The “Peat Pressure: Industrial Peat Extraction in Enforcement Firing Line” investigation by Irish investigative organisation Noteworthy and Latvian news outlet TVNET exposed the unregulated and illegal extraction of peat. Peatlands are crucial ecosystems for rare plants and species, clean and filter water, and mitigate flooding. However, decades of industrial-scale peat extraction to feed the horticultural industry have led to the degradation of peatlands in Europe, making Ireland and Latvia’s remaining pristine peatlands even more valuable.
The investigation found that the two leading multi-million euro horticultural peat companies in Ireland, Harte Peat and Klasmann-Deilmann, had extracted peat without permission and in breach of EU environmental law, without any state action. In Latvia, the peat industry is a cornerstone of the economy, but there are regulatory oversight gaps, and state authorities have no real understanding of how much peat is being extracted every year or its environmental and climate impacts.
The investigation had a big impact on the political debate on the future direction of the horticultural peat industry in Ireland. The findings led to the withdrawal of a bill that would have greatly loosened regulations. Noteworthy’s findings were repeatedly cited by politicians during the debates. TVNET’s reporting was the first of its kind in Latvia and generated debate about the balance between economic and environmental interests.
Ahead of the 2023 IJ4EU Impact Award Ceremony, we spoke to Juris Jurāns – investigative journalist at TVNET – about the investigation. Read more about the project here.