Southall biofuel power station plans rejected

PLANS for a biofuel power station in Southall were thrown out by the Government today.

Environmental campaigners welcomed the decision by Communities & Local Government Secretary of State Eric Pickles MP to turn down plans for Blue NG’s biofuel power station in Southall.

Permission for the power station was initially refused by Ealing Council last September, because of concerns about air pollution from the exhaust emissions and worries that road safety would be compromised by frequent fuel tanker deliveries though crowded streets.

Biofuelwatch, Friends of the Earth and other environmental campaign groups objected to the development because the production of liquid biofuels on a large scale is unsustainable; they accelerate rather than slow climate change; they harm biodiversity and cause more deforestation; and they can lead to human rights abuses in producing countries.

Blue NG’s subsequent appeal – just dismissed by Mr Pickles - claimed that the power station would only minimally worsen local air quality and that tanker deliveries could be handled safely.

But the appeal decision notes that the proposal would have had an adverse effect on air quality, that some absolute pollution levels would be 50% above statutory limits, and that many people would be affected in a deprived area where there is already a shorter life expectancy than elsewhere in the Borough of Ealing.

Nic Ferriday of Ealing Friends of the Earth said: “It makes absolutely no sense to burn biofuels for electricity and so increase air pollution when the UK is failing to meet EU targets for air quality in London.

"We calculated that the power station would emit about 126 tonnes of NOx and 46 tonnes of PM10 a year, and the planning inspector accepted our argument that this level of pollution was not acceptable in an urban area already blighted by high levels of air pollution.

"When we looked at the type of fuel to be used and how it is produced we came to the conclusion that it would lead to more carbon emissions than burning natural gas to generate electricity. Doing that and increasing air pollution is simply mad.”

Robert Palgrave of Biofuelwatch added: "Far from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the UK’s bioenergy policy threatens to accelerate global warming by destroying tropical and sub-tropical forests and peatlands, which are amongst the world’s most important carbon sinks.

"Even for energy crops grown in Europe, large amounts of nitrous oxide are released as high levels of fertilisers are used, and our biodiversity suffers. Europe’s car industry has used biofuels as a means of avoiding strict fuel efficiency standards which are essential for reducing carbon emissions.

"Now the UK electricity sector is moving in, attracted by the excessive levels of subsidy on offer for burning biofuels.

"If we want to have any hope of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change then we need drastic cuts in energy use - not oil crops grown in vast monocultures to produce so-called green electricity.

"Planning policies in the UK are currently stacked in favour of power station developments like Southall.

"A policy drafted 6 years ago before large-scale vegatable oil power stations were on the horizon is being used to exclude full discussion of their environmental impacts in planning applications.

"To compound the problem, the last Government mistakenly chose to give biofuel electricity the highest level of financial support under the Renewable Obligation – the same as offshore wind power - and this has triggered a rush to build huge sheds around the country containing large diesel engines. Nothing to do with climate change, just a way of meeting an EU target for ‘renewable’ energy.”

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