On May 27, 2019, 45 Japanese citizens filed suit to block the construction of a new coal-fired power plant. The plaintiffs filed a legal challenge against the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, seeking cancelation of the notice of finalization of the environmental impact assessment for the construction of two new coal-fired generating units - totaling 1,300 MW - at the Yokosuka power plant. The plaintiffs allege that JERA, the plant operator, improperly exploited a streamlined assessment process for replacements or upgrades that the Japanese Government created after the Fukushima Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
On 27th January 2023, Tokyo District Court delivered a judgment that dealt with the request to cancel the Notice of Confirmation issued by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry who confirmed the Environmental Impact Assessment of JERA under Article 46 (17) (ii) of the Electricity Business Act.
Firstly, the judgment discussed if the Notice of Confirmation was considered disposition against which an administrative complaint could be made. On this point, the Court determined that the Notice of Confirmation was considered disposition within the meaning of Article 3 (2) of the Administrative Case Litigation Act since the recipient of the Notice was an essential requirement for starting the operation of a power plant and granted legal status to JERA.
Secondly, the judgment discussed if the Plaintiffs had standing and to what extent claims could be made. The Court stated that those persons who lived close to the coal-fired power plant and were likely to directly suffer significant damage from air pollution had legal interests to request the cancelation of the Notice of Confirmation. On the other hand, the Court stated that the damage from climate change could not be considered an individual interest to be protected by law. Thus, the Court recognized the standing of the Plaintiffs who lived within 20 km from the coal-fired power plant related to air pollution but did not recognize the standing and claims related to climate change and CO2 emissions.
Lastly, the judgment discussed if the Notice of Confirmation was legal. The Court stated that the consideration of the alternative fuels was not obligatory and the use of the simplified procedure of the assessment was rational when the nature of the power plant (in this case, replacement) fell under the scope the rationalized guidelines. Therefore, the use of the simplified procedure in accordance with the rationalized guidelines was not against the Power Plant Assessment Ordinance and there were no procedural defects in the assessment of the impact of air pollution. Moreover, the Court stated that there were no reasons to predict that the level of the environmental impact would increase by the construction. The Court concluded that the Notice of Confirmation was legal as its content was adequate and there was no deviation nor abuse of power by the Minister.
On the same day, the Citizens’ Committee released a statement saying that the judgment was unjust for the Court rejected the standing of the Plaintiffs in relation to climate change and determined that that the evaluation of PM 2.5 and consideration of the use of alternative fuels were not necessary.
|05/27/2019||Complaint||Download||Complaint in Japanese|
|10/02/2019||Statement of Reply||Download||Defendants' response in Japanese|
|05/10/2019||Complaint||Download||Summary of the complaint in English.|
|01/27/2023||Decision||Download||Decision of the Tokyo District Court in Japanese|