Opposition to Port Talbot power plant emission changes

Image caption The Aberavon AM and MP oppose the application to ease the emissions limit at the biomass plant

Two politicians have called for the rejection of a £400m biomass plant's application to ease emissions limits.

Aberavon AM Brian Gibbons and MP Hywel Francis say they are concerned at the impact of the Port Talbot wood chip burning plant.

Prenergy says its application is due to the engineering design, and it will meet highest environmental standards.

Environment Agency Wales says it will make an "in-depth examination" and should make a decision by December.

The £400m plant will create 150 jobs in Port Talbot when completed and will have the capacity to power half the homes in Wales.

The station will burn about 3m tonnes of chippings shipped in each year and produce about 70% of the Welsh Assembly Government's 2010 renewable energy target.

Dr Gibbons said: "From the very beginning there has been significant concern about this massive biomass plant which is proposed for the heart of Port Talbot.

'Additive effect'

"Permission for it to go ahead was on the basis that it would apparently have minimal environmental or health consequences.

"In making this application Prenergy say that it does not expect to see any deterioration in its operating standards. However this does not sit easily with this application for a variation in the operating permit".

"While Port Talbot air quality has significantly improved over the last few years, any easing in standards will not acceptable and should not be permitted."

Dr Francis added: "There is a very strong feeling in the town that this plant must abide by the strict operating limits already imposed upon it for health and environmental reasons.

"The major road investment through the town recently announced opens up new opportunities for the town and this must not be blighted by the biomass plant development."


Prenergy has said the use of wood chip as a fuel for electricity generation is recognised as being carbon-free.

It said the carbon dioxide released was equal to that absorbed during the growth of the tree, and replanting the trees ensured sustainability.

But there has been opposition to the plant since it was first proposed with public meetings, 7,000 signatures on a petition, and protesters marched through Port Talbot town centre.

Prenergy said its application to the Environment Agency Wales was due to the "ongoing engineering design" of the plant.

A spokesman said: "Within the application, Prenergy has demonstrated that the changes sought fall within the insignificance criteria adopted by Environment Agency Wales, and that the revised emission limits fall well below the UK and European emission limits.

"The renewable energy plant will operate to the highest environmental standard."

Steve Brown, Area Manager for Environment Agency Wales said: "We will now carry out an in-depth examination of the requested changes to the permit.

"We will consider any comments on the changes applied for by the company and ask people to get in touch through the right channels so we can take them into consideration when we are making our decision."

Mr Brown said that if the agency found it would result in air quality standards set by the UK government and the EU being exceeded "or have a significant impact on the health of people in Port Talbot, the changes will be refused".

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