Three environmental organizations have accused Bulgaria of systemically and persistently violating the European Union’s (EU) rules on SO2 emissions and permitting coal-fired power plants to emit far more than is allowed under EU law. Bulgaria is the top EU country for SO2 pollution, and the number 21 in the world overall, according to an analysis of NASA’s data by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air and Greenpeace India.
NGOs ClientEarth, Greenpeace Bulgaria, and Za Zemiata wrote to the European Commission’s directorate-general for the environment, providing additional information on Bulgaria’s continuing violation of the SO2 limit values and saying it might help the commission’s ongoing infringement case against the country before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). They urged the commission to ensure the country’s compliance with the EU directives on air quality and industrial emissions.
Coal-fired power plant Maritsa East 2 allowed to emit nearly twice as much SO2 as the EU limit value
State-owned coal power plant Maritsa East 2, one of the biggest in the Balkans, was given permission in 2019 to emit almost double the EU limit for SO2, while two more plants, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 and AES Maritsa East 1, were issued draft permits in 2020 for a similar relaxation of rules. Another plant, Brikel, has submitted a similar application, according to the letter from three NGOs.
Bulgaria’s government is “doubling down on its efforts to keep old polluting power plants alive”
Meglena Antonova of Greenpeace Bulgaria has said that instead of focusing on eliminating SO2 emissions, the Bulgarian government is doubling down on its efforts to keep old polluting power plants alive, which is directly threatening people’s health.
Exposure to SO2, and the fine particulate matter PM2.5 it forms in reaction with other air pollutants, has been linked to a number of adverse health effects, including respiratory problems, heart and lung disease, and even dementia.
In late 2020, the European Commission launched a procedure before the CJEU against Bulgaria for breaches in air pollution, citing failure to comply with the EU limit values for coarse particulate matter (PM10).