The British government must pay court costs over a decision by the European Court of Justice who ruled the country had failed to limit pollution emissions from Aberthaw power station in south Wales.
The 1555 MW coal-fired power plant, stood accused of emitting more than double the legal amount of toxic nitrogen oxides for seven years, however the UK government had disagreed with that interpretation.
The government said Aberthaw had been designed to burn low volatile Welsh coal and had not been in breach of rules. Welsh coal is harder to burn than coal from elsewhere and Aberthaw’s boilers have been permitted to produce higher emissions of nitrogen oxides than other UK plants.
The European Commission challenged that position and the case went to court 18 months ago. Operator RWE already plans to downgrade the plant from next spring so it only generates electricity at times of peak demand.
The UK plans to phase out coal entirely by 2025.
Director of Programmes at environmental lawyers ClientEarth Karla Hill said a financial penalty would be justified. “The decision is a welcome one, and it comes after years of non-compliance by the UK government. The fact that Aberthaw was emitting twice the EU-approved amount of NOx gases is disgraceful – and it causes real concern that many other coal plants could be getting away with exceeding emissions limits.”
“Laws are in place to protect people and the environment from the hugely harmful impacts of burning coal. They must be enforced by governments. The ultimate sanction in this case would be daily fines until the power plant complies.”
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