UK faces legal action over European law failings

27th March 2015

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Water ,
  • Air ,
  • Prevention & Control



The European commission is taking the UK to court over infringements of directives covering large power plants and wastewater.

The first infringement relates to the Aberthaw coal-fired power plant in Wales, which has exceeded the limits on emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) under the large combustion plant Directive (LCPD).

The commission says the permit for the power station sets a ceiling on NOx emissions that is much higher than is allowed under the LCPD - 1200 mg/Nm3 compared with 500 mg/Nm3. The commission first raised its concerns in a letter to the government in June 2013, followed by a reasoned opinion in October 2014.

Although the commission acknowledges that the UK has been working to resolve the issue, it has now decided to take legal action. In statement, the commission said it welcomed recent indications from the UK authorities that investments will be made to upgrade the plant, but noted that the plant continues to operate under a permit which allows it to emit high levels of the toxic gas NOx. "The commission is therefore referring this case to court," it said.

A spokesperson for Defra said: "We are tackling emissions from industrial sources by setting stringent limits for industrial installations, including coal power stations. Aberthaw power station is also investing to meet future emission limits set by the EU. It would be inappropriate to comment on this case further while infraction proceedings are underway."

The commission has also started legal proceedings against the UK for infringing the urban wastewater treatment Directive in 17 locations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Directive requires countries to ensure wastewater discharging from urban areas into undesignated waters is adequately treated.

Deadlines for meeting the Directive ranged between 1998 and 2005, depending on the size of the urban area the wastewater was coming from and the sensitivity of the water it was being discharged to.

Four areas including Banchory and Stranraer in Scotland have inadequate treatment for wastewater, while another ten including Tiverton and Chelmsford in England fail to meet the higher standards set by the Directive for sensitive waters such as estuaries, according to the commission. Gibraltar, which the commission says has no treatment plant at all, is also included.

The infringement also covers excessive spills from stormwater overflows in collecting systems serving Llanelli and Gowerton in Wales.

The commission said in a statement: "Innovative and environmentally positive sustainable urban drainage solutions are now being implemented to improve the situation. However, the current spill rates are still too high and compliance is not foreseen before 2020."

A Defra spokesperson said: "It is encouraging that 98% of wastewater plants are now a good standard and we are working hard to improve the rest.

"Working with water companies, we have secured around £13.5 billion to improve infrastructure and are confident that we will be able to make the necessary improvements to get all treatment plants up to the EU standard by 2016," she said.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Fifth of UK food firms unprepared for deforestation regulation

One in five UK food businesses are not prepared for EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) coming into force in December, a new survey has uncovered.

16th May 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

Dr Julie Riggs issues a call to arms to tackle a modern-day human tragedy

15th March 2024

Read more

The UK’s new biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements could create 15,000 hectares of woodlands, heath, grasslands, and wetlands and absorb 650,000 tonnes of carbon each year.

13th March 2024

Read more

Campaign group Wild Justice has accused the UK government of trying to relax pollution rules for housebuilders “through the backdoor”.

14th February 2024

Read more

Digital tracking, packaging data delays and new collections provide a waste focus for this edition’s environmental round-up by legislation expert Neil Howe

28th November 2023

Read more

Environmental crimes could result in prison sentences of up to 10 years and company fines of 5% of turnover under a proposed EU law agreed by the European parliament and council.

21st November 2023

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close