Ljubljana related

17 Jul 2019, 10:34 AM

STA, 17 July 2019 - Ascent Resources, the UK developer of the Petišovci gas field in eastern Slovenia, has reportedly launched administrative dispute proceedings in Slovenia after it was ordered to get a separate permit for hydraulic fracturing.

The move, reported on Tuesday by the Stock Market Wire news portal, comes after the Environment Ministry upheld a decision of the Environment Agency (ARSO) on the controversial gas extraction project in Petišovci.

The ministry agreed that an environmental impact assessment and a separate environmental permit were necessary because the location of the gas wells was close to water sources and because underground waters and agricultural land in the area do not have very good ability to regenerate.

"The decision of ARSO and the Environment Ministry ignores the opinion of the six independent expert bodies whose advice ARSO sought," Ascent said.

The decision mistakenly concluded that the project fell within a conservation area and misapplied EU case law in relation to mitigation measures, Ascent also said as it announced multi-pronged legal action against Slovenia on 14 July, a day before the deadline for the Administrative Court appeal.

Aside from challenging the decision at the Administrative Court, Ascent plans to submit a claim for damages against the state for breach of EU law including for the unreasonably long time it took for the decision to be reached.

The company will seek damages for loss of future income from the project "which would have been expected to have been a multiple of the historic investment of some EUR 50 million."

It also plans to lodge an investment treaty arbitration claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

All our stories on Ascent Resources are here

10 Jul 2019, 14:30 PM

STA, 9 July 2019 - Slovenia was placed 12th in this year's report on meeting the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development targets among 162 countries. The country is particularly successful at eliminating extreme forms of poverty and providing access to greener energy sources.

The report was published at the end of June by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network association, under the auspices of the UN, and Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation. The organisations pointed out that this year's results were not comparable to the ones from last year due to a different methodology, with Slovenia ranking 8th in 2018.

According to the government's Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, Slovenia's biggest challenges are implementing measures aimed at eliminating undernourishment, providing for sustainable production and consumerism, mitigating climate change and preserving sea and marine resources.

The results show that four years after setting the targets and three years after signing the Paris Agreement, no country has yet fulfilled all the goals and many areas among 17 global targets have seen a regress.

The report highlights that some countries are inconsistent at implementing relevant measures, particularly the richest ones, which were found to have a negative impact on the progress of less developed ones.

It also warns about a surge in corruption and downward spiral of reducing media freedom, which have been present in some middle-income and high-income countries as well.

The full report can be found here, while the part focusing on Slovenia is here

06 Jul 2019, 10:57 AM

STA, 5 July 2019 - The city councils of all four coastal municipalities have urged authorities to present them within a month a timeline of activities to find a new, safe water source for Slovenian Istria.

Koper, Piran, Izola and Ankaran councillors met on Friday after almost 11,000 litres of kerosene spilled as a train derailed in a tunnel on the Koper-bound railway near Hrastovlje, south-west.

The spill is a threat to the Rižana water source, the only source of drinking water for Slovenia's coast. The greatest threat is heavy rain, which could make kerosene penetrate further into the soil and underground water.

The councillors are worried the state cannot guarantee the coast the constitutionally guaranteed right to drinking water if the Rižana source is contaminated.

They thus demand that all the necessary measures are taken and implemented to prevent the pollution of the only water source for Slovenian Istria.

Supervision of the state in which railway and road infrastructure is in water areas, should be enhanced, the councillors decided.

The railway infrastructure in water areas should be maintained and modernised to avoid any problems with the rail tracks.

The authorities should also make sure that trains carrying dangerous cargo in water areas run at adequate speeds.

Finally, the state should take measures to minimise risks for similar incidents.

If these measures cannot be guaranteed, then the option should be studied to ban transport of dangerous substances through water areas until a new water source is found.

The councillors also tasked the mayors to prioritise efforts to find a new water source and expressed support for the state's efforts to build the second rail track between Koper and Divača.

The session, which Koper Mayor Aleš Bržan labelled "Istrian parliament", was also attended by government representatives.

Environment and Spatial Planning Minister Somin Zajc promised serious efforts would be made to find a new water source, announcing a meeting with Istrian mayors at the ministry's water directorate for next week.

Several possible water sources have been proposed in the past, so it is clear which ones could be suitable, but they will have to be studied again, he said.

While he could not give any detailed timeline, he said "we're probably not talking weeks or months, but a year or two".

To further protect the Rižana water source from kerosene pollution, a special protective foil was laid in the Hrastovlje tunnel on Wednesday after much of the contaminated material was removed earlier.

