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Article

5 Dec 2022

Author:
Vladimir Spasić, Balkan Green Energy News

Serbia: State power utility ordered to reduce its sulfur dioxide emissions due to negative impacts on health and the environment

"Court orders EPS to cut SO2 emissions due to harm to human health, environment", 23 Nov 2022

A court in Belgrade has ruled in favor of the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI) and ordered state power utility Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions in coal-fired power plants, citing the threat they pose to human health and the environment.

Earlier studies showed that thermal power plants in the Western Balkans emit 2.5 times as much SO2 as those in the EU, increasing air pollution in the region.

The Renewables and Environment Regulatory Institute (RERI) filed a lawsuit against EPS in January 2021, following several requests for extraordinary inspection at its power plants because their SO2 emissions had drastically exceeded the maximum allowed amounts. The requests were rejected by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which claimed they were ungrounded...

The court determined that the initiation of civil proceedings was the only remaining legal instrument to stop further harm to human health and the environment.

Since January 2018, EPS has been under the obligation to reduce SO2 emissions from its facilities, in accordance with the National Emissions Reduction Plan (NERP), which Serbia committed to by ratifying the Energy Community Treaty...

According to RERI, the court ruling is largely based on an expert analysis by Professor Dragana Jovanović, a pulomonologist, which the organization had commissioned to support the lawsuit.

In her findings, Jovanović established beyond doubt that multiple SO2 emission excedances cause a wide range of outcomes for human health, such as difficulty breathing, the development of asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, up to the most serious ones, such as increased mortality from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, dementia, stroke, impairment of normal fetal development, and lung development disorders in children...

Mirko Popović, program director of RERI, said the aim of the lawsuit was to protect the health of citizens, which was threatened due to the multiyear violation of domestic and international regulations by EPS...

“Therefore, this verdict must not remain just another piece of paper..." he stressed...

According to Jovan Rajić, lawyer and chairman of the board of RERI, this judgment is the first such ruling ever passed in Serbia...

The court has confirmed that with these increased SO2 emissions EPS has endangered the health of citizens of Serbia and beyond.

Although EPS has the right to appeal to a second-instance court, Rajić hopes the company will immediately start activities aimed at lowering SO2 emissions...