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ClientEarth Communications

29th March 2021

Climate
Wildlife & habitats
Plastics
Europe
Belgium

Future of €3bn plastics project looks uncertain as Ineos pulls inadequate permit

In a major win for us, our partners, and the environment, petrochemical giant Ineos has announced it is dropping its permit for the first stage of a planned plastics expansion in the Port of Antwerp, Belgium.

The decision comes following a court challenge we launched last year with our partners against Ineos’ ‘salami-slicing’ of the project into three separate permit applications.

It remains unclear whether Ineos’ future permit application will reflect the full environmental impacts of the project as the environmental groups have demanded it should.

Our plastics lawyer, Tatiana Luján said: “This project’s environmental impacts would be so far-reaching, we believe the authorities should not be able to authorise it. Beyond the clear local impacts of woodland destruction and plastic pellet leakage, we cannot forget that plastics are made from fossil fuels, and plants like this are a global climate issue.

“The magnitude of Project One’s impacts cannot be brushed under the carpet – or divided over several permits to make them look smaller. Winning permission step by step when each stage of the project is interlinked is an illegal approach. This permit was always inadequate and pulling it is the only legally correct course of action. Ineos must now go back to the drawing board.”

The story so far

Just a few months ago, we took emergency legal action against Ineos, over their plans to develop a giant plastics plant expansion on the Port of Antwerp. The project risks adding more plastic to an already saturated market, as well as causing irreversible damage to the surrounding area, through deforestation of woodland, protected for its wildlife, as well adding to the unsolved plastic pellet crisis affecting Antwerp’s shoreline and nature reserves.

We won an injunction against Ineos in November over a lack of sufficient investigation by the authorities into the environmental impacts of two new planned units. Our ongoing court case, launched a month later, highlights the regional authorities’ failure to assess the foreseen environmental impacts of the full project – a clear breach of EU and national laws.

A surprise development

In January, Ineos announced the plans for one of the two units would be suspended indefinitely. A spokesperson cited a challenging market, with demand for propylene – a key ingredient of plastic – plummeting. This sudden change of plans has already cost Ineos €118.5 million.

An additional concern may also be the increasing unprofitability of shale gas fracking in the US, a central element in the Ineos’ business plans, which has been under heavy pressure from climate protection legislation worldwide.

Plastics in Antwerp: an uncertain future

We will continue our fight against Project One in court, as Ineos is now focusing on the second unit, a climate-damaging ethane cracker.

Ineos has said it plans to submit an amended environmental impact assessment in order to request a new permit from the Flemish authorities later this year. The project has already been delayed by over a year due to our legal action. Ineos’ decision to submit a new permit is expected to further delay Project One by at least two years.

Once published, we will review the new permit and continue to take legal action where necessary to prevent Project One from causing irreversible damage to people and the planet.

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