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Biofuelwatch UK challenges Drax Power's carbon capture plan in legal showdown

Biofuelwatch UK challenges Drax Power's carbon capture plan in legal showdown


Biofuelwatch UK alleges unlawful subsidy pursuit and environmental negligence

Biofuelwatch UK has initiated legal action against Drax Power Limited's proposal to implement carbon capture technology at its power plant in Selby, Yorkshire, the largest carbon emitter in the UK. The environmental group opposes biomass burning and contends that allowing this installation is illegal, serving as a strategy for Drax to maintain eligibility for government subsidies crucial for the biomass industry's economic viability.

The plan involves introducing post-combustion carbon capture technology on up to two of the four biomass units at the Selby power plant, where Drax produces electricity by burning biomass predominantly composed of imported wood pellets. This practice has faced growing controversy due to the negative impacts across the wood pellet supply chain, from forest degradation to air quality concerns, raising significant environmental issues.

The UK Government has expressed its intention to move away from unabated biomass burning and has emphasized the necessity of carbon capture and storage for biomass electricity generation. Biofuelwatch argues that Drax's planning application is more about securing subsidies than addressing carbon emissions, as the technology for Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is considered novel and unproven.

In a legal letter to Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho, Biofuelwatch UK contends that the development consent for the Drax Carbon Capture and Storage Project was granted unlawfully. The group asserts that unabated biomass burning would be economically unviable beyond 2027, making emissions from its continued use additional and necessitating assessment.

Drax received substantial renewable energy subsidies in 2021 and 2022, prompting Biofuelwatch to challenge the decision, claiming it was based on flawed assessments. The legal letter calls for the quashing of the development consent for the Carbon Capture and Storage Project.

Biofuelwatch contends that the Environmental Statement prepared by Drax, accepted by the Examining Authority, failed to meet regulatory requirements, neglecting to assess significant greenhouse gas impacts and combined environmental impacts. The Secretary of State's decision to zero rate greenhouse gas emissions from biomass combustion at Drax is deemed irrational and a breach of regulations.

The group also argues that the carbon capture installation lacks consideration for the storage and transport of captured carbon, with separate applications for these components yet to be made. Biofuelwatch alleges multiple breaches of Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive evaluation of the project's environmental impact.

Robert Palgrave of Biofuelwatch UK asserts that Drax's plan perpetuates mass-burning of trees, contributing to climate change and causing harm to forests and biodiversity. Dr. Andrew Boswell, who provided evidence during the planning examination, deems the legal challenge critical and potentially with international ramifications. Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith, representing Biofuelwatch UK, highlights inconsistencies in the government's approach to carbon capture and storage benefits while neglecting environmental harms.

In essence, Biofuelwatch UK's legal challenge aims to expose the environmental and regulatory shortcomings in Drax Power's carbon capture plan, reflecting broader concerns about the impact of biomass burning on the environment and the urgency for responsible and sustainable energy practices.