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EU court adviser backs environmental groups on air quality case


Luxembourg – An EU court adviser on Thursday backed environmental and citizens groups in a case over how stringently EU law should apply to air-quality measurements in the Brussels region.

Residents of Brussels joined with an environmental organisation to sue local authorities over their air quality plan, including the location of monitoring stations.

A Brussels court then referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The case turned on two questions: first, whether national courts may review the stationing of air-quality sampling points, and second, whether the results from different stations should be averaged to assess compliance with air quality standards.

These stations measure substances such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, benzene and carbon monoxide.

According to EU law, in a non-binding opinion, Advocate General Juliane Kokott of the ECJ concluded that sampling stations should be located in the areas with the highest concentrations.

“Moreover, while local authorities decide on the sites of sampling stations, national courts have the authority to review those decisions, including in cases brought by residents,’’ she wrote.

Kokott also concluded that compliance should be determined by the results from each station, not by an average of the area.

Reportsays this means that if one particular station shows excessively high levels of a toxic substance, it amounts to a violation of EU air quality standards even if the average of the surrounding area is in compliance.

Kokott is one of 11 advocate generals who provide legal opinions to the ECJ.

The judges generally follow their advice, and the verdict will follow at a later date.

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