ruled that the reason for shooting the wolves, which was given as preventing the animals from killing livestock, and thus maintaining public acceptance of wolves, was not sufficiently substantiated.

All out stories about bears in Slovenia are here.

01 Jan 2019, 11:06 AM

STA, 1 January 2019 - Buyers in stores across Slovenia will no longer be able to get plastic bags free of charge as of today. However, free lightweight plastic bags will still be allowed at the fresh produce isle. The measure is a part of EU-wide efforts to halve the use of lightweight plastic bags to 90 per person annually by the end of 2019.

Buyers will still be able to buy plastic bags at the register, however the retailers are not allowed to set the price lower than wholesale.

The measure aims to reduce the use of lightweight plastic bags per person from 200 a year to 90 by the end of this year and to 40 by the end of 2025.

Many Slovenian retailers no longer supply plastic bags free of charge. However, buyers may still get a lightweight plastic bag from the cashier, without having to ask, when buying frozen stuffs or cleaning supplies.

However, new Environment Minister Jure Leben announced after being appointed in September that Slovenia would soon impose a general plastic bag ban.

He has recently sent out invitations to retail chains for a meeting to discuss his plan under which plastic bags would not be available at the cash registers at all.

Related: Meet the People - Neja Maruša Medved, Vegan and Zero Waste Blogger

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