EU air pollution rules for Large Combustion Plants remain valid, European Court of Justice rules

The EU’s new air pollution limitswhich could save more than 20,000 lives every year by cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants alone, were annulled today by the judges of Luxemburg due to voting formalitiesHowever, the Court clarified that the current standards are still in force [1]. The ruling cannot be used by governments and industry as an excuse to dodge emission limits, the EEB warns [2]. 

Christian Schaible, the EEB policy manager who participated in the six years negotiations that led to the approval of the standards, said:“The Court decision does not change the substance: the EU air pollution rules are still valid, and we expect industries to comply with those by the deadline. The clock is ticking, it’s time for Poland and other lignite addict governments to stop playing with people’s health and curb toxic emissions.”

The case was initiated in October 2017 by the government of Poland, supported by Hungary and Bulgaria, who contested the validity of the emission limits for dangerous pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury (Hg) and hydrogen chloride (HCl) by claiming they had been agreed by member states following an inadequate voting procedure. 

The European Court of Justice has now annulled the standards on a procedural ground while confirming that they will remain valid until new standards are voted, as “the annulment of the contested decision with immediate effect would run counter to the objectives of ensuring a high level of environmental protection and the improvement of environmental quality’. 

As from today, the European Commission has 12 months to submit a new draft of the standards to member states for second vote, while the deadline for operators to comply with the air pollution rules included in the Large Combustion Plants Best Available Techniques Reference Document (LCP BREF) is still set to 17th August 2021 the latest [3]. 




[1] JUDGMENT OF THE GENERAL COURT, Case T699/17, 27 January 2021 

[2] The improved limits are contained in a long-delayed technical document called ‘the revised LCP BREF’. Delays in implementing the limits on coal plants have already allowed air pollution that caused more than €150bn in associated health costs and more than 55,000 premature deaths. 


EU air pollution rules for Large Combustion Plants remain valid, European Court of Justice rules
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