Judges in Gdansk, Poland, have revoked a permit to build a controversial new coal power plant – sending the project back to square one.
The court upheld the decision by the Pomeranian governor (the region where the plant was due to be built) to revoke building permits for Północ Power Plant.
This was a welcome victory for local residents and the three non-governmental organisations, including ClientEarth, who opposed the plant.
Judges agreed with the governor that the regional authority’s decision-making process when awarding the building permits was unlawful. According to the ruling, the authority, Starosta Tczewski (Starosta), hindered citizens’ participation in the legal proceedings.
Europe’s largest new coal power plant
The 1600 MW plant would have been the largest new installation of its kind in the EU, firing about 3.7 million tons of coal and emitting about 8 million tons of CO2 a year. It was opposed by local residents who were worried about the damage it would cause to their health and the agricultural land that surrounded it.
The court also agreed with the governor’s opinion that Starosta accepted data and evidence from Polenergia, the investor hoping to build the power plant, without question – and gave less weight to evidence from the local community and NGOs.
Evidence from these NGOs, who formed the STOP EP (Polnoc Power Plant) coalition, focused on where Polenergia had understated the plant’s most dangerous emissions, such as methane, nitrogen monoxide, dioxin, and furan. What’s more, the investor had made no assessment of the possible negative impact of the power plant on water.
Malgorzata Smolak, lawyer for ClientEarth Poland, said: “The court’s ruling affirms that local communities must have a say in such projects. Along with local residents, we raised objections to this investment, but they had been ignored. We are happy that the Pomeranian governor and the court sided with us, and ensured the rule of the law.”
Polenergia may decide to appeal – but the court’s decision puts the investment into question. This is the second time Polenergia has had building permits overturned – the first time, in 2012, was for similar reasons.
Polenergia is now back to where it started in March 2011, when they began efforts to build Północ Power Plant.