The International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA) has initiated legal proceedings against the Government of Asturias for allowing ArcelorMittal to pollute beyond permitted levels

  • IIDMA announced that it filed a contentious-administrative appeal with the High Court of Justice of Asturias, which has been accepted for processing after two previous appeals were effectively dismissed due to administrative silence. 
  • IIDMA criticizes the Asturian Administration for its lenient approach towards the Gijón steel plant owned by ArcelorMittal, noting it as one of Spain’s most polluting industrial facilities.  

Steel industry emissions account for 22.5% of Spain’s greenhouse gas emissions, with a significant portion originating from this specific plant in Gijón, which relies on coal and ranks among the top ten most polluting steel factories in Europe according to Eurostat. 

In the context of the current climate and environmental emergency, it’s crucial to ensure that facilities like this operate in compliance with existing environmental laws. However, IIDMA has identified that this is not the case for the Gijón steel plant. 

In October 2022 and April 2023, resolutions were published in the Official Gazette of the Principality of Asturias to modify the integrated environmental authorization of the Gijón factory. These modifications included replacing a 33-meter-high secondary Sinter B chimney with a new 60-meter chimney, a change from the originally planned installation of a new bag filter as outlined in the “Short-term action plan for particle reduction in the West area of Gijón” approved in March 2021. This bag filter would have significantly improved suspended particulate levels in the area’s atmosphere. 

The administration justified this change in action by claiming that the air quality improvement from the new emission source (taller chimney) would be comparable to that achieved with the bag filter. However, as IIDMA environmental engineer Massimiliano Patierno points out, this claim is far from reality. “The new chimney does not reduce emissions from the Sinter B secondary source; instead, it disperses them over a broader area. This change also allows for a much more lenient particulate emission limit for the source in question, with the electrostatic precipitator being the only Best Available Technique (BAT) installed,” Patierno explained. Under the new regulations, the daily emission limit value is 30 mg/Nm3, compared to the 10 mg/Nm3 that would have been required with the bag filter installation. 

Between November 2022 and March 2023, IIDMA filed two appeals against the Ministry of Regional Administration, Environment, and Climate Change (now restructured as the Ministry of Ecological Transition, Industry, and Economic Development), which went unanswered, leading to the assumption that they were dismissed by negative administrative silence. Consequently, IIDMA proceeded with a lawsuit against the High Court of Justice of Asturias, which was accepted on February 23. 

The situation is exacerbated by the significant particle pollution near the steel factory, as evidenced by air quality measurements in the area. “ArcelorMittal’s actions, with the approval of the Asturian Government, contravene the urgent need to reduce industrial emissions and thus hinder the goal of achieving a high level of environmental protection, improving environmental quality, and human health,” concludes IIDMA environmental lawyer Carlota Ruiz-Bautista. 

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