The Greek government has breached an international agreement by denying the public their right to be informed of and participate in decisions concerning coal-fired power plants, according to environmental lawyers.
ClientEarth and WWF Greece have filed a complaint with the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee against the Greek state for setting a plan regarding emission limits for large power plants without consulting the public.
The Aarhus Convention, of which Greece is a signatory, is designed to allow people access to information, public consultations and access to justice over environmental matters.
The complaint has been accepted by the Committee; it will now examine it over the coming months and decide whether the Greek government will face a hearing.
ClientEarth lawyer, Dominique Doyle said: “The people of Greece should be able to participate in the decision-making process of matters that affect their health and environment. However, the government decides behind closed doors and continues to deny its people this right in nearly every decision concerning lignite power plants.
“We want to safeguard public participation and ensure that it is not sidestepped by the government.”
No place for the public
Large coal-fired power plants must normally comply with the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) that sets out limits for the amount of pollutants a plant can emit. However, by drawing up and implementing a transitional national plan (TNP), EU countries can be exempt from complying with these limits.
The TNP allows power plants to emit polluting substances into the atmosphere at a higher concentration than would otherwise be permitted under the IED.
Drafting of the TNP in Greece was limited to members of the energy industry including the national power company, Public Power Corporation (PPC). Environmental NGOs or individuals likely to be exposed to emissions from the plants were not consulted.
Failing to provide information on the TNP and preventing all public participation violates the Aarhus Convention.
WWF Greece Climate and Energy Policy Officer Nikos Mantzaris said: “The operation of Greek lignite plants is characterised by exemptions, lack of transparency and preferential treatment by the state. Public participation regarding the Greek TNP is not a luxury. It could have led to environmental permits for existing lignite plants with significantly higher restrictions in pollutant emissions.”
This is the second time that ClientEarth and WWF Greece have complained to the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee about Greece’s blatant disregard for the obligations arising from the international treaty in matters concerning power plant permits and their emissions.
The Greek Government has completely ignored the first complaint that was accepted by the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee earlier this year, by submitting a bill to the Parliament that extends the operational permits of the power plants. The bill is expected to be voted on later this week.