Electricity pylons

Twin coal plants in Greece face court challenge over illegal pollution

Environmental lawyers have launched a case against two of Greece’s major coal plants for their failure to comply with EU law.

This follows similar cases recently launched by ClientEarth in Italy and Bulgaria.

The challenge, brought by ClientEarth and WWF Greece, and supported by Greenpeace, seeks to annul the environmental permits renewed by the Greek Ministry for Environment and Energy in September 2017 for coal plants Megalopoli A and Megalopoli B. The permits would be valid for ten years.

The state granted both permits despite the plants failing to carry out Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) first, as EU and national laws require.

The new permits also allow the two plants to pollute above the new, tougher legal limits that came into force in August 2017. The plants’ environmental permits had been outdated and awaiting renewal since 2010.

Despite a heavy reliance on coal-burning for power in Greece, there has been no major study to date on its effects on people’s health.

ClientEarth lawyer Eleni Diamantopoulou said: “This challenge is about protecting people from the harmful effects of pollution – effects that go undiscussed. For too long these plants have had a licence to pollute at illegal levels, at the expense of people’s health and the environment. This immunity needs to be brought to an end.

“The Greek government has a duty to make sure the plants that power the country comply with their own regulations – and hold accountable whoever fails to do so.”

A recent study by the European Environment Agency found that Greece is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in Europe. Studies have noted a worsening of droughts, forest fires and heatwaves in Greece over the last few years associated with human-driven climate change. Yet coal-fired plants, the most heavy carbon source of energy, still provide around half of Greece’s electricity.

Megalopoli A and Megalopoli B are two of Greece’s fleet of six lignite-fired power plants. Both plants are major polluters, gravely compromising human health, water quality in the local river, and the global climate.

Diamantopoulou added: “If Megalopoli A and B stay open until 2025 and 2036, respectively, as planned, and continue to operate without complying with EU law and without public consultation, the repercussions will continue impacting not only Greece but the rest of Europe too.”

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