"EcoLur" Informational NGO has sent a letter to RA Justice Minister Karen Andreasyan and Chair of RA National Assembly's Standing Committee on Territorial Management, Local Self-Government, Agriculture and Environmental Protection Vahe Ghalumyan asking to take measures to settle the conflict between the judiciary and RA Environment Ministry. A copy of the letter was sent to RA Environment Minister Hakob Simidyan.
EcoLur’s letter says:
"Lorva Amrots" LLC intends to obtain a permit from RA Environment Ministry to use water for the construction of "Loribird 1" HPP. According to the application, the HPP is planned to be built on the Dzoraget river in the administrative area of Agarak village of Lori Berd community, Lori Region. This project is in conflict with Government resolution 488-Ն dated on April 8, 2021 “ON DETERMINING LIST OF RIVERS SERVING AS SPAWNING SITES FOR RED-LISTED OR ENDEMIC FISH SPECIES OR OVERLOADED WITH DERIVATION PIPELINES BY 40 PERCENT AND OVER WHEN APPLICATIONS FOR WATER USE PERMITS FOR NEWLY CONSTRUCTED SMALL HYDROPOWER PLANTS MUST BE REJECTED”, where Dzoraget is one of the rivers included in this list.
For several years, "Lorva Amrots" LLC has been trying to build a powerful hydroelectric power station on Dzoraget by submitting relevant applications to Environment Ministry (EM) for obtaining a water use permit and a permit to build a hydropower plant. In one of the projects, the capacity of the planned hydroelectric power plant is stated to be up to 27 MW, and in another project, the company plans to build a small hydroelectric power plant from two nodes, the total capacity of which is 38.63 MW. This indicator is several times higher than the capacity accepted for small hydropower plants the upper limit of international norms is 10 MW.
Reminder: the capacity limit of 30 MW for small hydropower plants was approved by RA Government's Resolution 1300-A of September 8, 2011 "On the Recommendation on Setting the Maximum Capacity for Small Hydropower Plants" specifically for "Dzorahek" SHPP, the owner of which was the family of the former RA president Serzh Sargsyan.
Due to this decision, the medium-capacity "DzoraHEK" HPP was included among the small HPPs for which a high tariff for the purchase of produced electricity was set. As a result, the operating company started making super profits without any additional costs.
For years, the interested civil society has appealed to RA government to annul this corrupt decision. The decision is still in force, and "Lorva Amrots" LLC also wants to take advantage of it.
Based on the requirements of RA Water Code and Resolution no. 88 of RA Government arising from these requirements, Environment Ministry rejected the applications for receiving the hydroelectric power presented by "Lorva Amrots" LLC in 2020 and 2021.
In 2021 company submitted three lawsuits to RA Administrative Court, one against Environment Ministry, the other against the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC), and the third against RA government. In the first lawsuit, the company requested to oblige the Environment Ministry to issue a WT, in the second lawsuit to issue an electricity production license, where it is demanding from RA Government to annul the provision prohibiting the construction of a SHPP on the Dzoraget in government resolution 488-Ն on April 8, 2021 “ON DETERMINING LIST OF RIVERS SERVING AS SPAWNING SITES FOR RED-LISTED OR ENDEMIC FISH SPECIES OR OVERLOADED WITH DERIVATION PIPELINES BY 40 PERCENT AND OVER WHEN APPLICATIONS FOR WATER USE PERMITS FOR NEWLY CONSTRUCTED SMALL HYDROPOWER PLANTS MUST BE REJECTED”.
The court admitted all three lawsuits into proceedings and made a decision regarding the first two in favor of the plaintiff - "Lorva Amrots" LLC. Moreover, the court ignored the fact that the company presented to the court in the third lawsuit as evidence that it is forbidden to build a new hydropower plant on the Dzoraget River, and therefore it is forbidden to issue the relevant permits.
The court, forcing Environment Ministry to grant WT to this company, presented in its decision the substantiations given by the company that "enormous financial costs were incurred for the implementation of the project and an investor was found who is ready to finance the construction of small hydropower plants and for this purpose is ready to invest about 60 million US dollars - Armenian AMD equivalent to the dollar".
There is no record of where these investments have been spent or who is confirming the investment promises.
Thus, the court forced Environment Ministry to compulsorily issue temporary (for a period of 1 year) WTs, which the Ministry has already done on July 30, 2021. On July 13, 2022, on the basis of another court ruling and the issued WTs, the PSRC issued an electricity production license to "Lorva Castle" LLC for the production of electricity at 26.7-MW “Loribird 2” small hydropower plant on Dzoraget.
