Dodgy wind farm deals to get the chop
Any 'Sor Por Kor' land lease contracts for wind energy projects which are deemed a misuse of the land will be cancelled, Agriculture Minister Chatchai Sarikulya says.
The contracts for the land leased to the remaining 19 companies that build wind farms to generate electricity must be reviewed within 90 days or by April 26 to comply with a recent Supreme Administrative Court ruling, he said.
Any contracts which breach the law based on the court's ruling will be amended, Gen Chatchai said.
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The Nakhon Ratchasima Administrative Court ruled recently the Chaiyaphum land reform committee's decision to lease the land to Thep Sathit Wind Farm Co was unlawful and ordered it revoked.
According to the court, the land lease for the company is in breach of the agricultural land reform law which requires that allowing Sor Por Kor land use for activities other than agriculture can be done only if those activities are in the interests of farmers.
Wind farms generate electricity, which is in the interests of the public. However, they are also a profit-making business and do not offer direct benefits to farmers, the court said. The court upheld the lower court's decision.
Chamnan Klinchan, a Nakhon Ratchasima land reform officer, said the office is waiting for instructions from the Agricultural Land Reform Office, adding seven companies had asked the office on how to proceed.
The office is ready to comply with the court ruling that provincial land reform committees have no authority to lease such land to the private company.
The Agricultural Land Reform Office (Alro) will inspect wind farm projects run by the remaining 19 companies to see if any of them comply with the law.
The findings are expected to be wrapped up next week, Mr Chamnan said.
Alro has approved Sor Por Kor land lease contracts for 20 business operators in Chaiyaphum and Nakhon Ratchasima.
In Chaiyaphum, there are 13 companies, including the Thep Sathit Wind Farm, which have leased land covering 380 rai. Of them, four companies are operational, six wind farms are under construction and two have not begun construction.
In Nakhon Ratchasima, seven companies received approval to lease land covering 282 rai. Two of them are operating and the remaining five are under construction.
The court case in Chaiyaphum, which has raised doubts over the fate of wind farm projects, came about after protests by 10 residents of tambon Ban Rai and the Association of Lawyers for Environmental Protection.
The group filed a lawsuit with the Administrative Court against officials for allowing the land to be leased to Thep Sathit Wind Farm Co.
On Sept 23, 2009, the land reform committee of Chaiyaphum province adopted a resolution to rent the land to Thep Sathit Wind Farm Co -- 100%-owned by Energy Absolute Plc (EA), a SET-listed renewable power generator -- to build a wind farm to produce electricity.
Based on the provincial land reform committee's decision, Alro signed a contract in 2012 allowing the company to rent the 39-rai plot for 27 years.