The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled Wednesday regarding how member states should interpret air quality regulations set up by the Directive 2008/50/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008 (Directive 2008/50) on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe.
The judgment is in regard to a case where Brussels citizens sued two Belgian agencies, Brussels Capital Region and the Brussels Institute for Environmental Management, over excessive air pollution. The Dutch-language Court of First Instance, Brussels stayed the proceedings in order to ask the ECJ for interpretation on Directive 2008/50. The ECJ was asked to answer two different questions:
- Should national courts have the power to decide whether member states are in compliance with Directive 2008/50 when it is alleged that member states are not satisfying the air pollution sampling criteria of the directive?
- If the average air pollution measurement at one measuring site exceeds maximum levels of Directive 2008/50, does that constitute a violation of the directive? Or should air pollution measurements be averaged across all measuring sites of a member nation?
The ECJ decided that the national courts must decide if a member state is violating Directive 2008/50 and that the average air pollution measurements of individual sites must be considered.
[I]t is for a national court, hearing an application submitted for that purpose by individuals directly affected by the exceedance of the limit values referred to in [Directive 2008/50], to verify whether the sampling points located in a particular zone have been established in accordance with the criteria laid down in [Directive 2008/50]…
Directive 2008/50 must be interpreted as meaning that, in order to establish whether a limit value with an averaging period of one calendar year … has been exceeded, it is sufficient that a pollution level higher than that value be measured at a single sampling point.
The lawsuit will now return to the Belgian courts.