350MW plant given green light despite locals' woes

It has been in pipeline for over three years, but now a 350MW-a-year biomass-fired power plant can move on to the next stage of development after it was found that it would not affect local residents' health.

Proposed for Port Talbot in Wales, UK, biomass power plant developer Prenergy submitted an application in August 2010 to change some conditions to the Environmental Permit for the planned facility.

In particular Prenergy wanted to increase the emission limits for nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen chloride, and was looking to burn wood pellets in addition to woodchips.

The change to these conditions has now been accepted and, as Mary Youell, a spokesperson for Environment Agency Wales, explains: 'If we thought these changes would compromise air quality standards or the communities we protect, we would not be accepting them.'

However this has not gone down well with the local people. Worried the plant will have a detrimental effect to their health if it goes ahead, residents of Port Talbot have been protesting.

'We are strongly opposed to any increase in emissions, due to many years of poor air quality experienced in the town from steelworks,' highlights a spokesperson for Port Talbot residents against power stations (PT-RAPS). 'We also believe operating licenses should only be awarded to actual operators, not developers posing as operators, who merely intend to sell the projects on.'

He continues: 'Prenergy has maintained throughout the project that there was a plentiful supply of wood around the world to fuel this development. The fact that Prenergy has had to apply for a change to the permit to increase emissions, thereby allowing it to burn whatever wood it can lay its hands on, is proof enough that there are supply problems with the fuel.'

However as Youell concludes: 'We have discussed these changes with health professionals from the Local Health Board and other key organisations who have endorsed our decision.'

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