The European Commission’s July 2019 infringements package list  prominently features Romania. The country is called out for its industrial installations operating without an environment permit and “a systemic failure to monitor air pollution”.
Alexandru Mustata, National campaigner in Romania | 29 July 2019
This is the third consecutive year when the Commission asks Romania to act. Last year it noticed again a lack of action, when the Govora and Mintia power plants emissions exceeded several times the legal limits for sulphur dioxide and dust.
The Industrial Emission Directive regulates emissions of dust and greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide, but also sulphur dioxide, which causes acid rains. These substances not only contribute to the acceleration of climate change, but threaten human health, causing thousands of new illnesses in Europe every year. To fight these problems, ten European states – among them the United Kingdom, Italy or Slovakia – will close their coal industry before 2030, and another 8 EU member states are already coal free.
Since national authorities did not answer requests to find a solution to these problems, Bankwatch Romania has been notifying the European Commission since 2016 about the coal power plants which are functioning without an environment permit, and about the fact that their emissions are above the legal limit.
The Industrial Emission Directive is not correctly transposed in Romania because the fines operators receive for breaking the law are not proportional and dissuasive. They are worth not more than a few hours of sold electricity. Furthermore, as the Romanian Ministry for Environment confirmed in a recent press release, the power plants challenge the fines in court and then units are operated unbothered while the lawsuit takes place – in some cases spanning several years.
Meanwhile, the Turceni, Rovinari and Paroșeni power plants received environment permits, but the situation at Mintia and Govora remains unchanged: their emissions are still well above the legal limit and threaten the health of the nearby population in Deva and Râmnicu Vâlcea and well beyond. Everybody else in the country is affected, as these substances are carried by wind for hundreds of kilometres.
The European Commission has been aware of this situation for several years, but chose to send another letter to Romania, and not a reasoned opinion, which is the second procedural step in the infringement procedure, before notifying the Court of Justice of the European Union.
For more than three years, the country did not take any steps towards implementing the “polluter pays” principle. However, it already feels the effects of climate change: more floods, longer periods of drought, record temperatures. It would certainly be less expensive for Romania to modernise or close these units.
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