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NGOs lodge legal challenge against vast new petrochemical plant in Antwerp | Environment

The construction of Europe’s biggest petrochemical plant in 30 years is facing a new legal challenge from a group of NGOs who say the true impact of the development on people, nature and the climate has not been taken into account.

Client Earth filed papers in court on Wednesday night seeking to block Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s company Ineos from building Project One, a vast cracking plant in Antwerp that will produce chemicals for plastic manufacturing. submitted.

The move comes as part of a long legal battle by environmental groups to block the construction of Ratcliffe, which will produce ethylene for plastics on a scale never seen before in Europe. Recent years have seen massive expansion plans by the global petrochemical sector, despite concerns about plastic pollution and the need to curb rising carbon emissions.

Construction of Ratcliffe’s €3 billion factory was halted last summer following a landmark legal victory by NGOs. They successfully argued that Ineos failed to tell authorities the full extent of the project’s anticipated impacts on the surrounding environment. The Permit Disputes Council tribunal ruled that the material omissions meant that the Flemish authorities should not have granted the project a permit.

Flemish authorities last month issued permits for new environmental projects.

in European Industry Summit At the meeting this week, which was attended by business leaders and politicians including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Mr Ratcliffe criticized the politicians who last month reissued a permit allowing Ineos to operate a petrochemical plant. praised.

Ineos’ president told De Tijd newspaper that he is a “big fan” of Antwerp Mayor Bart de Weber and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, who helped get the project off the ground.

“If it were not for such a dedicated commitment from the Flemish and federal governments, we would have immediately stopped the project here. It was very important,” he said.

He was speaking before Client Earth filed its latest legal challenge in Flemish courts. In discussions with politicians, Mr. Ratcliffe provided insight into the impact of repeated legal battles to get petrochemical plants back on track. He said the company was considering halting production at its Antwerp factory and moving elsewhere.

“Europe has stifling laws and bureaucracy that make it very difficult to build anything,” he said. “Such nonsense happens in a permit in which 4 billion euros have already been invested and 10,000 people are employed around the world. Don’t you think such a thing is impossible?”

But Tatiana Lujan of Client Earth, who has been at the forefront of the legal battle to block the Ineos plant, said the fight to block Project 1 will continue. As she filed papers on Wednesday challenging Ineos over the scale of its Scope 3 emissions, she said: “Plastics are an environmental problem, a people problem and a climate problem. Allowing what would be Europe’s largest plastics factory to open would not only be a local disaster, it would be a global insult.

“Project 1 will help stimulate more plastic production at a time when we have already reached saturation point. Because plastic is made from fossil fuels, its production has a devastating impact on the climate at every step. The far-reaching implications of this project are very real and cannot be ignored.”

He said the changes made by Flemish authorities to the project’s new permit were merely window dressing, and the case would need to be taken to court again.

“The fact remains that Project 1 is both highly destructive and completely unnecessary,” she says. “Once again, the authorities have failed to acknowledge the blatant and harmful effects of this project, leaving us with no choice but to return to court.”

Mr Ratcliffe was one of 70 top industry executives who met with Mr von der Leyen and Mr Decroo near Ineos’ ethane cracker site on Tuesday.

The summit was organized by the European and Belgian chemical federations Cefic and Essentia and was held at the headquarters of chemical giant BASF in Antwerp. The meeting was condemned by environmental groups.

Tatiana Santos, head of chemicals policy at the European Environment Agency (EEB), said: “This incident reinforces the clear concerns that polluters are putting the interests of polluters ahead of public health and the environment.” .

“Furthermore, in a display of appalling disregard for public welfare, this incident took place in one of the most polluted regions of the world, within the premises of BASF, an international chemical giant and major contributor to global pollution. ing.”

He said last October that victims of pollution in Belgium, Italy and France had requested a meeting with von der Leyen to address the devastating health effects of harmful PFAS chemicals, but were ignored. said. Private one-on-one discussions between industry and politicians will help citizens and NGOs alike make their voices heard as EU leaders set their agenda ahead of elections. A stark contrast to the hurdles faced, she said.

A spokesperson for Ineos said: “Project 1 will produce essential raw materials for medical products, insulation, transport and packaging. It will have the lowest carbon footprint compared to any similar plant in Europe. It will also have cutting-edge technology. By applying the do.”

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