All our stories on water quality in Slovenia are here

04 Jul 2019, 12:50 PM

STA, 2 July 2019 - The share of electricity from renewable sources in gross end use in Slovenia in 2018 rose by 3.4 percentage points to 21.8% from 2005, the Energy Agency, the national regulator, says in its 2018 report.

This was facilitated by a support scheme which has since 2009 involved more than 2,500 producers with almost 3,860 production facilities running on renewables.

But in line with national goals stemming from the EU's climate and energy package, the share of renewables in gross end use will have to be raised to 25% by 2020.

To achieve this goal, progress will have to be made in transport and in power production, the agency says in the report, which has been sent to the National Assembly.

In transport, Slovenia was by 4.7 percentage points behind the target 10.5% share in 2018, while the gap for electricity output to the 39.3% goal was over 7 points.

Renewables-based power was generated mostly by hydro plants and other plants running on renewables, reaching 34.5% of the country's total power output in 2018, up almost 5 points annually.

The rest of Slovenia's power output came from coal-fired power stations (29%) and the Krško Nuclear Power Plant, the country's only nuclear power station (36.5%).

Domestic electricity production covered almost 85% of domestic electricity consumption, up 1.7 points from 2017.

However, the agency said the output did not reflect the actual potential of the country's electricity production facilities.

It was rather a result of the structure of production facilities, their competitiveness and the emerging electricity market target model, says the report.

For instance, hydro power stations' output depends on water levels, while coal-fired power stations and plants running on liquid and gas fuels strongly depend on daily power consumption as well as on market variables such as the prices of emission coupons, fuel or wholesale.

The agency also says market concentration in the retail market somewhat decreased last year, which shows there is more competition among electricity suppliers.

However, the end price of electricity for an average household edged up 0.3%, while it rose by more than 8% for other users.

While there is still much room to save on electricity bills by changing suppliers, the number of those did so in 2018 dropped by one point to 5.7% over 2017, a second consecutive annual drop.

The Energy Agency is the country's national regulatory authority which directs and supervises electricity and gas energy operators.

Its mission is to act in the interest of all market stakeholders, so it is not financed from the state budget but from network charges.

28 Jun 2019, 11:10 AM

STA, 27 June 2019 - Environment Minister Simon Zajc visited on Thursday the location of the kerosene leak caused by a derailed freight train near Hrastovlje in SW Slovenia, saying that after the last damaged wagon had been removed from the tunnel, works on removing the polluted soil would start Thursday night. Rail traffic on the section is expected to resume on Friday.

Speaking to the press after a meeting with stakeholders, Zajc said that everything had been arranged with the national railways operator Slovenske Železnice regarding the rehabilitation of the area hit by the spill.

The removal of the pollutes soil will start tonight, with representatives of the Environment Agency and the Environment Inspectorate being present to make sure that the soil is treated in accordance with law, he added.

Asked when railway traffic on the section is to be resumed, Zajc said that "we will speak about traffic once the threat of kerosene getting into the groundwater is minimised."

According to Slovenske Železnice director general Dušan Mes, rail traffic is expected to be resumed on Friday, but he could not tell when exactly. He added that the cargo accumulated in the port of Koper equalled some 200 to 250 trains, which would have to be compensated for in July.

Threat to water remains, further measures needed

The meeting was held at the Koper seat of the regional water system operator, Rižanski Vodovod, as there are concerns that the leak might have contaminated the local river Rižana, which supplies the system.

Zajc announced that the ministry would provide full support for Rižanski Vodovod in terms of monitoring of water and further measures, especially if the kerosene reached the groundwater.

The minister talked in Luxembourg yesterday with his Croatian counterpart, who expressed his country's readiness to help the Slovenian coast needed additional water from the sources from the Croatian part of the Istria peninsula.

Rižanski Vodovod director Martin Pregelj reiterated that the situation was under control, while warning that the threat of the kerosene entering the groundwater remained. The operator is regularly monitoring the quality of water and taking samples, he added.

Zajc added that a permanent solution for an additional water source for the Slovenian coast needed to be found, adding that "this event was a clear signal." He intends to call a meeting with all mayors from the area to agree on how to find a solution.

The work on removing the derailed wagons from the tunnel is meanwhile going as planned. Dragan Puzić of the Koper Fire Brigade told the STA that only two out of the six wagons remained to be removed from the Hrastovlje tunnel.

26 Jun 2019, 17:00 PM

STA, 26 June 2019 - The only water supply system for the entire Slovenian coast may be in jeopardy after a kerosene-carrying train derailed Tuesday afternoon near one of the potable water sources. Measures have been taken to prevent the worst, but there is no doubt that the kerosene will reach the groundwater with the first strong rainfall at the latest.

