Press release: 6 June 2019

Romania’s dirtiest power plant faces court challenge over unassessed pollution

Romania’s notorious coal polluter Rovinari will face a court challenge after campaigners launch legal action to force authorities to consider the plant’s huge negative environmental impacts.

Greenpeace Romania, with the support of environmental lawyers ClientEarth, has submitted a legal challenge against a lifetime permit granted to the coal power plant, which is one of Romania’s biggest and most polluting.

The plant was granted the lifetime extension to its permit without a full assessment of its impacts on the health of people and the environment. No such assessment has been carried out in the 43 years it has been operating.

Greenpeace Romania and ClientEarth argue that the permit allows the plant to emit illegal levels of harmful dust. They also claim that failure to carry out a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) before giving the plant permission to pollute indefinitely disregards both EU and Romanian law.

The groups want the permit to be annulled and a full EIA carried out to ascertain the likely climate, nature and health impacts of the project.

ClientEarth energy lawyer, Dominique Doyle said: “Rovinari is one of the biggest CO2 emitters in the EU and one of the deadliest power plants in terms of air pollution. But this open-ended permit gives it a free pass to pollute indefinitely despite none of these risks ever having been assessed.

“If its impacts are not assessed now, it may result in irreversible harm to people, nature and the climate.”

According to air quality modelling by Greenpeace, continued operation of the plant would lead to substantial harm to public health, including contributing to a projected 490 premature deaths in the next decade alone. The modelling results also indicate that more than 1,000 people living near the plant will be exposed to concentrations of harmful sulphur dioxide (SO2) that exceed the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.

Pollution from Rovinari travels downstream into an EU nature protection site that contains dozens of threatened aquatic habitats and species. The permit allows the power plant to discharge significant amounts of industrial waste, including hazardous substances, despite the protected area in its path. This risks further harm to already threatened species but this too has gone unassessed.

The authorities must also assess the climate impact of the project.

Greenpeace Romania campaigner Cosmin Pleşcan said: “The devastating impacts of coal on our climate are undeniable. The recent UN IPCC report makes it clear that Europe needs a completely fossil-free energy system by 2030 to comply with the Paris Agreement.

“At this crucial point in history, and as one of Romania’s and Europe’s biggest CO2 emitters, authorities cannot ignore Rovinari’s climate impact. No plant should be given an indefinite permit to pollute without first assessing the risks.”

A hearing is expected within the next six months.


Notes to editors:

The Rovinari power plant was ranked the 6th most polluting industrial facility in the European Union by the European Environment Agency (2014).

Air pollution modelling was carried out by Greenpeace’s Global Air Pollution Unit for their report “Air quality, toxic and health impacts of extending the life of the Rovinari power plant”.

Data from Europe Beyond Coal shows the plant is expected to emit approximately 5 million tonnes (MT) of CO2 annually and will emit approximately 50 MT of CO2 in the next 10 years. To put that into perspective, that is roughly the same as the entire annual emissions from Hungary or Slovakia.

About ClientEarth

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.