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UK faces European court over coal plant emissions

Figures released from HEAL on the health costs of coal power in the UK have been used with regards to a plant in the UK which faces the European count over its emissions.

The figures from HEAL released in December 2013 focused on the health impact associated with exposure to air pollution from coal power plants for UK citizens. Fumes from coal-fired power stations in the UK alone are responsible for 1,600 premature deaths per year. 68,000 additional days of medication, over 360,000 working days lost and health costs from related damage to respiratory systems estimated as high as €3.7bn (£2.7bn) a year.

The EU Commission has recently said that it would take the UK to the European court for breaching emissions limits of the toxic pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NOx) at its coal-fired Aberthaw power plant in Wales. The UK plant currently operates under a permit allowing emissions of NOx more than twice the limit set out in the EU’s large combustion plant directive.

The EU Commission highlighted that although the UK is planning new investments to upgrade the Aberthaw power station, and has been working on the issue, a deadline to implement the emissions-cutting directive passed seven years ago. Therefore the European Court has decided to act.

The two separate infringement cases against the UK are expected to come to court before March 2017. There will be a UK Supreme Court hearing into a separate British infringement of EU air pollution laws on 16 April.

More information

- HEAL Briefing (2013): What does coal cost health in the United Kingdom?

-  HEAL’s Unpaid Health Bill - How is coal pollution making us sick?

In 2013 HEAL launched a report aiming to provide an overview of the scientific evidence of how air pollution impacts health and how emissions from coal power plants are implicated in this.

It presents the first-ever economic assessment of the health costs associated with air pollution from coal power plants in Europe as well as testimonies from leading health advocates, medical experts and policy makers on why they are concerned about coal.

The report develops recommendations for policy-makers and the health community on how to address the unpaid health bill and ensure that it is taken into account in future energy decisions. (Report available in English, German and Polish - Coming soon in Turkish)

Originally posted on 9 April 2015

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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