Power plant

Judges deny Bulgarian power plant expansion over illegal pollution

The Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria has refused Brikel coal power plant permission to increase its coal burning capacity. The court said that the plant had systematically failed to comply with environmental laws.

The Bulgarian Executive Environment Agency (EEA) originally denied Brikel TPP a permit to increase its capacity by over 50% in 2015. The decision was supported by Bulgarian-based NGO Za Zemiata Access to Justice (a legal arm of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace Bulgaria), who joined the case with the EEA. The case was appealed, but the court of second instance upheld the original decision.

The outcome of the appeal is a huge success for people’s health and the climate.

Za Zemiata campaigner Genady Kondarev said: “Brikel should have stopped operating a long time ago. This is a morally and technically outdated plant, kept on ‘life support’ by government payments while its financial resources are fully drained. And while this happens, the plant continues to pollute the air in Galabovo and the surrounding region.

“The court’s decision is a small but important step to end this practice.”

The court noted breaches of the current permit including violations of air quality standards and the lack of a landfill site for waste generated by the plant.

A jury of judges ruled that as the Brikel plant had ignored its environmental obligations in previous permits, there was no guarantee the plant would comply with a new permit’s standards either.

ClientEarth coal lawyer Dominique Doyle said: “The Brikel power plant has continuously neglected its responsibilities to ensure that the environment and people’s health are protected. Thanks to the efforts of the EEA and Za Zemiata Access to Justice, Brikel’s blatant disregard of environmental laws has finally been exposed.”

Although the EEA has manage to defend environmental laws in this instance, Bulgaria is failing to ensure that its population and the environment are protected from harmful pollution. Bulgaria has recently joined Poland in a legal challenge that aims to slap down new and better EU pollution laws, and access to justice continues to be a major problem for Bulgarians.

Za Zemiata Access to Justice, working with ClientEarth, have also challenged illegal levels of pollution from power plant Maritsa III in Dimitrovgrad.

ClientEarth is also taking legal action against Bulgaria over unlawful state aid and misuse of state aid to the coal industry, and in relation to illegal mining.

For an overview of Bulgaria’s endemic coal problem, watch Al Jazeera’s short report.

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