Information obtained by Plaid Cymru shows that there has been no action has been taken by the Labour Government on a plant that causes early deaths in Wales.
A Freedom of Information request reveals no communication between Welsh Ministers and Wales’ environmental regulator, Natural Resources Wales, following the European Court of Justice’s ruling in September last year that Aberthaw power station emits illegal levels of air pollution.
The European Court of Justice ruled in favour of the European Commission and against the UK Government last September, finding that, contrary to the UK Government’s claims, the coal-burning power station was in breach of EU rules on pollution.
The European Commission’s case was brought against the UK as the member state but the responsibility for air pollution in Wales ultimately rests with the Labour Government.
Natural Resources Wales is the principal environmental regulator and advisor to the Welsh Government. It is responsible for the regulation of power stations in Wales.
Mid and West AM Simon Thomas, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs said:
“It is shocking there has been no action by the Labour Government on a plant that causes early deaths in Wales. The fact that the Welsh Government can show no correspondence between Ministers and Natural Resources Wales following the European Court of Justice’s ruling, demonstrates a lack of leadership by the Labour Government.
“The Labour Government has neglected its duty to people in Wales and beyond who are affected by this issue.
“These include the 600 workers at Aberthaw who face uncertainty as to the future of the power station which was already due to be downgraded this year.
“It also includes people living near the power station and as far as Exeter, Bristol, Swindon and Bournemouth who suffer the consequences of air pollution.
“Rather than wait for the UK Government to make a decision regarding the future of Aberthaw power station, the Welsh Government must show leadership and fulfil its responsibilities to people in Wales.”
The Court ruled that Aberthaw was releasing more than double the quantity of nitrogen oxide that it should have been during the years 2008 and 2011.
In a joint report last year, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth said “On average, pollution from Aberthaw is responsible for curtailing the lives of 67 people in Wales every year. This is equivalent to 64% of the death toll on Welsh roads.
The EU Commission has not yet fined the UK Government for this particular breach of EU law, only ordered that it pays the costs. However, if pollution levels continue to breach EU law, it may choose to do so and these costs would be paid by the taxpayer.
As stated by the EU Commission in its response to the Court’s ruling: “The implementation of EU legislation, and in this case the Directive on Large Combustion Plants, is important to help reduce emissions that are harmful to citizens' health and the environment.”