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UK Supreme Court finds government violating EU air quality law

The UK Supreme Court [official website] ruled [judgment, PDF] Wednesday that the government has been failing to meet EU air quality standards and reached out to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] for guidance. This is the first time that the court has addressed the problem with air pollution in the UK, which is the worst in the EU, resulting in as many as 29,000 early deaths a year [Reuters report]. The court specifically addressed the violation of the air quality law [text] concerning nitrogen dioxide, which required that states be within limits by 2010. The UK exceeds the limit in 40 out of 43 of its air quality zones. The court referred legal questions to the ECJ and will await a response before proceeding with recommendations. The UK government may be required to take such ameliorative steps as banning cars or the entry of heavy vehicles.

The European Commission (EC) [official website] decided to pursue legal action [JURIST report] against the UK for air pollution in 2010. The EC first launched actions for clean air law violations [JURIST report] in 2009.

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