EU coal lobby threatens legal action over regulations

The European coal power lobby is consulting its members about a potential lawsuit, after new European Commission regulations introduced stricter measures on the industry’s emissions.

Under the new law, power generators must meet the new targets by 2021 or face closure.
Brian Ricketts, Euracoal’s secretary-general said his members will oppose the act in court if necessary. He referred to the EU vote as “a vindictive move against coal” intended to meet internationalà‚ climate goals, rather than reduce air pollution.

He added: “The European Commission has abused process. They tabled an amendment which no member states had seen, took a vote early in the meeting, and then had a discussion afterwards. The whole thing was rigged to knock out coal and meet the Paris [climate agreement] targets. That is not what the legislation is for.”

According to theà‚ European Environmental Bureauà‚ (EEB), 82 per cent of coalà‚ capacity expected to be operating in four years is currently in breach of the standards. Compliance could cost up to €15.4bn.

The legal manoeuvres follow aà‚ European committeeà‚ vote in April, which approved new clean air standards by the narrowest of margins. Germany and Finland joined coal-dependent eastern European states Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania in opposing the new rules, arguing that the proposed limits on nitrous oxide emissionsà‚ were unreasonably stringent.

ClientEarth’s Dominique Doyle says her environmental law watchdog will be monitoring compliance.

“Is it really practical to shell out millions to update a plant that may shut down almost as soon as it’s refurbished?” she asked. “ClientEarth will be watching carefully to see how Europe’s plants comply. We will not hesitate to take action if they try to shirk their legal responsibility to protect our health.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Germany is, meanwhile, coming under more and more scrutiny for the proportion of coal-fired power in its energy mix, 40 per cent of energy generation.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, facing into a 24th September election, is avoiding talk about the subject, due to sensitivity attached to thousands of jobs as well as a substantial industrial lobby who maintain the country cannot risk its economy on renewables.

“(Coal) makes a big contribution to German and European energy supply security and this will remain the case for a long time to come,” the chairman of the coal importers’ lobby VDKi, Wolfgang Cieslik told reporters last week, adding that it was crucial for steel manufacturing in Germany, the seventh biggest producer in the world, that uses a quarter of the country’s coal imports.

The government is expected to produce a coal phase-out plan next year.

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