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Government Rapped Over Emissions from Coal-Fired Power Station

ChimneyThe UK government has received a stern rap over the knuckles from the European Court of Justice after failing in its obligation to limit nitrogen oxide emissions from one of the country’s largest coal-fired power stations.

The European Commission had launched proceedings against the UK in respect of the operation of the Aberthaw power station in South Wales. The plant was said not to be entitled to a derogation from tight emission limits afforded to plants that use fuel with a volatile matter content (VMC) of less than 10 per cent.

Aberthaw is powered mainly by anthracitic coal, which has a VMC ranging from 6 to 15 per cent, and the Government argued that the derogation applied because a substantial proportion of the coal used fell below the 10 per cent limit. It was said that the derogation had been specifically designed for Aberthaw and that the Commission’s interpretation of the rules was too narrow.

It was submitted that the design of the boilers at Aberthaw meant that burning coal with a lower VMC at high temperatures was potentially hazardous and would give rise to higher emissions. The failure to improve the plant’s environmental performance was said to be due to economic constraints.

In finding that the UK had failed to fulfil its obligations, however, the Court noted that, when VMC levels were measured on the basis of an annual average, Aberthaw had never operated within the 10 per cent limit. The plant did not qualify for the derogation and the UK could not invoke reasons of a purely economic nature in order to dispute the failure of which it was accused.