On Wednesday, 2 November 2022, the Council of State (the highest administrative court in the Netherlands) issued an interlocutory ruling in the Porthos case. The action had been brought by Mobilisation for the Environment (MOB). The ruling draws a line under an essential aspect of the government's nitrogen policy and, in turn, affects the energy transition.
What is the Porthos project?
Porthos is developing a project in which CO2 emissions from industry in the Port of Rotterdam will be transported and stored in depleted gas fields beneath the North Sea. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS for short) is one way to help achieve our climate goals. The project reduces CO2 emissions by 2.5 Mton per year. Porthos is a joint venture between the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Gasunie, and EBN.
What does the ruling mean?
Previously, the courts had struck down the general construction exemption. In other words, it was found that nitrogen emissions from construction projects would have no long-term impact due to their temporary nature. But the Council of State is now making a different ruling: i.e. that the construction of the Porthos project does in fact cause harm to the surrounding natural environment. The ruling has a major impact on the ambitions of the Netherlands. It creates problems for housebuilding, and businesses, but also the energy transition as a whole.
All plans that took advantage of the general construction exemption, and had therefore not been licensed, will now need to be assessed for any significant impacts, an appropriate ruling may need to be made, and a permit under the Nature Conservation Act may be required. This may delay many plans in the Netherlands.
What exactly are the implications for Porthos?
The Porthos project has not yet been struck down. MOB has six weeks to respond to an investigative report by the Porthos project's venture partners that shows no significant impacts.
Read here the full text of the Council of State's announcement on the ruling.