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For several years the “Just Environment” association has been mobilizing to stop the agrofotovoltaic project, led by the Photosol company, and supported by the municipality of Lebreil, at the time of Montcuq-en-Quercy-Blanc in the Lot.
He won his case this summer 2022, with the decision of the prefect Michel Prosic, one of his last decisions made before leaving Lot.
The president of “Just Environment reacts
We have collected the reactions of Just Environment, interviewing its new president, since March 2022, Tim Abady.
News: Within “Just Environment”, do you understand and approve the Prefect’s decision to refuse the agrofotovoltaic project on the heights of Lebreil and Valprionde?
Tim Abadi: We understand you and we totally agree with you, since the text of the decree is clear and precise. We will support him in the best possible way and his principles.
What were your persuasive efforts to persuade the prefect not to accept the project?
TA: The entire project was born from a vote of the municipal council of Montcuq-en-Quercy-Blanc, on 3 September 2018; a vow that was imperfect and illegal.
In fact, according to articles L.21-21-12 of the General Code of the Territorial Communities and L.511-1 of the Environmental Code, with this project it was mandatory for the Municipality to transmit to the councilors, with the invitation to the meeting, a summary of the project, to understand it and to be able to ask questions, which was not done.
If we had been informed in time, we could have contacted the prefect, within 2 months of the vote, to oppose it through an appeal, which could have allowed this project to go unnoticed and therefore ruin, as it was, 4 years of work. From the start, all the lights were bright red.
The association had full confidence in the services of the state, which would advise the Prefect, in order to make the right decision. We have chosen not to speak directly to the prefect, but to organize a public meeting on April 1, 2022. We have exerted pressure on the investigating commissioner, verbally and in writing, asking him to extend the public inquiry to 2 weeks, and to organize a public meeting with the promoter, which took place on 8 April. Previously, we have asked the Municipality several times to organize a public meeting, which has never been successful. We have distributed 3,000 flyers in Quercy Blanc.
We are aware that in the face of the serious work of our association that is documenting itself, the services of the Prefecture are very attentive.
Do you hope that the new prefect of Lot, Mireille Larrède, will follow this decision and not reopen the file?
TA: We don’t see a single reason to do this. All public employees, across different departments, have worked for several years and hundreds of hours on this file, they warned the Prefect who led him to refuse it.
As we said at the meeting on April 8, this project would lead to jurisprudence.
We understand that the mayor of Montcuq is studying a nice appeal. If the prefect refuses the kind appeal of Photosol, the promoter, we think the company will attack, before the administrative court, unless we see no legal basis for such an appeal, but if this is the case, our association will support the decision of the prefect, if necessary up to the Council of State.
If, on the other hand, the prefect reopened the file and annulled the decision of his predecessor and authorized the project, our association and our partners (France Nature Environnement, the Confédération Paysanne ed) would be obliged to act, before the administrative court, and, if necessary, at the State Council. The principles at stake are too important, for France and for the planet.
He would have done jurisprudence
How has this project been harmful to the environment and agriculture?
TA: If authorized, it would create a jurisprudential precedent, with the consequence that every hectare of agricultural and natural land would be at the mercy of the photovoltaic promoters. It is not the local impact that is the most worrying, but the national impact, which would be a disaster for the environment, biodiversity, food production, agriculture and landscapes of France. This project must by no means be successful.
Faced with the energy crisis, are you in favor of renewable energy production, in the Lot and Quercy Blanc areas, and under what conditions?
TA: We lost 4 years, during which we could have developed local projects. This has prevented people from thinking differently, for energy saving, for biodiversity. Except in special circumstances, the exploitation of agricultural and natural land must be excluded from photovoltaic projects. The survival of the natural world is at stake.
We believe that before we can produce more energy, we must act vigorously to reduce energy consumption. Projects must start from serious local initiatives. Local projects must be destined for self-consumption, using the surfaces of existing buildings. It will be necessary, in each municipality, to increase the production potential, to develop projects, municipality by municipality, so that people buy their own electricity.
Several semi-public companies have emerged in the Lot, such as Céléwatt. The projects must be supported by the local population. 90% of the Montcuq-en-Quercy-Blanc Photosol project was financed by bank loans. The other advantage of small projects is that they avoid large projects, which require large and expensive infrastructure.
After this new success, for your association, what will your next battles be for the environment?
TA: We do not consider it a success, but a first step. Our actions are not struggles, but constructive interventions. We would like to work with people rather than oppose.
The motto of “Just Environment” is “understand well, decide better”. Our immediate task is to follow the Photosol file, to stop it definitively, but we are working on several projects, in the Lot, in the Tarn-et-Garonne, in the Lot-et-Garonne and in the Loiret, being regularly solicited by individuals, associations and municipalities .
Our association, with 148 members, is run entirely by volunteers and does not receive subsidies, guaranteeing our independence. Since the beginning of this year 2022, we have been working on a charter for Quercy, with our vision of what is acceptable and what is not, in terms of energy, biodiversity. The idea is to offer it to people so they can sign it. We would like to have a permanent legal department with at least one attorney.
The best defense for the planet is to enforce the laws, which already exist.
Finally, what do you say to the supporters of the project?
TA: Most of the contributions to the public inquiry, in favor of the Montcuq-en-Quercy-Blanc project led by Photosol, were short and little or not motivated. However, we want to assume that the majority of them, like our association, were in favor of renewable energy, energy saving. We invite them to join us, in order to obtain the support of municipalities, communities of municipalities and agglomerations, of the Department, to encourage real local projects. Join us. Let’s do it, but otherwise.
The mayor of Montcuq does not understand the decision
Following the opposition to this project by the prefect of Lot Michel Prosic, shortly before his departure, we collected the reactions of the mayor of Montcuq-en-Quercy-Blanc, Alain Lalabarde.
Mr. Mayor, while we have to deal with energy supply problems, do you understand the decision of the Prefecture? Did you expect it?
TO THE: It is the opposite of what the state wants. The arguments used to justify the refusal, in the decision, are contrary to all the decisions of the design office, as well as of the Chamber of Agriculture. The public survey, in which a large part of the population took part, gave a positive opinion, at 62%. If people’s opinions are useless, where does democracy go? I’m not sure if the Prefect made his decision, “in his soul and in his conscience.” This goes against the will of the state. How can we do without the energy of the sun?
Does it include an appeal, so that this project can see the light?
TO THE: Nothing justifies the position taken at the time by the prefect, Mr. Michel Prosic. The investigative commissioner did a good job. The Prefect questions all the studies that have been done on the subject, and which have been carried out not by the Photosol company, but by independent bodies. It is a lack of respect for them. The state encourages us to focus on renewable energy, but we are unable to recover part of it from the sun.
Initially a “friendly appeal” will be presented, with the new Prefect of the Lotto, Ms. Mireille Larrède. It is important that you handle the case, that you give your opinion of her. It would be nice if he met us. We will go all the way.
We are asked to reduce our energy consumption, but we are prevented from producing it.
Do you think that a renewable energy production project, wind or photovoltaic, will one day be possible, in Montcuq-en-Quercy-Blanc or Quercy Blanc?
TO THE: Starting as it is, there will never be renewable energies in the Lotto. The Department has established a Charter, to cope with “untimely requests”, in order to protect the authentic character of our landscapes. This decision goes against the development of rural areas.
Do you have plans for the ecological transition for the municipality?
TO THE: There would be projects, such as the construction of buildings, with photovoltaics. But what is the point of making efforts if our projects are not taken into consideration?
DIDIER QUET interview
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