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Legal challenge issued over decision to allow power station in Teesside

Legal challenge issued over decision to allow power station in Teesside


A judicial review challenges the consent for a Teesside gas power station, claiming it undermines UK net zero goals

An application for judicial review has been filed to challenge the development of a gas power station with carbon capture technology in Teesside. Critics argue that the project, touted as “Net Zero” Teesside by its developers and the Secretary of State, will impede rather than aid the Government’s net zero commitment.

A forensic review of the developer’s greenhouse gas emissions calculations revealed significant omissions. Environmental scientist Dr. Andrew Boswell's analysis indicated that the developers failed to account for upstream emissions—those associated with the supply and transportation of gas, including fugitive methane emissions. Dr. Boswell concluded that when these emissions are considered, the project is incompatible with the UK’s net zero goals.

Despite the Secretary of State accepting revised calculations that showed the project would have a “significant adverse impact” on greenhouse gas emissions, the development consent order for the power station was still granted in February 2024. Dr. Boswell, represented by the law firm Leigh Day, has filed for a judicial review, arguing that the decision lacked a rational and properly reasoned basis.

The proposed power station, developed by Net Zero Teesside (NZT) Power, would generate electricity using a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) and include carbon capture technology. This technology aims to funnel carbon dioxide generated by burning gas into geological storage in the North Sea. However, Dr. Boswell's calculations suggest that the total greenhouse gas emissions from the project over 25 years would be around 20.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), far exceeding the government’s initial estimate of 5.9 million tCO2e. This discrepancy indicates a shortfall of 14.4 million tCO2e.

NZT claimed these emissions would have only a ‘minor adverse’ effect, but the Secretary of State agreed with Dr. Boswell’s assessment of a ‘significant adverse impact’.

Grounds of the Claim

The judicial review application outlines several key grounds:

  • Inadequate Reasoning: The decision to grant development consent does not provide legally adequate reasons to support the conclusion that the development will help achieve the Government’s net zero commitment by 2050, nor is it consistent with climate change and decarbonisation policies.
  • Flawed Reasoning: There is a demonstrable flaw in the decision-making process, as the Secretary of State assessed the development as having significant adverse effects but still concluded it would aid the net zero commitment.
  • Insufficient Information: The Secretary of State claimed to consider the project's contribution to the power sector’s carbon budget but lacked sufficient information to understand the scheme’s impact on these targets, failing to reasonably inquire for the necessary information within her department.
  • Failure to Formulate Independent View: The Secretary of State did not form an independent view on the need for the development and failed to provide legally adequate reasons for attaching substantial weight to this need.

Dr. Andrew Boswell emphasised the importance of accurately assessing all emissions in light of the climate emergency, stating, "Fitting the power plant with a carbon capture unit and calling it 'Net Zero' does not constitute a free pass for ignoring the significant impact of its overall emissions."

Rowan Smith, a solicitor at Leigh Day, added, "Our client’s analysis shows that the operational emissions of the power plant will hinder rather than help the delivery of the Government’s net zero commitment. We hope the Court will accept the judicial review and allow the case to progress."

The legal challenge highlights the ongoing debate over the balance between energy development and environmental responsibility, especially in the context of the UK’s ambitious net zero targets.