The regional water system operator, Rižanski vodovod, supplies more than 87,000 residents, but the figure grows much higher during the summer season, to about 130,000 people.

Slovenia is bracing for a heatwave expected to peak in the second half of the week and the coast is a popular destination for many seeking to respite from scorching temperatures.

Following an emergency meeting this morning, called in the wake of the spill, Rižanski Vodovod urged its clients to conserve water.

The porous Kras terrain is notoriously tricky when it comes to water flow and Nataša Viršek Ravbar of the Karst Research Institute of the Research Centre of the Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU) told the STA that it is only a matter of time before the oil reaches the nearest water source.

Once a pollutant is in the Karstic ground, there is nothing anybody can do, she said. As fas as she knows, the tunnel where the accident happened does not have built-in oil catchers.

Currently, efforts are under way to pump out the spilled kerosene from the tunnel near the village of Hrastovlje. It is estimated that some 10,000 litres of the fuel spilled as several wagons derailed last afternoon.

Viršek Ravbar believes that the only way to ensure quality of water is constant monitoring. The oil will likely reach the water source during the next rainfall and may remain polluted for a long time.

Rižanski Vodovod said that direct sourcing had been suspended from the jeopardised point of intake at the source of the River Rižana and that the source was being monitored.

Stressing that people's health is the most important thing, the company, owned by the four municipalities it services, also increased the intake of water from other, safe sources and scaled up pumping from the deepest water sources.

The water supplier also expressed belief that thorough clean-up works would take priority over haste to relaunch traffic. The accident halted not only passenger transport but also cargo transport to and from the port of Koper, the country's only seaport.

Environment Minister Simon Zajc, who is abroad today, is to visit the site tomorrow.

18 Jun 2019, 10:39 AM

STA, 17 June 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec agreed with an opposition MP during questions time in parliament on Monday that Slovenia should not allow small environmental groups halt developmentally and environmentally important projects. He proposes that the Environment Ministry draw up legislation to prevent this.

"Protecting the environment is important, but stopping every project will also not get us far," the prime minister told MPs, adding that Slovenia would have to decide where it would obtain energy from.

Šarec was responding to a question by Dušan Šiško of the opposition National Party (SNS) on the latest in a series of projects that faced opposition from environmental groups.

After the government aborted plans to build hydro power stations on the river Mura in the north-east at the end of May, the latest project stopped by environmentalists is the construction of the Mokrice plant in the south-eastern part of the Sava river.

The Austrian-Canadian automotive multinational Magna Steyr also faced strong opposition from environmentalists before it could build a paint shop in Hoče, north-east.

Referring to the Mokrice case, in which a small, six-member NGO, the Society for Fish Watching, managed to halt the EUR 200 million project by launching an appeal at the Administrative Court, Šiško asked the PM how long will environmental and other groups be able to obstruct investments of national importance.

"We are letting small groups for reasons that are not clear halt developmentally and environmentally important projects under the pretence of environmental protection.

"The state has clearly made a mistake by allowing every group which has a status of a public interest group to take part in procedures and actually work against public interest," Šiško said.

Šarec noted the government had moved to protect Mura, as promised, and would protect a lot more, but "that's not enough for some". "Every day I get mail from different initiatives to stop this and that construction, close TEŠ 6 and Krško. I agree this is not the way to go about things," he said.

Šarec thinks the Environment Ministry should prepare legislation that would specify which organisations serve the public interest to introduce some restrictions as to who can act as a stakeholder.

He said common sense should be used when addressing environmental issues. "Even the fiercest environmentalists use mobile phones, cars and other modern technology. All these use electricity in a direct or indirect way," he said.

"We're always moving from one extreme to the other. We used to not care about the environment at all, and now we want to protect it so much that we are causing damage to ourselves," he said.

Wind power plants are widespread everywhere around the world, only in Slovenia "birds and butterflies apparently don't know how to fly pass them", Šarec illustrated.

15 Jun 2019, 10:16 AM

STA, 14 June 2019 - Ascent Resources, the UK developer of the Petišovci gas field in eastern Slovenia, plans to take multi-pronged legal action against Slovenia after it was ordered to get a separate permit for hydraulic fracturing.

Ascent will submit a "robust response to this manifestly wrong decision contrary to EU law," the company said in a permitting update posted on the website www.investegate.co.uk on Friday.

The statement comes after the Environment Ministry upheld a decision of the Environment Agency on the controversial gas extraction project in Petišovci.

