The Slovenia Times

Stricter co-incineration emission standards signed into law

BusinessEnvironment & Nature
The cement factory of Salonit Anhovo. Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Slovenia's parliament has unanimously passed changes to the Environment Protection Act that bring stricter emission standards for co-incineration, a decision that caps months of bitter campaigning that pitted NGOs against the biggest company that will be affected by the changes.

The bill was tabled last autumn by several green groups which campaign for clean air and water around Salonit Anhovo, an Austrian-owned cement factory in the Soča Valley that co-incinerates waste as part of its industrial process.

The government will now have to set limit values for co-incineration plants such as Salonit as strict as set out in the best available technology (BAT) standards for incineration.

Operators of co-incineration plants will have four years to comply.

The stricter legislation is designed to protect people's health and received unanimous endorsement from the government and medical professionals, who highlighted the health impact of the pollution that comes from co-incineration in a narrow valley.

The conservative opposition was more apprehensive but one party, New Slovenia (NSi), endorsed it, while only half the MPs for the Democrats (SDS) backed it and the remainder either voted against or abstained in the 7 March vote.

Win for NGOs

The months leading up to the vote saw fierce campaigning by both green groups and groups backed by Salonit Anhovo.

The former organised rallies around the country, while the company lobbied hard in parliament and encouraged its workers to protest.

Mateja Satler from the NGO Eco Anhovo and Soča Valley said that the new legislation was a milestone for people living near co-incineration plants.

Uroš Macerl, a prominent green activist, said that making industrial emission standards stricter is a step towards eliminating injustices that should have never happened.

Salonit workers meanwhile warned the MPs would be liable for the destruction of the only cement plant in the country.

Company's future uncertain

Salonit is a major employer in Kanal ob Soči and claims the technical requirements are not feasible, even though the original wording of the bill was slightly watered down.

Its chairman Tomaž Vuk said in a recent interview that "no cement plant in the world has yet brought the requirements for cement plant emissions into line with the requirements of the latest BAT conclusions for incineration.

"No such technical solutions have been developed ... and no one, not even Salonit Anhovo, can buy them."

As the bill was passed, Salonit wrote that "to protect more than 800 direct and indirect jobs, business partners and own interests, they will use all means to provide for further development and business operations".

Back in January, the company announced it would ask the Constitutional Court to assess the law, but it is unclear at the moment whether it will indeed proceed with this plan.


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