A court in Belgium has temporarily blocked the permit needed by Ineos to begin work on a major new chemical complex in Antwerp.
Lawyers representing ClientEarth and 13 other European environmental organisations successfully filed an emergency injunction to prevent the clearance of woodland for the site.
Ineos, the leading holder of shale gas licences in the UK, wants to build a €3billion ethane cracker and a propane dehydrogenation plant on land in the Port of Antwerp.
If approved, the facility, known as Project One, is expected to use fracked ethane imported from the US. The cracker would create ethylene, the base material for plastics, resins, adhesives and many other synthetic products. Propane dehydrogenation produces propylene, also used to make plastics.
On 29 October 2020, the Flemish minister granted the permit to Ineos to clear 56 hectares of woodland.
The decision to suspend the permit was made by the Council for Permit Disputes in Flanders on 13 November 2020.
The council’s judgement said the environmental impact assessment in the permit failed to assess sufficiently the full extent of the environmental impacts of the whole Ineos project.
ClientEarth lawyers had argued that “slicing up the permit” for different parts of the development breached national and EU environmental laws.
Maria Jolie Veder, a lawyer for ClientEarth, said:
“The judgment shows that developing a project without fully assessing its impact cannot be allowed.
“Issuing permits for separate phases of a project without assessing the environmental impacts of the project as a whole blatantly disregards national and EU environmental law.
“[the] judgment clearly shows that these manoeuvres will not hold before a court. We will continue to argue that this project should never have been allowed to go ahead so as to protect people and the planet from the irreversible damage it would cause.”
The permit will be suspended until a decision is made by the council.
A spokesperson for Ineos told World Today News:
“There were technical motives that justified the split, motives that had received the green light from all authorities.
“Moreover, the EIA for the preparatory works already contains a preview of the study of the full environmental impact. But that was apparently not enough. ”
In an interview in September with the Belgian newspaper, De Tijd, John McNally, the chief executive of Project One, said the company wanted to begin earth works this year.
This was the latest stage in a campaign by environmental groups across Europe which oppose Ineos’s plans in Antwerp.
Last month, a dozen UK groups were among almost 70 signatories of an open letter to the regional minister. They said the woodland clearance should not be allowed until the permit for the Ineos facility had been finally approved.
Also in October 2020, individual campaigners temporarily occupied the proposed site.
The Port of Antwerp is next to a Natura 2000 site, part of a network of EU nature protection areas. They include core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species and some rare natural habitats.
Updated 16/11/2020: Cost of ethane cracker corrected to €3 billion