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Germany high court allows cities to restrict diesel vehicles

[JURIST] Germany's Federal Administrative Court [official website, in German] in Leipzig ruled [press release, in German] Tuesday that cities have the right to restrict the use of some diesel vehicles based on emissions.

The ruling comes from decisions in two separate cases where Environmental Action Germany (DUH) [advocacy website, in German] originally brought suit in Stuttgart and D├╝sseldorf, accusing cities of failing to address issues of air pollution. DUH called for these cities to implement measures to ensure that the cities meet the nitrogen dioxide emissions standards [materials] established by the EU that limit emissions of nitrogen dioxide to 40 micrograms per cubic meter averaged per year.

The court discussed that federal law did not permit zoning and distance traffic bans for diesel vehicles but ruled in light of the EU law's obligation to meet emission standards as seen recently applied in a judgment against Poland [JURIST report]. Where the law of an EU nation is interpreted to be in conflict with EU law insofar as it does not allow a traffic ban that would shorten the time of non-compliance with the EU emissions standards, the national law is not applied.

The court acknowledged the need to phase in the restrictions to allow for the populace to adjust. This would need to be specific to each city, with a suggested restriction in Stuttgart starting with Euro 4 [materials] emission vehicles and not implementing restrictions on Euro 5 emissions vehicles before September of 2019.

The court found that the Stra├čenverkehrs-Ordnung [regulations], or Highway Code, allows signage for both zonal and distance related prohibitions on diesel vehicles. The court commented that enforcement of these prohibitions will likely be more difficult than the environmental badge regulations used in the past.

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