‘Bizarre!’ AM’s verdict on biomass decision | News

Thursday, 21 March 2019

– Planning

by Tim ChapmanGEM Reporter

An Assembly Member has slammed a decision by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to relax the conditions of an environmental permit governing Barry Biomass energy plant.

Andrew RT Davies, the South Wales Central AM, who also represents Rhoose on the Vale Council, claimed the decision was “bizarre”.

NRW has granted an application by the plant’s operators, allowing it to check the levels of hydrogen fluoride emissions from the plant every three months rather than continuously.

Welsh Government ministers are still considering whether an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should be carried out on the plant. Last month, the Welsh Government told The GEM a decision on an assessment would be made “as soon as possible”.

Mr Davies described the situation as the “latest farce in a sorry fiasco”.

He said: “The fact the conditions have been lifted at a time when ministers are still making up their minds on whether a full EIA is necessary shows how farcical the situation has become.

“Let’s be clear, the Welsh Government have had over a year to make a decision, yet for some reason it keeps getting pushed back. The way it has been handled is becoming a joke and their competence has to be called into question.

“Ministers need to get a grip and sort this out. They must stop stalling, make a decision, and get on with delivering the assurances local residents rightly demand.”

NRW describes the permit change as ‘minor’. It said it had agreed to the change because environmental legislation allows the company to use that method.

NRW says granting the application will not increase the risk to public health. It explained that is because emissions of other gases are still monitored continuously, and measures remain in place to make sure levels stay within legal limits. Any rise in hydrogen fluoride would cause those emissions to rise as well, something the company would have to respond to immediately.

Nadia De Longhi, operations manager for NRW, said: “We want to reassure people that the change does not affect the safeguards in the environmental permit.

“This type of request is not unusual, and it’s common practice for energy recovery sites in the UK to use this method. We will continue regulating the site’s activity as it prepares to begin full operations.”

A Welsh Government Spokesperson said: “NRW has a statutory role in the protection of the environment and human health from the processes and activities it regulates. The plant is regulated by NRW who will monitor and inspect activity at the site to ensure the company operates in accordance with the environmental permit.”

The GEM asked the plant operators why they had made the application, but has not received a response yet.

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