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Press release: 13 November 2020
Ineos’s permit to deforest the land needed for its plastics plant expansion in the Port of Antwerp has today been temporarily blocked until the permit can been fully reviewed by the Court.
The decision came from the Council for Permit Disputes in Flanders, Belgium.
The judgment comes following an emergency injunction filed by ClientEarth together with 13 environmental organisations. The environmental groups launched the injunction in an urgent legal bid to prevent the felling of the forest as an interim measure before submitting a judicial appeal.
In the judgment, the Council, or ‘Raad voor vergunningsbetwistingen’, confirms that the environmental impact assessment, which forms the basis of the permit, fails to sufficiently assess the full extent of the environmental and climate impacts the project will have as a whole.
This the latest step in the groups’ campaign against the expansion of a plastics plant – known as “Project One” – which they consider both environmentally destructive and legally fraught.
ClientEarth lawyer Maria Jolie Veder said: “The judgment shows that developing a project without fully assessing its impact cannot be allowed.
“Issuing permits for separate phases of a project without assessing the environmental impacts of the project as a whole blatantly disregards national and EU environmental law.
“Today’s judgment clearly shows that these manoeuvres will not hold before a court. We will continue to argue that this project should never have been allowed to go ahead so as to protect people and the planet from the irreversible damage it would cause.”
The suspension of the permit will be upheld until a decision is made by the Raad voor vergunningsbetwistingen.
Environmental organisations that have joined ClientEarth in filing for the injunction are: Natuurbeschermingsvereniging De Steltkluut, Klimaatzaak, Greenpeace Belgium, StRaten Generaal, Fairfin, BOS+, Recycling Network Benelux, Grootouders voor het Klimaat, Climaxi, Bond Beter Leefmilieu (BBL), WWF Belgium, Zero Waste Europe and Gallifrey Foundation.
Basis of ClientEarth’s legal challenges
Under EU law, Project One (Ineos’s plan to expand its existing plastics plant with two further installations) should have been rigorously assessed before the project was approved, to make sure its full environmental impact has been properly taken into account.
However, Ineos split the project approval up into three separate phases, each receiving its own Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – one for deforesting the area needed for the plant, and one for each of the refinery units themselves.
This ‘salami-slicing’ of the permit may make it easier for authorities to approve it as only one stage of the project is examined at a time. This approach may also obscure the total impact of the project, which is illegal under EU law.
Therefore, in 2019, ClientEarth submitted an administrative appeal against the EIA for deforestation, asking that a comprehensive EIA be carried out to reflect the full impact of Project One.
ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.