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26 March 2013

ECJ enforces Environment impact assessment directive

A recent ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) says that Austrian legislation on impact assessments breaks EU rules. In case 244/12 the ECJ ruled on 21 March that European Union members states must conduct an environmental impact assessment for any project likely to have significant effects on the environment. The Court was ruling on Austrian legislation, which requires green impact assessments on proposed modifications to airports only if the modification will increase traffic by at least 20,000 flights per year.
Salzburg Airport had taken the case to an Austrian court after the government had ruled retroactively that a modification made in 2002 should have required an impact assessment. The airport said that under Austrian law no assessment was needed. The ECJ ruled that this law contravenes EU rules.
According to a comment by European Voice, the ruling will have major ramifications for projects across the EU. Member states will no longer be able to place a quantitative size threshold to decide which projects need an assessment. Instead, the threshold must be based on the potential effect on the environment.
The Commission recently published a report summarizing the rulings of the ECJ on the application of Directive 2011/92/EU of 13 December 2011 which prescribes the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, as amended, known as the "EIA" (environmental impact assessment) Directive, requires that an environmental assessment to be carried out by the competent national authority for certain projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue, inter alia, of their nature, size or location, before development consent is given. For other useful documents, go to DG Environment page on EIA.

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