Dutch court dismisses RWE plant building ban request

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 02, 2011 1:03 PM
Dutch court dismisses RWE plant building ban request

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A top court in the Netherlands on Friday rejected the latest attempt by environmentalists to block the construction of a coal-fired power plant of utility RWE, although the project's future is not yet assured.

Greenpeace had filed a request with the Council of State, the highest Dutch administrative court, asking it to prevent the German power company from carrying out further building work on the project at Eemshaven, in the north of the country.

But on Friday the court, noting that RWE had offered to suspend some of the construction until a decision on the project by the province of Groningen had been made, said there was no reason to issue a moratorium on building works for now.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups had argued that the court had to block construction given that last week the same court annulled the environmental permits for the plant, which is to be built near a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Groningen local authority last week said it would in fact allow Essent, RWE's Dutch subsidiary, to continue with the power plant's construction because the provincial environmental permit was obtainable.

However, the province will announce its decision regarding which areas of construction can continue on September 13. In addition, RWE has to apply and secure approval for a new environmental permit in order for the project to be completed.

"We are working on the new permit application now, we are confident that the plant will be operational by the start of 2014," an Essent spokesman said, adding that RWE has halted work on water cooling outlets and piling in the meantime.

"It may not be possible for RWE to get a permit, they will be taking a big financial risk if they carry on with construction," a Greenpeace spokesman said.

The 1,560 megawatt hard coal/biomass unit is being built near the UNESCO-listed Wadden Sea area and the Wadden islands, a coastal wetland area that crosses the German-Dutch border and which is home to numerous plant and animal species, including seals, porpoises and millions of birds.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis; editing by James Jukwey)