17 February 2023

New Council of State hearing in Porthos nitrogen case

The Dutch Council of State has scheduled a new hearing in the nitrogen case on CO2 transport and storage project Porthos. The hearing will take place on Thursday 2 March 2023 at 2 pm.

In November 2021, nature organisation Mobilisation for the Environment (MOB) filed an appeal against Porthos’ use of the construction exemption. With the construction exemption in place at the time, there was no need or possibility to apply for a permit for nitrogen emissions released during construction. On 2 November 2022, the Council of State ruled in an interim ruling that the construction exemption lapses because it violates European nature conservation law.

The Council of State offered Porthos and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (EZK) a remedy in the form of an ecological assessment, which examined the effects of nitrogen deposition on natural areas. MOB was allowed to respond to this ecological assessment of Porthos in December 2022. Porthos and EZK were then allowed to respond to MOB’s input. After receiving the responses, the Council of State scheduled another hearing on March 2.

What is the current difference of opinion between MOB and Porthos/EZK?
With the interim ruling, the State Council has settled the debate on the legitimacy of the construction exemption. The new hearing is about the ecological assessment which was not dealt with in substance in an earlier hearing.

MOB argues in its response that the ecological assessment cannot rule out the possibility of Porthos having negative impacts on nearby natural areas. MOB argues that Porthos’ nitrogen emissions contribute to further exceeding nitrogen standards in nature reserves.

In their response, Porthos and EZK substantiate the conclusion of the ecological assessment: the minor and one-off nitrogen deposition during the construction of Porthos has no negative impact on surrounding natural areas.

What does this nitrogen case mean for Porthos?
The nitrogen case is delaying Porthos. To avoid further delays, Porthos is continuing to work on preparations for the project. Porthos is important for achieving the Netherlands’ climate goals, which is why the council of ministers published a guarantee scheme for Porthos in December 2022.

The guarantee scheme allows Porthos to order materials ahead of obtaining irrevocable permits. Once the necessary permits are irrevocable, Porthos will take a Final Investment Decision (FID) and start construction of the infrastructure. Porthos is expected to be operational from 2026.

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