image showing power lines

Industrial plants operating on illegal permits

Around 60 industrial plants in the UK are operating on illegal permits, ClientEarth has discovered.

ClientEarth lawyer Susan Shaw has written to the Environment Agency (EA) highlighting the discovery and asking the agency to clarify the status of those remaining from a list of 114 Large Combustion Plants which were granted a time-extension to comply with otherwise more stringent environmental rules.

Air quality monitoring dropped

ClientEarth is also demanding an explanation as to why requirements for coal-fired power plants which demonstrate they meet air quality laws have been dropped.

The Environment Agency for England and Wales acted unlawfully by issuing plants permits before the regulations even came into effect. ClientEarth had already questioned the legality of the regulations and Parliament agreed with that assessment.

The EA has also dropped the requirement to assess the effect of coal fired plants on the level of acidification and eutrophication at Natura 2000 sites, a network of nature protection areas.

The move comes as ClientEarth prepares to take the government back to court for its continued failure to meet legal limits for air pollution.

Susan Shaw said: “This is astounding, even by the shambolic nature of this government’s energy and environment policies.  We have coal fired power stations and other industrial installations now operating on illegal permits and at the same time the Environment Agency – the body charged with protecting our health and environment – has removed key safeguards on air quality modelling and monitoring.

“Given the way that Defra has managed the development and implementation of this plan it is perhaps little wonder that these kind of errors have been made.”

“It’s even more baffling when you consider the government’s inability to meet air quality limits designed to protect our health and the environment.  The government clearly thinks that by pretending this problem doesn’t exist it will go away.”

Illegal permits and a lack of transparency

ClientEarth is concerned about the lack of transparency in these decisions.

Susan Shaw added: “These changes were made without any public consultation.  What’s more worrying is that key information has been withheld from the public registers.”

The Government’s own statistics indicate that emissions from industry (including energy, manufacturing, construction and processes) are the largest overall source of NOx emissions in the UK, accounting for some 49% of all such emissions in 2013.  Around 20per cent of such emissions are attributed to coal-fired power stations.

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Peter O'Connor