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Europe Fighting it Out in the Courts over Air Pollution

It has been a long time coming, but today the European Commission referred 7 member states - France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, and the United Kingdom - to the Court of Justice for violations of air pollution limits on NO2 and PM10.  In the past the commission has been gun shy when it came to enforcing air quality legislation, letting repeated violations slide over the past decade.  However they have recently ramped up their actions, obtaining a favourable ECJ judgement against Bulgaria last year, and against Poland earlier this year.  As I discussed recently, Poland have the worst air quality in Europe by many measures, but have recently initiated a major program to improve heating and cut air pollution.  It is not unreasonable to connect this action to pressure from the European Commission, and hopefully today's events will see similar efforts elsewhere in the EU.  It should however be noted that the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Spain appear to have dodged a bullet, after earlier threats to include them in this enforcement action.

At the same time as this plays out, Brussels, Madrid, and Paris are pushing back at the European Commission by challenging what they interpret as lax new vehicle emissions standards.  As the world moves to on-road emissions testing in the wake of the dieslgate defeat device scandal, I predict we are going to see more wrestling like this between stakeholders on both sides trying to get standards that suit their interests.  In the case of automakers, that means trying to get more pollutants into the air while they can.



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