A citizens group in Yokosuka, west of Tokyo, is suing the central government in a bid to turn the lights out on plans to build a coal-fired power plant there.

In the lawsuit filed May 27 with the Tokyo District Court, the residents claim that it was illegal for the government to approve a simplified environment-impact assessment procedure for the Kanagawa Prefecture plant on the grounds that the former plant would be "replaced or updated."

A similar citizens lawsuit was filed in Kobe last year seeking a halt to construction of a coal-fired power plant over global warming concerns.

"JERA," which Tepco Fuel & Power and Chubu Electric Power Co. jointly set up on an equal footing, plans to construct coal-fired thermal power plant units No. 1 and No. 2 in Yokosuka's Kurihama district. The units are expected to provide a total of 1.3 million kilowatts, and JERA aims to start operations in or after 2023.

A thermal power plant with eight units fueled mainly by oil operated previously on the site, but they were taken offline one after another since 2001, with none in operation since March 2017.

According to the lawsuit, the Environment Ministry stipulates that power plants will be assessed in a simplified manner when gas with greenhouse effects and other air pollutants to be emitted are decreased by updating the plants.

If the new power plant starts operating, it will emit about 7.26 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. As the existing plant is not in operation, it is not emitting any such gas.

However, according to the residents, the industry ministry confirmed the company's claim that the standard assessment for the new power plant is not necessary, as it will emit less carbon dioxide than the existing plant did when it was in operation.

In a policy initiative announced in March, the Environment Ministry said it would not, in principle, permit the construction of new large coal-fired power plants, in line with Japan's international pledge to curb global warming.