A GERMAN COURT HAS RULED that permission to build the country’s newest coal plant, Datteln IV, was granted illegally. The ruling comes as a result of a case brought by local residents, supported by environmental law charity ClientEarth, and another by the North Rhine Westphalia arm of Friends of the Earth (BUND NRW).

The ruling removes one of two legal grounds the hard coal plant needs in order to keep running. The residents already have a second case against the operating permit – the second legal ground – in the pipeline. If Datteln loses both legal bases to operate, its activities must cease.

As one of the last plants scheduled to close in Germany’s contested coal phase-out pathway, an earlier shutdown than 2038 would change the structure of Germany’s prescribed coal exit.

ClientEarth lawyer Francesca Mascha Klein said: “This ruling is yet another message for any political leader or company still backing coal. This plant has always been a disaster – based near a children’s hospital, and on the doorstep of hundreds of homes, its toxic emissions and climate burden should have prevented it ever being approved. Finland’s environment minister even expressed public regret that a Finnish company was powering ahead with a new coal plant.

“As the elections loom, and concrete climate impacts hit home in Germany, this is a timely and unmissable message to candidates like Armin Laschet, who are, incredibly, still promoting a ‘softly softly’ approach to moving away from fossil fuels.

“Germany could and should be a leader in pioneering a clean energy transition – instead, citizens are having to force government and companies’ hands in the courts.”

When the plant was first planned, residents and Bund NRW took legal action to fight it and won, over ten years ago. But the authorities sidestepped the ruling to keep the project going. In the ruling on 26 August 2021, the judge said “striking errors” had been made by the local authorities.

Klein said: “Amazingly, these cases only became necessary because of the elaborate steps authorities took to protect coal operators, at the expense of people’s health and the environment. This time, things will be different –  we will keep supporting the residents in their fight for a safe environment.”

Local resident Rainer Köster said: “We have been waiting for 11 years for this decision and we finally have exactly the news we wanted. I am overjoyed.”

* Source: ClientEarth