Czech Supreme Administrative Court ruled yesterday in favour of air quality and protection of human health. In the case local citizens and an NGO from Ostrava agglomeration, the most polluted region in the Czech Republic, succeeded with their claim for better air quality. They asserted that the Air Quality Management Plan for the agglomeration is not effective enough and will not lead to a swift achievement of the binding air quality standards. Yesterday’s decision is likely to influence similar cases to come and already pending (Praha, Brno, Usti n. L. region).
The court quashed part of the Air Quality Management Plan, because the judges found the plan insufficient and not fully in compliance with the EU Ambient Air Quality D. The court also quashed a previous decision of the Municipal Court in Prague, which ruled in favour of Ministry of the Environment. The Ministry will now have to prepare a new Air Quality Management Plan for the agglomeration. Expert legal support for the lawsuit, which started in 2016, was provided by Frank Bold.
"The court ruled that the plan does not fulfill all requirements foreseen by the Ambient Air Quality D. What is missing is the timeframe for implementation of the proposed measures, which would assure that the plan meets its goals in a given time. The plan should also contain means to evaluate the measures and quantify their contribution to the air quality improvement," says Petra Marie Giňová, lawyer at Frank Bold. "All this was requested in strategic environmental assessment (SEA), but the request went unheard," she adds.
The Supreme Administrative Court ruled as the court of second instance, its decision is final and in force. It cannot be challenged by any judicial remedy.
"It is a critical ruling, since the court specifies what exactly the air quality management plans must contain in order to have a real and meaningful impact as well as to comply with the air quality EU legislation," says Petra Marie Giňová.
"The court ruled that the plan must contain efficient measures. In order to be efficient they have to aim at the industry, which is the major source of pollution in Ostrava region," says the claimant, Vladimír Burda.
Ostrava is the most polluted city in the Czech Republic. In its agglomeration the air quality limit values set by European law for NO2, PM10 particles and target limit value for benzo(a)pyren are breached on a long term basis. The level of pollution in Ostrava takes off two years of life expectancy. Air pollution has adverse effects on human health and causes premature deaths as well as diseases of the cardiovascular, pulmonary and central nervous system. According to the WHO, every year air pollution in the European Union costs more than 1,35 trillion EUR and causes 467 000 premature deaths.
The European Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe, as well as Czech Air Quality Act, require that the Air Quality Management Plans reassure the achievement of the legal air pollution limits “in the shortest time possible”. The quashed Air Quality Management Plan for the Ostrava agglomeration did not provide effective measures to fulfil this requirement. The Ministry of the Environment thus did not meet its obligations set by the directive and the law. Therefore the Supreme Administrative Court quashed the plan and the Ministry will now have to start the preparation of a new Air Quality Management Plan for the area.
Frank Bold has provided legal expertise for three similar lawsuits where local citizens and NGOs challenged Air Quality Management Plans in other highly polluted regions – Brno and Prague agglomerations and Ústecký region – for analogous reasons. These cases are currently pending before the courts. Today’s decision constitutes a positive precedent for these three cases, therefore we can expect another three favourable rulings in the close future.
Ms. Petra Giňová, lawyer at Responsible Energy section in Frank Bold
tel. +420 734 202 657
About Frank Bold:
Frank Bold is an international team of lawyers who participate in resolving current problems of the society in the fields of corporate accountability, system state corruption or degradation of the environment.
The Right to Clean Air project is funded within the context of the European Commission's LIFE Programme.