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Coal power station 'one of worst polluters in Europe'

A SCOTTISH coal-fired power station is one of Europe's top polluters, according to environmentalists who claim the plant's emissions affect the health of people for hundreds of miles around.

STANDARDS: The document claims Longannet is one of Europe's top polluters while ScottishPower says it complies with regulations. Picture: Colin Mearns
STANDARDS: The document claims Longannet is one of Europe's top polluters while ScottishPower says it complies with regulations. Picture: Colin Mearns

Longannet in Kincardine, run by ScottishPower, was highlighted by international group the Health and Environment Alliance (Heal) in a document produced for UK politicians and policymakers.

Longannet was said to be one of two coal-fired power stations in the UK "likely to be significantly affecting the health of both the local communities and the total population by belching out thousands of tons of pollutants which travel in the atmosphere over distances of hundreds of miles".

The ScottishPower station was claimed to cause healthcare and wider welfare costs such as days lost at work of between £310 million and £858m a year, an estimate one industry source questioned as being wildly varied.

WWF Scotland said the report showed key health reasons for power providers to move away from coal.

ScottishPower said the UK has strict standards that are safely reached and surpassed.

The findings in the UK briefing paper is published this month by the Brussels based Heal, which said it has about 70 member organisations representing health professionals, scientists and public health research institutes.

The Heal report has been criticised by the representative body of the European coal industry, Euracoal, which said Heal's "membership gives a veil of transparency to what is quite simply an environmental lobby group with no accountability".

The report claimed fumes from coal-fired power stations cause 1600 premature deaths in the UK each year and that the emissions are linked to 18,000 premature deaths in the EU each year.

Heal said: "A growing body of evidence shows how early-life exposure to air pollutants is contributing to higher risks of developing chronic diseases later in life, including obesity, diabetes, and hormone related cancers."

Euracoal said the report ignores the benefits of coal including "jobs, added economic value, security of energy supply and affordable energy which for those who live in fuel poverty can mean the difference between life and death".

In its briefing paper, Euracoal said the Heal report "conflates air quality policy with energy and climate policy objectives".

It said: "While the two are related, they are separate. With today's commercially available technologies, coal is used for electricity generation with very low emissions of conventional pollutants. This means cleaner air for everyone."

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said the findings were significant. He said: "This study shows there are important health reasons why we need to be ending our reliance on coal especially. It's clear that action is needed today to cut emissions from all existing coal power stations, including Longannet."

The Heal briefing paper cited EU body the European Environment Agency research that ranked polluters in a comparison of external costs to health.

A ScottishPower spokesman said: "The UK has some of the most stringent emissions standards in Europe and Longannet more than complies with all of them."

Contextual targeting label: 
Environment

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