Leading environmental NGOs have written to European Commissioner Karmenu Vella  urging him to protect a new environmental standards document that could reduce toxic pollution and save more than 20,000 lives every year. 
The Commission will seek Member States’ approval for stricter pollution limits for large combustion plants in a meeting next Friday 28 April, but reports suggest some Member States, including Germany and Poland, are seeking to weaken these limits at the final hurdle.
The letter, signed by the directors of the Green 10 group of leading environmental NGOs and backed by various other organisations, demands that the Commission put the final draft version of the revised document to a vote and not give in to any “apparent blackmailing” by influential Member States. The letter also warns that any weakening “would have serious repercussions for the integrity and continuation of the Sevilla Process and be contrary to the spirit and procedures agreed under the Industrial Emissions Directive.”
It was reported in Der Tagespiegel earlier this month  that the German government is still actively trying to relax the limit for nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution from existing lignite plants – the dirtiest coal plants in Europe. Their proposed amendment was rejected by experts last October.
Christian Schaible, Policy Manager on industrial production at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said:
“The German position is deeply worrying. They seem to be threatening the adoption of improved standards for almost 3,000 industrial facilities across Europe in order to allow a handful of their dirtiest lignite plants to avoid what they call ‘unjustified’ costs. It’s hard to know what would justify the costs of reducing pollution if the thousands of premature deaths, asthma attacks, other respiratory problems and environmental damage that coal pollution causes is not enough.”
In less than two weeks more than 100,000 people have supported a petition calling for stricter limits on coal pollution to ‘clean up Europe’s toxic air’.