After a two-year court battle, the public has access to secret correspondence, thanks to which TPP Bobov Dol burns thousands of tons of waste
Greenpeace - Bulgaria and "For the Earth" gained access to the letters, by which the Ministry of Environment allows TPP "Bobov Dol" to burn up to 500 tons of waste for "experimental purposes". We publish the correspondence due to its great public importance as a topic affecting human health and the environment.
"This is a small victory against the disturbing practice of the institutions to" keep "information, which as a rule should be accessible to the citizens. The case is indicative that it often takes several court decisions and years of litigation for citizens to be able to exercise the rights granted to them by law. "- commented lawyer Regina Stoilova.
It took two court rulings and a two-year court battle to reveal the ministry's letter authorizing the incineration of waste at a coal-fired power plant linked to Hristo Kovachki.
В the court decision explicitly writes that this is information about the environment, therefore society must have access to it. However, each time the ministry considered the request of Greenpeace Bulgaria and For the Earth for information, it forwarded it to the Bobov Dol TPP, where they refused to disclose the correspondence, arguing that it included a "trade secret". Accordingly, instead of protecting the public interest, the ministry ruled that it had no right to disclose such information, despite court orders.
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The letter, signed by Deputy Environment Minister Krassimir Zhivkov, who was arrested earlier this year, contradicts not only Bulgarian but also European law, as it exceeds 10 times the maximum threshold of 50 tonnes per year for burning of alternative fuel for experimental purposes. Another interesting observation from the revealed correspondence between the TPP and the ministry is that the institution refused to conduct experimental combustion at the plant for almost two years - the first request was from the end of 2016, and the first refusal of the MoEW was from 2017. However, TPP "Bobov Dol" continues to insist and with the appointment of Neno Dimov as Minister of Environment, the efforts of the plant are crowned with success - at the end of 2018 the plant will start burning waste.
Greenpeace - Bulgaria and "For the Earth" have been fighting for years to stop waste incineration, but this practice met with particularly strong public disapproval at the end of 2019. In early March 2020, with the assistance of the international human rights organization ClientEarth, conservationists imported complaint to the European Commission against illegal waste incineration practices in several obsolete coal-fired power plants in Bulgaria.
"Waste incineration exposes those working in these plants, those living in the regions and the nature to a huge health risk. Emissions from waste incineration can contain heavy metals, dioxins and furans, which are present in waste gases, water or ash, "says Meglena Antonova from Greenpeace - Bulgaria.
In the last few years, waste incineration has been an ingenious way to reduce carbon costs amid deteriorating economic performance of coal-fired power plants. It seems that the owners of TPPs such as Bobov Dol intend to exploit obsolete facilities to the last, before surrendering to the advent of new technologies and bequeathing to the public contaminated soils, waters and vast areas for rehabilitation.
The fact that the correspondence was stubbornly kept secret by the plant and the Ministry of Environment proves one thing - both sides are aware that they will face violent public disapproval. This was confirmed at the end of 2019, when many media took up the topic and the vicious practice of waste incineration became widely known. In the end, public pressure forced the Bobov Dol TPP to give up the burning. The positive trend is that once well informed, society can bring about the change we all need.
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