BVerwG Denies Preliminary Injunction Against Extra-high Voltage Line Connecting Thuringia and Bavaria

In a decision of 24 May 2012 (ref. no. 7 VR 4.12) the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig (BVerwG) did not grant preliminary relief against the plan determination decision (Planfeststellungsbeschluss) for the 380 kV extra-high voltage power line between Vieselbach near Erfurt and Altenfeld, both located in Thuringia. Hence the construction of this part of the 210 km-long so-called Thuringian power bridge (Thüringer Stromstrombrücke) can begin.

Thuringian power bridge shall connect the transformer station Lauchstädt in Thuringa with the transformer station Redwitz in Bavaria. Grid expansion is now even more urgently needed in view of the energy policy shift away from nuclear power towards a renewable energy supply. Even though 24 extra-high voltage power line projects, including the one between Lauchstädt and Redwitz (of which the above-mentioned section forms part), receive priority treatment under the Energy Line Extension Act (EnLAG), many projects are delayed as the German grid regulator, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) pointed out recently in its Annual Report 2011. In another Report on the Tense Electricity Grid Situation in Winter 2011/2012, BNetzA mentioned that the last winter season saw a considerable increase of redispatch measures in particular with respect “to the power line between Remptendorf in the state of Thuringia and Redwitz in Bavaria, a line for which expansion measures have been delayed for years”.

BVerwG denied the preliminary injunction, arguing that the pending law suit will presumably not be successful. Pursuant to Section 50 para. 6 German Administrative Court Rules (VwGO), BVerwG – the highest German administrative court – is the competent court. It is also the only instance for the preliminary injunction and the law suit against the plan determination decision.

The allegations made by the applicants, a municipality concerned and the owner of a restaurant and plot of land on which a mast shall be erected, were not convincing, BVerwG argued. The necessary justification for the plan resulted from the EnLAG (Section 1 para. 2 sent. 2 and 3), which was bindig for the plan determination authority and the court. The court saw no reason that the underlying assessment by the legislator (regarding the need for the power line) was evidently inappropriate. The line was needed as part of the integrated European electricity network and as a national interconnector. Measures to optimise and enhance existing power lines alone were not enough. There were no serious flaws in the authority’s assessment of the plan. Finally, the court did not see enough evidence of substantial damage for the municipality, neither in its capacity as a state-recognised health resort and tourist community nor to the restaurant of the other applicant that is frequented by tourists. Hence, the alleged violation of provisions of the laws protecting the landscape and species were irrelevant, BVerwG held.

The internet site “in Südthüringen” (in South Thuringia) quotes the head of the district administration of the Ilm district in which Altenfeld is located as saying she did not comprehend the decision, as the political decision about the need for new power lines has not yet been finalised. She welcomed the announcement by the transmission system operator 50Hertz Transmission GmbH to wait with the construction of the power line section until the court has provided the full text of its ruling.

Source: Federal Administrative Court;