Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and Ecology of the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina has suspended the environmental permit procedure for the planned Ugljevik 3 coal-fired power plant until the entity’s supreme court issues a ruling. It could bring a ten-year legal dispute and the fate of the 700 MW project to a final conclusion.
The plans for the second thermal power plant in Ugljevik, with two units of 350 MW each, to be located next to the existing 300 MW Ugljevik facility, have been ongoing for a decade. The legal dispute, initiated by environmental activists over the proposed investment, has lasted nearly as long.
In the legal proceedings, the processes regarding the environmental permit and environmental impact assessment study are treated as separate cases.
The relevant ministry has decided to suspend the procedure for issuing an environmental permit for the Ugljevik 3.
Halting the administrative process, conducted by the ministry upon the request of the investor, Comsar Energy Republika Srpska, will last until the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Republic Srpska. It is one of the two entities making up BiH, and the other one is called the Federation of BiH.
Separate proceedings for environmental permit and environmental impact assessment study
The environmental permit was scrapped three times so far. The first was declared invalid in 2013, the second was revoked in 2019 after an agreement with the Energy Community Secretariat, and the third was annulled by the Banja Luka District Court earlier this month following a lawsuit by the Center for the Environment (CZŽS).
Similarly, the environmental impact assessment study was invalidated in December, also after CZŽS filed a complaint. The judiciary panel cited potential transboundary environmental impacts.
However, the ministry filed an extraordinary legal remedy against the court’s ruling and reissued the approval for the study.
Subsequently, in February, CZŽS filed a lawsuit against the newly approved study and the dispute is ongoing.
No fossil power plants in NECP draft
Redžib Skomorac, a legal advisor at the Center for the Environment, said it is necessary to stop consecutive project approvals, arguing their legality and economic viability are questionable. He pointed out that the ministry’s decision to suspend the environmental permit procedure was necessary and appropriate in terms of protecting legal certainty.
CZŽS expects the ministry to act in the same manner in the case of the environmental impact study, that is, to await the supreme court’s ruling.
It should be mentioned that the draft Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan of Bosnia and Herzegovina (NECP) doesn’t mention the construction of any power plants using fossil fuels including the proposed coal-fired systems Tuzla 7 and Ugljevik 3.
President of the Republic of Srpska Milorad Dodik said last year, while he was serving as the Serb member of the Presidency of BiH, that the entity’s government would purchase the projects for Ugljevik 3 and hydropower plant Mrsovo from Russian company Comsar. In the meantime, government-controlled coal and power utility Elektroprivreda took over the Mrsovo project.