The ministry agreed that an environmental impact assessment and a separate environmental permit were necessary because the location of the gas wells was close to water sources and because underground waters and agricultural land in the area do not have very good ability to regenerate.

The decision mistakenly concluded that the project fell within a conservation area and misapplied EU case law in relation to mitigation measures, Ascent said.

Aside from challenging the decision at the Administrative Court, Ascent plans to submit a claim for damages against the state for breach of EU law including for the unreasonably long time it took for the decision to be reached.

The company will seek damages for loss of future income from the project "which would have been expected to have been a multiple of the historic investment of some EUR 50 million."

It also plans to lodge an investment treaty arbitration claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

"It was the strong desire of the board to avoid such litigation and obtain the permits necessary to develop the field which it was legally entitled to. As it has now become apparent that the possibility of achieving these goals has significantly diminished, the company will move ahead with filing this claim," the statement reads.

As a result of these developments, the company's focus in Slovenia now "inevitably shifts away from the development of the Petišovci Project towards obtaining legal redress for the damages inflicted on shareholders by the actions of the government."

All our stories about this project are here

13 Jun 2019, 12:53 PM

STA, 12 June 2019 - The government adopted an intervention bill ordering the culling of overgrown bear and wolf populations on Wednesday. The move comes after a decree with the same order was successfully challenged by an environmental NGO in Administrative Court, leading to a steep increase in wolf and bear attacks on farm animals this year.

The bill stipulates the "removal" of 200 bears, of which 175 are to be culled, while the rest is expected to perish naturally or in car accidents or other incidents. Moreover, 11 wolves are to be culled.

Slovenia is home to 12 wolf packs, each five to ten strong, Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec said as she announced this bill earlier this week. She also said that wolves alone had killed 72 sheep, 19 cows, 15 horses, a donkey and two other farm animals this year.

Slovenia's bear population, which was on the brink of extinction in early 20th century, is estimated at about 1,000, whereas a population of some 400 bears is deemed optimal.

While bear attacks have also caused significant damage in agriculture, with livestock herds decimated in some cases, the government also says that there is a significant risk of bear attacks on humans.

Experts believe that Slovenia's bear population has reached a number that should not be exceeded, underlining that acceptance of big carnivores by the population is key in successful management of their population.

Slovenia has been nearing a boiling point in this respect, with farmers and agricultural associations staging rallies to protest against the government's inaction in the face of their decimated herds.

The bill, drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture, has been filed by the Ministry of Environment, which is in charge of large carnivores management in Slovenia.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary environment and agriculture committees will hold a joint session this afternoon to discuss the attacks of bears and wolves on livestock.

13 Jun 2019, 03:54 AM

STA, 12 June 2019 - The Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning has confirmed the decision of the Environment Agency on the controversial gas extraction project in Petišovci (NE), thus rejecting an appeal by UK investor Ascent Resources. In line with the decision, a separate permit procedure will be needed for hydraulic fracturing.

The agency granted the investor the permit for a planned gas processing plant but demanded a separate environmental impact assessment to determine whether the UK company can step up extraction via hydraulic fracturing, which is crucial for the refinery that would be allowed to process 280,000 cubic metres of natural gas and a tonne of oil per day.

The March decision of the Environment Agency came after the original permit for the refinery, issued in 2015, had been successfully challenged by environmentalists.

The Ministry agrees with the agency that an environmental impact assessment and a separate environmental permit were necessary because the location was close to water sources and because underground waters and agricultural land in the area do not have very good ability to regenerate.

Operating in a joint venture with Geoenergo, which is co-owned by the Slovenian state-controlled energy companies Petrol and Nafta Lendava, the UK company wants to extract gas on a large scale in Petišovci.

The separate permit procedure could further delay the implementation of the project in which more than EUR 50 million has allegedly been invested so far.

The UK company holds 75% interest in the project, Geoenergo's concession for the Petišovce gas however expires in 2022.

Hydrocarbon extraction in Petišovci started in 1943 and boomed in the 1980s. But after the oil refinery there was closed, the activity slowly died down.

Last December, Ascent Resources stepped up pressure on Slovenia to issue the environmental permit for its project by threatening to sue the government for damages.

This was after the then Environment Minister Jure Leben ordered an internal inquiry at the Environment Agency to see "whether inappropriate pressure has been exerted on employees" in relation to two Petišovci-related procedures.

The inquiry showed that there had been pressure and threats in both procedures and that the autonomy and independence of the decision-making authority had been violated. The findings prompted Joško Knez to resign as the agency's director.

All our stories on this project are here

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