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Ineos Suffers Setback in €3.5-Billion Cracker Project in Belgium

Article-Ineos Suffers Setback in €3.5-Billion Cracker Project in Belgium

brichuas/iStock via Getty Images partial map of Belgium and Netherlands
A Belgian court has ruled in favor of NGO ClientEarth and partner organizations, which claimed that Ineos failed to disclose the project’s full potential environmental impact in its permit application.

Chemicals company Ineos has suspended its €3.5 billion project to build a cracker plant in the port of Antwerp, Belgium. The suspension is the result of a ruling by Belgium’s Court of the Council of Permit Disputes that Ineos did not reveal the project’s full potential environmental impact when it filed its most recent permit application, according to ClientEarth, one of several non-governmental and activist organizations seeking to scuttle the project.

The ruling is a culmination of a long legal battle by authorities of Zeeland and Nord Brabant, two neighboring provinces in the Netherlands, notes ClientEarth in a news release. In parallel, ClientEarth and 13 partners have been conducting a sustained legal effort to block the project, which culminated in an injunction in 2020. Ineos then drafted a new permit application, which ClientEarth and its partners deemed unsatisfactory. This week’s ruling came out in their favor.

The court ruled that nitrogen pollution created by the plant would breach the EU Habitats Directive.The neighboring Dutch provinces have argued that the nature reserves in the ports of Flanders and the Netherlands are unique ecosystems that deserve protection, including from nitrogen emissions.

When Ineos announced that it had raised €3.5 billion for the plant’s construction and operation in February 2023, the company stressed that it will be the most environmentally sustainable cracker in Europe. It claimed that the so-called Project ONE will have the lowest carbon footprint in Europe, three times lower than the average European steam cracker. For ClientEarth and partner organizations, however, better is not good enough. The core issue is eliminating plastics, as one of their lawyers plainly states.

“Today’s ruling is a watershed moment in the fight against unnecessary plastics,” said ClientEarth lawyer Tatiana Luján. “Plastic is an environmental issue, a people issue, and a climate issue. The damage starts from the moment the fossil fuels that make it are extracted, continues through the refining and shipping of those fuels, and then through the tough process that turns them into the building blocks of plastic. Finally, there is the global epidemic of plastic waste and its impact on all of our health. Local communities and ecosystems are the ones that bear the brunt of toxic plastic pollution through these processes, and the climate impacts that fossil fuels bring to bear. These are plastics’ hidden harms,” said Luján in a prepared statement.

The permit is now void and Ineos has 30 days to appeal the ruling.

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