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Todor Galev: There is evidence of a protective umbrella over the falsification of data regarding TPP greenhouse gas emissions

Bobov Dol TPP
Photo: Kiril Falin, BNR

“There is evidence that certain people in high public positions have been opening a protective umbrella over the falsification of data regarding greenhouse gas emissions, or have at least failed to probe shady deals,” Todor Galev from the Centre for the Study of Democracy said in an interview with Lora Tarkoleva from the BNR’s Horizont channel.

Todor Galev

As Bulgaria’s General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and the State Agency for National Security, under the supervision of the European Prosecutor's Office, launched a probe into TPPs and heating plants in this country, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office wrote: “The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Sofia has been carrying out dozens of searches and investigative measures, in a probe into possible fraud regarding the EU Emissions Trading System, with losses of millions of euro to the EU and national budgets. A private company responsible for verifying the greenhouse gas emissions of thermal power plants and heating plants in Bulgaria is under investigation for allegedly submitting falsified reports to the competent national authorities.” Since 2017, the EPPO says, “the company knowingly submitted false data and documentation for the annual reports on greenhouse gas emissions produced by thermal power plants and heating plants in Bulgaria, in order to under-declare their emissions output.”

Former Environment Minister Borislav Sandov commented, for the BNR’s Horizont channel, that there is patronage and people occupying mid- and high-level positions in state administration as well as people exercising control, who have been performing mixed functions together with these same enterprises.  

“In the 45th National Assembly (which only lasted from 15 April 2021 until 11 May 2021 – editorial note) there was a commission of enquiry to investigate certain reports,” Todor Galev explains. “There was one such report of a direct link between the laboratory monitoring Bobov Dol Thermal Power Plant and the proprietor of the TPP. The thermal power plants connected with Hristo Kovachki have been under-declaring emissions, and very significantly. That’s a lot of money. I very much hope the European Public Prosecutor’s Office will do the job the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office hasn’t.”

As the investigators asked to be provided additional documentation and to further question staff members, Lyubomir Spasov, CEO of Bobov Dol TPP, talking to the BNR, denied any concealment or false greenhouse gas emissions data, adding this would be proven during the probe by the General Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and the State Agency for National Security. The probe at Bobov Dol aims to establish whether the TPP has been burning a sufficient amount of biomass to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Alexander Dimitrov, CEO of the heating plant in Veliko Turnovo has also denied any wrongdoing.

It is possible to cover some of the tracks, Todor Galev says, but adds that it is impossible to conceal the bulk of this information.

“These are official documents which have been published. It is clear that in 2018, quite a few of the enterprises connected with Kovachki, though he is not their owner officially, started under-reporting greenhouse gas emissions data, and paying less,” Todor Galev explains. This was first reported by an international consortium of investigative journalists in 2021 and the data was handed over to a commission of enquiry, he adds. “This report was investigated but the investigation came to nothing because soon after the parliament was dissolved and snap elections followed,” Todor Galev says.  

You can’t have enterprises with unclear ownership that are key to the energy industry, he says further. “We are talking about more than 10 enterprises, including heating plants in several cities. Hundreds of thousands of people depend on them for heating.”

“The most recent National Assembly approved a decision obligating the government to renegotiate the Recovery and Resilience Plan as regards the section connected with the closure of coal-fired TPPs. All experts state however, that the first power plants that should be closed are the most polluting plants, and they are the plants connected with Kovachki,” Todor Galev says further. In his words all kinds of legal tricks are being used to capture the institutions.

According to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office 2022 annual report, the EPPO is conducting 143 active investigations in Bulgaria with estimated total damages amounting to EUR 492.6 million.

Interviews: Horizont channel, BNR

Compiled and translated from Bulgarian by Milena Daynova 

Photos: Kiril Falin, csd.bg

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