The chemical concern Ineos wants to invest in new installations for the production of ethylene and propylene in the port of Antwerp. This is one of the largest chemical investments in the port of Antwerp in decades. But 56 hectares of forest will have to disappear for the realization of the two installations.
In November of last year, Ineos already received an environmental permit from the Antwerp deputation for preparatory works for ‘Project One’. In December, nature associations appealed against the plans, after which the file shifted to the Flemish level. The associations, led by the international ClientEarth, complained, among other things, that the company is cutting the permit into pieces, thus concealing the full impact of the project on the climate and the environment.
Following a (conditionally) favorable advice from the Regional Environmental Permit Commission (GOVC), the Flemish Minister for the Environment Zuhal Demir granted the environmental permit on 28 October. “Since the site is located in a port area, intended for industry, it can be deforested to make these additional economic activities possible,” the N-VA minister said.
After Demir’s decision, fourteen associations immediately started an urgent procedure with the Council for Permit Disputes. In its judgment of Friday, the council finds that the urgent procedure is justified because the deforestation works can start quickly.
The council also decides substantively to suspend the license. “On the basis of a brief initial investigation, the Board has established that the assessment of the environmental effects in the environmental impact report (Project-EIA) for the requested deforestation (phase 1) does not contain a sufficient global assessment of the environmental effects that the overall project may cause”, according to can be read in a press release from the board.
In an initial response, the Demir cabinet says that they await the decision on the merits. Ineos itself, in turn, does not hide its disappointment about the suspension of the environmental permit for deforestation. The company refutes the criticism of the so-called ‘saucissioneren’.
“There were technical motives that justified the split, motives that had received the green light from all authorities,” says spokesman Nathalie Meert. “Moreover, the EIA for the preparatory works already contains a preview of the study of the full environmental impact. But that was apparently not enough. ”
The preparatory works – including deforestation of the industrial estate – cannot start due to the ruling. “We are going to take the time to study the comments of the Council and await the final judgment,” says Meert. “That could take a few more months.”
In the meantime, the company continues to work on the following environmental permit applications, for the construction and operation of a PDH unit and an ethane cracker. In those applications, according to Ineos, the total picture of the impact will be presented.
Green: “Crazy for words”
Opposition party Groen is satisfied with the decision of the Council for Permit Disputes. “Being able to cut down trees without knowing whether a factory can be built on that spot was crazy. We are pleased that the Council for Permit Disputes is putting the finishing touches and reversing the decision of Minister Demir ”, responds Flemish MP Mieke Schauvliege.
Groen has long opposed the arrival of the Ineos installations in the port of Antwerp. “When a new factory is built, it should not revert to recipes from the past, but run on the green industry of the future”, says Schauvliege.
Group leader of the ecologists in the Antwerp city council Imade Annouri joins his party member. “The port of Antwerp can become a global player in the field of future-oriented industry that provides sustainable employment. The fact that this tree felling is being stopped is to the credit of the environmental movement and we greatly applaud that decision. Felling a forest to build a plastic factory whose environmental impact is not yet known is completely nonsensical. I am glad that the Council for Permit Disputes recognizes this. ”