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EU court rules against France over water pollution

[JURIST] The EU's top court ruled Thursday that France had failed to fulfill its obligation to improve the quality of its groundwater, marking the third time since 2001 the European Court of Justice [official website] has ordered France to strengthen its regulations. The ruling [text] says that French laws have not done enough to keep farm fertilizer from breaching water sources in violation of EU rules, which limit when and how fertilizers can be used on crops in order to keep nitrates out of water sources bound for human consumption. Failing to strengthen regulations, France will face millions in fines. Advocates for cleaner water in France applauded the court's ruling. "This latest conviction is obviously not a surprise as successive government have procrastinated and ignored their responsibilities," said environmental group Eau et Rivieres de Bretagne [advocacy website, in French] in a statement [text, PDF, in French]. "It's urgent that we change gears if we want to avoid paying astronomical fines."

In February the European Commission [official website] commenced legal proceedings [JURIST report] against the UK for failing to maintain air level standards. In May 2010 the UK Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the government has been failing to meet EU air quality standards and reached out to the European Court of Justice for guidance. This was the first time that the court has addressed the problem with air pollution in the UK, which may contribute to as many as 29,000 early deaths a year [Reuters report]. The court specifically addressed the violation of the air quality directive concerning nitrogen dioxide, determining that the UK exceeds the limit in 40 out of 43 of its air quality zones. The European Commission decided to pursue legal action [JURIST report] against the UK for air pollution in 2010 after the Commission rejected the UK's request for an exemption of the Greater London Area because it failed to show that it would reach the limit value by 2011. The EC first launched actions [JURIST report] for clean air law violations in 2009.

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