Even urban road projects must have environmental assessment

September 16, 2008

The European Court of Justice has confirmed a decision made earlier this year that urban road building schemes are covered by EU environmental impact assessment rules and cannot be exempted by splitting them into several smaller projects.

The ruling came from a case originally presented to a Spanish court by the environmental group Ecolgistas en Accion who objected to the lack of an EIA on the northern section of the M30 orbital motorway around Madrid.

The victory sets a precedent, but is of little use to the M30, as the road is almost complete.

• Spain says it wants to reduce road traffic speed limits by an average of 20% on high-capacity roads as part of a package to cut energy consumption that includes handing out low-energy light bulbs. The government wants to cut Spain’s consumption by around 6 million tonnes of oil equivalent by 2011.


The ECJ is to reconsider a case which could lead to EU member states being freer to set stricter emissions standards than allowed under EU law. The case stems from the Netherlands’ wish to introduce stricter particulate emissions limits than allowed under Euro-4 legislation. The rules say member states can only go further than EU standards if they have a ‘specific’ environmental problem. The Dutch said they had an air quality problem so wanted to introduce stricter particle limits, but the Commission rejected that as a reason. Last year, the ECJ backed the Commission’s stance, but now its advocate general says the court failed to consider certain aspects that could justify stricter standards.

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