The UK government’s shambolic attempt to extend the life of some coal-fired power stations may have left them operating on illegal permits.
ClientEarth’s assessment of the government’s handling of the situation was that it had acted beyond its legal powers. Now parliament has warned the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), that this could well be the case, raising concerns over the lack of legal certainty.
Under the EU’s Industrial Emissions Directive, governments had to submit a Transitional National Plan to the Commission if they wished to allow power plants that did not meet emissions regulations to continue operating after 1 January this year and give them extra time to comply.
ClientEarth has raised concerns that the Government has vastly underestimated the impact this plan will have on the UK environment and public health.
Despite two years of preparation, Defra did not properly consult with the public on the proposals and, failed to put key information before parliament to enable it to scrutinise the proposals. According to the Statutory Instruments Joint Committee, there is doubt as to whether the legal basis existed in order for it to act as it did.
ClientEarth lawyer Susan Shaw said: “The government’s arguments about the urgency for this plan simply don’t stack up – it knew about the need to prepare it over two years ago. It pressured the European Commission to push this flawed plan through at the last possible moment.”
“It then circumvented parliamentary process and ignored public views on an issue of key social, economic and environmental importance. It’s now left with a mess to sort out and plants operating on potentially illegal permits.”
ClientEarth will be watching Defra’s reaction to the Joint Committee’s concerns carefully.