Emissions three largest nitric oxide risers are controversial

Nitrogen emissions must be reduced, according to the Cabinet, but figures from the emissions registration show that dozens of companies’ emissions have actually increased in recent years. Pointer analyzed the growth in nitrogen oxide emissions in large companies using the latest figures. And guess what: there is a questionable situation with each of the three fastest climbers.

The fastest growing is the Rijnmond Energie power plant in Rotterdam. And the debatable thing here is: The company is not licensed according to the Nature Conservation Act, which is mandatory. This is shown by contacting the Danish Environmental Protection Agency Haaglanden, which is responsible for this. “We searched with three people, but we could not find anything,” a spokesman told Pointer.

This means that the impact of this company on nature has never been mapped. The power plant is not a small thing. It is in the top 100 of nitrogen oxides (NOx), a nitrogen compound that interferes with nature and is harmful to human health. Emissions have been rising since 2015.

The manager of the power plant, Ron van de Korput, acknowledges that Rijnmond Energie should have a nature permit. “We were recently pointed out by the company that monitors the legislation for us that it would be necessary. We have instructed the board to fix it for us, but we notice that everyone has a shortage of staff, which means that it takes longer than we would like. We did not know we were in default, the government has never pointed that out to us. “

The Danish Environmental Protection Agency Haaglanden does not answer the question of how this can be done. The spokeswoman sends an email: “A company is responsible for applying for the correct permits and permits if required by law. If a company in South Holland is subject to a” natural permit “, this application must be submitted to the Haaglanden Environment Agency.

‘Super bad’

“You can’t produce without permission. It is a strange situation, “says director Alex Ouwehand from the Nature and Environment Association of South Holland. “It’s super bad, especially in the nitrogen crisis situation we are in now.”

After chairman Johan Vollenbroek of the environmental organization Mobilization for the Environment learned that this company operates without a nature permit, he sent an enforcement request to the environmental service. In it, he asks to “close” the plant or ensure that the company applies for a permit “within the shortest possible time”.

Following the bankruptcy in 2015, Rijnmond Energie was sold by the trustees to the American investment company GSO Capital. The power plant is housed in Rijnmond Power Holding, which has its headquarters in an administrative office in Amsterdam Southeast.

Director Jan Meulenbelt is not aware of the permit situation, he says on the phone.

He estimates that the chance that the company will invest in nitrogen reduction is small. “I believe that very little is earned at all. In fact, when you convert gas into electricity, all you need to do right now is make money. So I do not think there is that much money left to research or apply all kinds of efficiency gains. ”

Alex Ouwehand from the environmental association understands that this company emits more nitrogen oxides: Gas-fired power plants have partly taken over the energy production from coal-fired power plants, which were to supply less, he says.

Tata Steel still has room for 2 million kilos of extra emissions

Number one on the list of the largest nitrogen oxide risers is a notoriously well-known one: Tata Steel, the most polluting company in the Netherlands measured on carbon dioxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions. A criminal investigation is now underway against the company for exceeding standards for substances that threaten human health. And the environmental organization Mobilization for the Environment, which successfully challenged the nitrogen policy to the Council of State, points out that the steel producer also endangers the health of nature.

Too much nitrogen is deposited in the protected dune areas (Natura 2000) north and south of IJmuiden, mainly from Tata. This while the protected nature according to European rules must not be degraded.

Mobilization for the environment has asked the province to withdraw the nature permit because the situation is deteriorating.

According to that permit, however, Tata emissions can still grow by a third. An additional two million kilos of nitric oxide can be added on top of the six million kilos that the company already emitted in 2019.

But according to Mobilization for the Environment, Tata does not need that space. The organization argues that less nitrogen is released per. amount of steel produced than was anticipated when the permit was granted. Therefore, Tata could manage with less ‘stock’ in the permit.

Mobilization has not yet received an answer to this.

Permission-free zone

At number three, we find the Magnum power plant in the northeastern part of Groningen, once built by Nuon. We already wrote about this power plant in the first part of this ditycon, which deals with ammonia, also a harmful nitrogen compound. Emissions of nitrogen oxides from this company are also increasing.

Ammonia emissions need to be reduced, but these two companies have room to emit much more

According to the current permit, this power plant must emit 804 tonnes of nitrogen oxides. But if they exceed that limit, it is not a big deal, because Eemshaven is now a permit-free zone for nitrogen. There are no more limits for nitrogen emissions, because there are no protected Natura 2000 sites within 25 kilometers of the industrial area, writes a spokesman for the province of Groningen:

“The province of Groningen is an exception, as the two large port-related industrial areas, Eemshaven and Oosterhorn, are outside 25 kilometers overloaded with nitrogen. This means that there is no permit requirement at all due to the Nature Conservation Act. This does not mean that emissions in these areas will increase. The industry is in the process of transitioning from the use of fossil fuels to electrification. This means that emissions of the NOX combustion gas will fall sharply in the coming period (…).

For the time being, emissions from the Magnum plant increased during the period described.

In 2019 and 2020, the power plant emitted more than twice as much ammonia and almost twice as many nitrogen oxides as in 2018. Why? It’s simple, says a spokesman for the current owner Vattenfall: There was more demand for electricity. Vattenfall therefore needs room to maneuver to emit more nitrogen in the permit in order to be able to respond to the energy need. Vattenfall is also selling the power plant again to RWE.

The permit-free zones are the result of a decision in 2021. The government then concluded that beyond 25 kilometers, it is no longer possible to determine from which source the nitrogen deposition in an area comes. That reasoning is controversial. It is again Mobilization for the Environment that has filed a lawsuit against permits granted on the basis of this 25-kilometer-long cut-off.

‘The time of the goat paths is over’

Minister Van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen) is still looking at the permit-free zones: “This is part of the permit theme that is now on my desk. I will inform Parliament about this around the summer. What I think is important is that “When we give permission, we also know for sure that we are in the right place. The time of goat trails is over,” she told Pointer.

Photo: Tata Steel Ijmuiden

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