Minister resigns after pressure from PM over controversial power plant

Environment Minister Jan Dusík resigned on Thursday over plans to modernise the controversial Prunéřov coal-fired power plant in north-west Bohemia. Mr Dusík said he’d come under pressure from prime minister Jan Fischer to issue an environmental impact assessment for the plant, despite evidence suggesting that Prunéřov could be made cleaner and more efficient if the investor decided to spend more money.

Jan Dusík originally called a press conference on Thursday to announce the results of an international study into Prunéřov’s modernisation. In the end, it was to announce his own resignation. He told reporters that the caretaker prime minister Jan Fischer had refused to accept that the study’s findings warranted more time and a request for more information from the plant’s owners, the country’s state-owned energy monopoly ČEZ.

Jan Dusík, photo: CTKJan Dusík, photo: CTK “After evaluating the report and how to proceed further, I came to the conclusion that it was necessary to obtain more information on how the project could be realised with the best available technology. If the investor was not capable of doing this, then I wanted to hear why not, and also the investor’s proposals to compensate for the extra CO2 emissions. This is why I needed more time. However, when I informed the prime minister of this, he replied that a decision must be taken immediately. I cannot make such a decision with a clear conscience, so therefore I have decided to resign.”

President Václav Klaus has since accepted his resignation, meaning prime minister Fischer will now hold talks with the small Green Party on finding a replacement.

Mr Dusík had commissioned the global risk assessment firm DNV to examine ČEZ’s modernisation plans for Prunéřov, the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the country, and according to Greenpeace, the 18th largest in Europe. ČEZ had claimed modernisation could deliver a maximum unit efficiency of 40%, due to the poor quality of the local brown coal and technical constraints on rebuilding the plant. However DNV’s project manager for Prunéřov Bart Adams suggested to Radio Prague this was not the case.

“In the study there is an overview of similar plants that have been constructed or put into operation since 1995 in Germany, and there I think sufficient evidence is given that reaching best available technology is possible.”

Prunéřov power plant, photo: Petr Štefek, WikimediaPrunéřov power plant, photo: Petr Štefek, Wikimedia ČEZ’s plans to modernise Prunéřov made international headlines earlier this year when the Pacific island nation of Micronesia wrote to the Czech Environment Ministry saying that the effect of CO2 emissions from Prunéřov and plants like it would eventually see low-lying Pacific islands submerged under the waves due to rising sea levels. On a local level, Mr Dusík’s resignation will also raise fresh concerns over the influence of the energy giant ČEZ on Czech politics.