Drax power station at Selby, North Yorkshire

Government to be sued over gas power plant approval

ClientEarth launches challenge after business secretary goes against planning inspectorate’s recommendation.
06 February 2020 , Sarah Campbell

Environmental law charity ClientEarth has launched a High Court challenge against the Government for its decision to approve plans for Europe’s biggest gas plant.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Development, gave consent to modify up to two of the coal-fired generating units at Drax Power Station, Selby, to become gas-powered generating plant. The proposed project comprises up to four new combined cycle gas turbines each powering a dedicated generator of up to 600MW in capacity.

This is despite the Government’s Planning Inspectorate recommending the plans be rejected on climate grounds. ClientEarth said the Government’s latest forecasts estimate that the UK will need just 6GW of new gas generation to 2035 and they have already approved 15GW worth of large-scale gas plants. Approving Drax’s project would take total planned gas capacity to 18GW – three times the Government’s estimates.

Sam Hunter Jones, a climate lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “In its planning application, Drax failed to explain how this emissions-intensive gas project squares with the UK’s carbon targets and its strategy for clean growth. And the Government’s own energy forecasts show that the UK does not need a major roll out of new large-scale gas generation capacity.”

He added: “The Secretary of State has ignored the recommendations of her own planning authority, and her decision is at odds with the government’s own climate change plans to decarbonise in a cost-effective manner.”

Gary McFarlane, CIEH Director for Northern Ireland and environment spokesperson, said: “The fact that the UK already appears to have more than sufficient gas capacity planned, and the fact that the advice from planners was to reject the proposal on environmental grounds, it is hard to understand the thinking behind the Secretary of State’s decision.

"While of course gas is a better alternative to coal, the fact remains it is still a fossil fuel and we have to make a profound transition away from their use if we are to meet the increasing challenges in the years ahead. This does not appear to be a decision that aligns with that challenge.”

 

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