27 Oct IIDMA files a lawsuit against the Spanish Government´s Transitional National Plan, that allows coal plants to emit above EU´s limits
IIDMA has filed a lawsuit before the Administrative Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court, challenging the Agreement of the Council of Ministers concerning the approval of the Transitional National Plan (TNP) for large combustion plants (LCP). The TNP is a derogation under the EU Industrial Emissions Directive that allows governments to exempt certain combustion plants from stricter emissions limits applying from January 2016 until June 2020.
The lawsuit filed by IIDMA asks the Court to declare null the TNP. The case is based on the fact that the Spanish authorities failed to carry out the required strategic environmental assessment and as a result the Plan does not comply with the Law. The TNP applies to 29 existing combustion plants of which 9 LCPs are located within or next to Natura 2000 Sites at a distance less than 5 kilometers. The TNP includes 21 coal plants, of the 24 currently in operation in the Spanish electricity sector, which emit much larger amounts of Nitrogen Oxide, Sulphur Dioxide and dust into the atmosphere than would be allowed without a TNP. Furthermore, within the TNP elaboration a public participation procedure in was not open, as required under the Aarhus Convention, to which Spain is a party.
The TNP was approved by the Council of Ministers on November 25, 2016, just two weeks after the same Council submitted the Paris Agreement to the Spanish Parliament for its ratification. The power plants have been operating since January 2016, even despite the TNP was not approved until November of 2016, 10 months later. During the judicial procedure initiated by IIDMA in January 2017, there has been delays due to the Administration´s fail to submit the Administrative File required to prepare the lawsuit within the legal deadlines. .
Coal-fired power plants are the leading cause of pollutant emissions in the electricity sector, and one of the main causes of climate change. Moreover, these pollutants are also responsible of environmental damages such as acid rain. These emissions have a great impact on our environment and our health. In addition to their serious environmental effects, particulate matter from these plants can cause strokes, heart disease and chronic lung conditions. According to IIDMA´s report “A dark outlook”, coal emissions were responsible for more than 700 deaths in 2014 and health impact costs between €880 and €1,667 million every year.
“This Plan undermines the Rule of Law” says Ana Barreira, IIDMA´s Director, “The Government can´t adopt a plan contravening the Law, as it wasn´t subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment or other legal requirements under our legislation. We must bear in mind that the coal plants included in this plan are large CO2 emitters. It is imperative to start the decarbonization of our energy model and plan the coal phase out. The Government should take urgent measures to comply with the Paris Agreement and join countries such as France, UK, Portugal or Italy, that have already committed to phase out coal between 2025 and 2030″.
“The emissions are affecting people´s health, damaging the environment and worsening the effects of climate change. short-term decisions must be consistent with the international commitments of Spain or otherwise it will have serious consequences” says Carlota Ruiz-Bautista, IIDMA Environmental Lawyer.
In spite of that, the Government has recently announced its intention to adopt a new Royal Decree to protect coal plants. Meanwhile, the European Union leaves no room for doubt: its increasingly restrictive emission limits are aimed to the end of coal to fight climate change and improve citizen’s health . This goal is clear in the European Parliament Resolution of 14 October 2017: in its point 22 it states that the EP “calls on all parties in a position to do so to pursue their national decarbonisation targets and strategies by prioritising the phasing out of emissions from coal”.