The company has not yet received the electricity production license for "Loribird 1" small hydropower plant, and the term of the permits issued by the Ministry of Environment expired on July 30, 2022. It should be noted that in February 2022, the company applied to the Administrative Court of the Republic of Armenia with a demand from Environment Ministry to once again issue a WP for "Loribird 1" SHPP, which it had in 2021, on the grounds that there is a technical error in WP, and the places of water intake and water use were incorrectly indicated. The court rejected the company's claim.
In September 2022, "Lorva Amrots" LLC applied to Environment Ministry in order to extend the term of the second WT. On September 22, public discussions on the provision of WT for "Loribird 1" SHPP owned by "Lorva Amrots" LLC were held at the Water Resources Management Department of Environment Ministry. In response to EcoLur's question, the representatives of the department said that the given WT will be issued regardless of everything because there is a ruling of the Administrative Court and otherwise Environment Ministry will be fined. Deputy Head of Water Resources Management Department Arman Shahnubaryan noted, “The application is in the stage of preliminary assessment, all the documents based on the application have been collected, there is also a court ruling. It should have started the activity within a year, because didn't make it, so the company applied again for another year in order to get a license from the PSRC. We issued our opinion at the time, on the basis of which they applied to court, and the court obliges us to provide a WT. We have no choice, even if the law forbids building a small hydroelectric power plant on that river... The court does not accept that we rejected the application for the provision of hydroelectric power according in the correct procedure. For some reasons, we reached the condition that the court ruled in favor of the entrepreneur and made the resolution issued by the state structure a zero," he explained.
In its letter, EcoLur asked to consider and present to the Supreme Judicial Council this precedent, according to which the resolution of RA Administrative Court Judge Ruzanna Azroyan led to a chain of violations of the legislation, a law and a by-law, where two state bodies, Environment Ministry and PSRC, are involved, as well as the affected communities, which threatens the existence of the Dzoraget river ecosystem, which is one of the main water resources of Armenia.
EcoLur has not yet received a response from RA Ministry Justice.
Vahe Ghalumyan, Chair of Standing Committee on Territorial Management, Local Self-Government, Agriculture and Environmental Protection of RA National Assembly, informed EcoLur in his letter dated 18.10.2022, “I would like to inform you that Committee shares the opinion of the Ministry regarding the rejection of the application for a water use permit to "Lorva Amrots" LLC, but the ruling of Administrative Court is not subject to appeal, and according to RA Constitution, any interference in the administration of justice is prohibited. The committee will discuss the issues raised in your application with the relevant departments to find a legislative solution."
Tigran Gabrielyan, RA Deputy Environment Minister, informed with his letter No. 3/07.2/13392 dated on 13.10.2022, “"Loribird 1" HPP and "Loribird-2" HPP's water use permit applications filed by "Lorva Amrots" LLC were rejected by the Ministry on the basis of the requirements of Government resolution 488-Ն dated on April 8, 2021 “ON DETERMINING LIST OF RIVERS SERVING AS SPAWNING SITES FOR RED-LISTED OR ENDEMIC FISH SPECIES OR OVERLOADED WITH DERIVATION PIPELINES BY 40 PERCENT AND OVER WHEN APPLICATIONS FOR WATER USE PERMITS FOR NEWLY CONSTRUCTED SMALL HYDROPOWER PLANTS MUST BE REJECTED”.
The construction of Loriberd-1 HPP and Loriberd-2 HPP by the company is planned on the Dzoraget tributary of the Debed River, whereas Dzoraget tributary is included in the list of rivers laid down in Annex to Government decision N 488 of April 8, 2021, on which the construction of a new small hydroelectric power station is clearly prohibited, therefore, applications for water use permits requested by "Lorva Amrots" LLC could not be granted.
The company filed the following claim to Court: "To recognize as invalid Clause 19 of Annex to Government decision N 488 of April 8, 2021, providing for the Dzoraget tributary of the Debed River (Case No. VD/9255/05/21)".
Regarding the claim (administrative case No. VD/7002/05/21) and application (administrative case No. VD/9255/05/21) submitted by the Company, the Ministry presented the responses to the claim and the application, which stated the objections of the Ministry.
The aforementioned court cases No. VD/7002/05/21 and No. VD/9255/05/21 are in the stage of litigation".
October 19, 2022 at 16:38