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EC takes the UK to Court over power plant emissions

The European Commission has referred the United Kingdom to Court due to the absence of a reduction in emissions by the Aberthaw coal-fired power station in Wales. Emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) at the power station were found to exceed the permissible limits.

Under EU legislation on emissions from large combustion plants, Member States had until 1 January 2008 to reduce emissions of a number of pollutants from power plants. The Aberthaw power plant does not meet the requirement of the Directive, as it currently operates under a permit which sets a NOx emission limit of 1200 mg/Nm3, as opposed to the legally applicable 500 mg/Nm3 limit set in the Directive. The Commission first raised its concerns in a letter of formal notice in June 2013, followed by a reasoned opinion in October 2014.

The Commission takes note that the UK has been working constructively on this issue, with the aim of finding a solution. In this context, the Commission welcomes more recent indications from the UK authorities that investments will be made to upgrade the plant, but at present 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.


The LCP Directive aims to reduce emissions of acidifying pollutants, particles, and ozone precursors from large combustion plants. Control of emissions from such plants plays an important role in the Union's efforts to combat acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone as part of the overall strategy to reduce air pollution. The Directive entered into force on 27 November 2001, replacing the old Directive on large combustion plants (Directive 88/609/EEC as amended by Directive 94/66/EC).

Nitrogen oxides are emitted by road vehicles, shipping, power generation, industry and households. They are a key component in increased levels of ground-level ozone, which is very harmful to human health. They cause acid rain, damaging plant and animal life in forests, lakes and rivers, and harming buildings and historical sites. They can also cause eutrophication, when an excess of nutrients such as nitrogen oxides and ammonia threatens biodiversity through the excessive growth of plants like algae.

For more information

On the March infringement package decisions, see MEMO/15/4666

On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12

For more information on infringement procedures: 

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