Greenpeace condemns Czech energy giant’s coal-fired power play

Press release - 29 April, 2010
Prague, Czech Republic, 29 April 2010 – Greenpeace denounced the Czech Environment Ministry’s decision today to accept a seriously flawed environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the expansion of the Czech Republic’s largest coal-fired power plant as a shamefully manipulated political decision, which does not respect expert analysis. The energy giant, CEZ, forced through the substandard plans for the extension of Prunerov II.

Environment Minister Bizkova, a former employee of CEZ, the energy company that runs the Prunerov II plant, has disregarded concerns expressed by the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), a Pacific island nation highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The FSM has argued that CEZ, by refusing to use the best available technology, is allowing Prunerov II's carbon dioxide emissions to unnecessarily exacerbate climate change.

The FSM requested a transboundary environmental impact assessment via existing Czech law in order to ensure the climate change impacts of the proposed project would be taken into account. The FSM also argued that the new installation should not evade efficiency requirements under Czech and EU law which would prevent carbon dioxide emissions amounting to more than 12 million tonnes over the plant's lifetime [1].

Environment Minister, Rut Bizkova, worked for years defending CEZ’s coal-fired power plants as a spokesperson for Central Europe’s largest energy company. After the former Minister, Jan Dusik, was forced to resign when he could not immediately approve CEZ’s plan for Prunerov II, Bizkova was installed as minister to force the plan through in favour of the 70% state-owned utility.

“Rut Bizkova – a CEZ puppet with the job of Environment Minister - deliberately ignored national and European standards, dissent from local people, advice from environmental groups and an appeal from the FSM. She has cheated the environment, local people and the climate just to save CEZ’s money. In doing so, the minister has completely failed in her legal, democratic and moral responsibility,” said Jan Rovensky, Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner.

Under Czech EIA law, CEZ was obliged to provide variations in the proposal which would meet European efficiency requirements, but the Minister with today’s announcement allowed CEZ to break this law. CEZ also refused to provide assessment of the climate impacts of the project in the original EIA documentation, contrary to a legal requirement to do so.

The Federated States of Micronesia used an option found in Czech legislation to submit its concerns about the role of Prunerov II in exacerbating global climate change. FSM's government expressed the view that if the thermal efficiency of Prunerov II does not meet the minimum legal requirement of 42%, then a negative statement should be issued to disapprove CEZ’s plan.

Greenpeace is calling for a global phase-out of coal and, together with Environmental Law Service [2], is running a joint campaign to have Prunerov II decommissioned by 2015. Although the EIA is not legally binding it grants opportunities for further legal challenges to be used. .

FSM’s legal intervention marks a new development in international environmental law. This is the first time that a state significantly threatened by climate change has used the transboundary process to ensure its concerns about industrial projects with high greenhouse gas emissions are taken into consideration.

Jiri Nezhyba, a lawyer with Environmental Law Service stated, “The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context was signed because governments realised that environmental impacts do not respect national borders. Although the Czech Ministry was manipulated by CEZ into not following the advice of the FSM, this precedent offers hope to communities around the world which are vulnerable to climate change. It must never be allowed to be downgraded or side-stepped by those who have an unhealthy interest in polluting the planet.”

Greenpeace and the Environmental Law Service support moves by other nations and individuals at severe risk from climate impacts to challenge polluting projects through transboundary legislation.

Contacts:

Jan Rovensky, Energy and Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace Czech Republic
Tel: +420 723 623 238, e-mail:

Ben Jasper, Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace Czech Republic
Tel.: +420 608 725 721, e-mail:

Jan Srytr, lawyer, Czech Environmental Law Service
Tel: +420 775 154 073, e-mail:


Notes for editors:

[1] This is based on a calculation by Czech analysts based on an existing installation at Ledvice in the Czech Republic. Other calculations are available.

Background briefing: "Legal Request by the Federated States of Micronesia Concerning the Prunerov II Coal-fired Power Plant, Czech Republic" is available for download via the following link:

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/teia_fsm

[2] See the Environmental Law Service at http://www.eps.cz/php/index-en.php