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Lawyers stall £2.5bn plastic refinery project

This article originally featured in The Skylark’s newsletter and was written as a condensed news in brief.

Environmental law firm ClientEarth has won a significant legal challenge against petrochemical giant, Ineos. Despite global efforts by charities, governments and the public to reduce the production, use and effects of mass produced plastic, Ineos plans to build a £2.5 billion plastics refinery in the Port of Antwerp, Belgium.

As part of their application, Ineos submitted three separate environmental impact assessments in the hope that the true effect of the project would be hidden and made to look smaller than it is. This is illegal under EU law and ClientEarth submitted an appeal demanding a comprehensive environmental impact assessment which showed the full impact of the project. Ineos has already started to do this, which has caused a significant delay to building.

Ineos has a habit of not abiding by international laws and regulations on environmental protection. In early 2019, the company threatened to close their Middlesbrough plant – costing thousands of jobs – unless the UK government allowed them to “defer compliance” with EU air and water pollution standards. This was despite Ineos already violating these rules 176 times between 2014 and 2017.

ClientEarth accepts this is a long term battle with more issues to be raised and challenged. Existing Ineos plastic facilities in the port of Antwerp already leak lentil sized plastic pellets into protected conservation sites, which can then be eaten by wildlife. The factories also cause long range air pollution as well as contradict global efforts to reduce plastic production and waste.

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