French court fines power grid for harming animals

A French court has ruled that power grid RTE must pay 390,000 euros (US$493,200) to a farming family after a high-voltage line caused its animals to fall sick, a prosecutor said Nov. 17.

State-run RTE, an arm of EDF, said it would appeal against the decision, a first for France and which could open the floodgates to similar claims.

The court of Tulle in southwest France said it had requested RTE to pay for the damage caused after it placed a high-voltage line above a farm in the village of Latronche in the Correze departement (administrative division).

“The decision was made after proof was gathered by a family of farmers over the last 10 years and farmers who have always been considered in the agricultural world to be excellent,” Etienne Manteaux, the court prosecutor told Reuters.

“Even if this wasn’t proved scientifically and with certainty, the judge considered there was no other possibility,” Manteaux said.

A high-voltage line was set up above the farm in 1943 to transport electricity from the nearby hydroelectric dam of L’Aigle but cows and pigs showed worsening health problems when a fifth turbine was added to the dam in the late 1980s, said Serge Marcouyoux, a member of the family.

“We had to shut our pigsty because we couldn’t stop piglets from dying and the line provoked ulcers and bleeding on our 50 dairy cows and muscular paralysis in our heifers,” he added.

The high-voltage line, 30 metres away from the house, caused respiratory problems for the 34-year-old farmer and deafness in his 57-year old mother and 59-year-old father, Marcouyoux said.

Marcouyoux said his symptoms stopped when he moved into a caravan further away from the site.

Asked whether other neighbouring farmers had had similar problems, he replied, “Yes, but they refused to bring RTE to court. They are waiting for one farmer to go all the way before following through.”



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