Commission closer to taking action over power station
- Energy ,
The European commission has issued a "reasoned opinion" setting out its case on UK government infringements of EU law when granting permission for the Pembroke power station in Wales.
The 2GW gas-fired plant, which is operated by RWE Generation UK and is one of the largest of its kind in Europe, officially opened in 2012. The commission has now concluded that the government failed to adhere to the requirements of the directives on environmental impact assessment and habitats before granting consent for its construction. The commission had first raised concerns in 2012 about the plant’s cooling system, alleging that discharges of warm water with a high biocide load was damaging the surrounding ecosystem, which is a marine special area of conservation and protected under EU law.
“Development consent should only [have been] given after all the potential environmental impacts have been assessed,” notes the opinion, adding that this does not appear to have been the case for the plant. “Development and construction consents as well as a water abstraction licence and a permit for the dredging of the cooling system intake and outflow were granted before the full environmental assessments were completed.” The commission says that the warm water from the cooling system entering the protected Milford Haven waterway is damaging small fish, their eggs and other smaller organisms.
The opinion also raises concerns about the application of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive on the final permits issued for the plant, in particular accepting the cooling system as best available technology in the location and allowing an environmental quality standard to be breached as a result.
In a statement, RWE Generation UK said the reasoned opinion was a matter for the UK government. But it noted that Decc had granted consent for the plant in February 2009 after a “thorough and robust determination process, which included consultation with the Environment Agency regarding operational aspects of the project”. It added that the agency had granted an environmental permit in November 2011 after considering the potential impacts of the plant. “Since then, no legal action has been brought against RWE or [the] station and we are continuing to operate the plant in accordance with the strict conditions set out in our permit.”
Issuing an opinion is the precursor for taking legal action. The government has two months to respond to the commission’s findings.
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