'Neglect' over Aberthaw power station pollution concerns

Aberthaw power station
Image caption Aberthaw employs 600 workers on the Vale of Glamorgan coast

The way concerns about air pollution from Wales' largest coal-fired power station is handled by the Welsh Government has been criticised.

Last September, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found the Aberthaw plant had been emitting illegal levels.

Plaid Cymru has suggested ministers and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have not had written communication since then.

The Welsh Government said it was committed to improving air quality across Wales.

The revelation about no written or electronic communication between the two sides came in a Freedom of Information request by Plaid.

Simon Thomas, the party's environment spokesman, said: "The fact that the Welsh Government can show no correspondence between ministers and NRW following the ECJ's ruling demonstrates a lack of leadership

"The Welsh Government has neglected its duty to the 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 away as Exeter, Bristol, Swindon and Bournemouth who suffer the consequences of air pollution."

Aberthaw in Vale of Glamorgan is one of only two coal-fired power stations still in operation in Wales.

It was found to have been pumping out more than double the legal amount of toxic nitrogen oxides from 2008 to 2011 in the case brought against the UK by the European Commission.

The UK Government was ordered to pay legal costs and could face further fines if pollution levels continue to breach EU law.

The plant's operators RWE said at the time it was "disappointed" by the outcome, stating environmental protection was of the utmost priority.

Friends of the Earth Cymru and Greenpeace have called for "a full and permanent closure" due to claims emissions are impacting upon health.

A report from the two environmental bodies last year claimed 400 premature deaths a year in the UK were likely to be due to nitrogen oxide exposure from Aberthaw.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "RWE should press ahead with the delivery of the necessary emissions reductions at Aberthaw without delay."

Isobel Moore, head of business, regulation and economics at NRW, told the assembly's environment committee on Wednesday: "We have written to RWE to indicate that we will vary the permit based on the European court judgement and that we seek information from them to allow us to do that."

RWE is set to downgrade the plant from April 2017 so it only generates electricity at times of peak demand.

A spokesman said: "Following the EU ruling against the UK government regarding the application of part of an environmental directive, we are working with Natural Resources Wales on a variation to our current environmental permit.

"The investment planned for the station is unaffected by last year's ruling and RWE will continue with the proposed operational changes and further investment in lowering emissions."

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