The Central Administrative Court has started hearing a case filed by Saraburi and Ayutthaya farmers against the construction of a 1,600-megawatt power plant.
Sixty-one residents asked the court to revoke the power plant operating licence of Gulf JPNS Co, the developer of the power plant in Nong Saeng district.
They alleged the licence, issued by the Energy Regulatory Commission in 2010, was unlawful as the plant is located in an area designated as a conservation and agricultural zone.
The plaintiffs also asked the court to nullify the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy Planning's approval of the project's environmental impact assessment (EIA).
They said the EIA was based on false and incomplete information about the construction site.
However, Judge Jirasak Jiravadee yesterday suggested the judge panel should reject the plaintiffs' request as, in his view, the operating licence and the EIA process were in line with the law.
The judge said the approval of the plant's EIA report took place before the area was designated as a conservation and agricultural zone.
The judge also dismissed residents' concerns over possible water shortages. The residents said the plant would consume vast amounts of water from natural sources.
The judge, however, said such problems were unlikely because the company will build its own water storage facility for the project.
The Department of Royal Irrigation also has full authority to control the use of water in the dry season, he said.
"I have not seen anything [in the approval process] that is against the law. So the plaintiffs' requests should be rejected," the judge said.
Montana Daungprapa, a lawyer from the Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Wants (EnLAW) who represents the petitioners, told the court the developer had known from the beginning the site would be reserved for conservation and agricultural purposes under Saraburi's city planning law. "The company attended the hearings on the city planning regulation, so they can't deny that they pressed ahead with construction despite knowing the area will be reserved for agriculture," she said.
Plaintiff Tee Triranaseangmanee said he was disappointed in the judge's opinion, as the city plan showed the area must be used for farming.
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- Writer: Apinya Wipatayotin