Harmful pollution levels land Norway in Luxembourg court / News / The Foreigner

Harmful pollution levels land Norway in Luxembourg court. UPDATED: The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) has decided to summon Norway to court for air quality breaches. Officials comment that municipalities are not making full use of powers provided. EEA legislation has established legally binding limits for certain airborne pollutants which may pose a threat to public health. Public authorities are required to set up plans on how air quality can be improved. Legal action can be taken if legally binding pollution limits are exceeded. Municipalities are responsible for this in Norway.

pollution, norway, eu, cars, travel, health, asthma



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Harmful pollution levels land Norway in Luxembourg court

Published on Monday, 22nd December, 2014 at 13:26 under the news category, by Sarah Bostock and Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 23rd December 2014 at 10:53.

UPDATED: The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) has decided to summon Norway to court for air quality breaches. Officials comment that municipalities are not making full use of powers provided.

Pollution
Emissions levels from traffic in Norway might have legal consequences.Pollution
Photo: Dr. Keats/Flickr


EEA legislation has established legally binding limits for certain airborne pollutants which may pose a threat to public health.

Public authorities are required to set up plans on how air quality can be improved. Legal action can be taken if legally binding pollution limits are exceeded. Municipalities are responsible for this in Norway.

Norwegian diplomat and ESA president Oda Helen Sletnes told VG why the Authority has decided to refer Norway to the EFTA Court.

“The figures that ESA has obtained from Norwegian authorities have shown that the level of harmful emissions is too high in several places. Norway has implemented measures to deal with pollution, but we are not satisfied with progress,” she wrote in an email last week.

"Must not end up in court"

ESA sent Norway’s Ministry of the Environment a letter of formal notice in 2013. This was in relation to non-compliance with limit values for NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide), PM10 (Particulate Matter up to 10 micrometres in size) and SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide).

Conservative Party (H) Environment Minister Tina Sundtoft commented to NRK at the time that “we must do what we can so we do not end up in the EFTA Court (in Luxembourg) for this. Norway must take responsibility, which the municipalities and state must do in tandem.”

ESA delivered a reasoned opinion to Norway in March this year concerning breaches of EEA legislation in relation to the EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive.

It is the second stage of EEA infringement proceedings, and gave Norway two months to take measures to comply with it.

The Authority argued that many citizens in Norway’s cities were exposed to pollution at high levels, in which Norway “had failed to establish concrete plans to address the problems.”

Too slow

Norway had requested an extension of the deadline to meet required concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in four specified areas: Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and in the Western Zone. Stavanger, Norway’s fourth-largest city is located in this zone.

ESA accepted Norway’s request regarding NO2 levels and Bergen. This gave the Scandinavian country up until 1st January 2015 to meet limit values for this.

“In relation to the remaining three areas, the Authority has decided to reject the request. For both Trondheim and the Western Zone, the Authority considered that an extension was unnecessary as the limit values had been complied with in 2012. In the case of Oslo, the information provided by the Norwegian Government showed that even with an extension, there was unlikely to be compliance with the limit values before 2025,” the Authority stated.

ESA published an update regarding Norway, Friday. In it, officials wrote that “although there has been some action in Norway to address air pollution, EEA requirements are not being fulfilled within a reasonable timeframe. Consequently, the Authority has decided to refer the case to the EFTA Court.”

"No clear timetable"

The key findings regarding NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) were:

Zone 1 (Oslo, Asker, Bærum, Lørenskog, Skedsmo Oppegård, Ski, Lier, and Drammen):

  • Concentration thresholds in Oslo breached continuously since 2008.
  • Measures introduced to tackle road traffic emissions, and an action plan in place.
  • Studies indicate that pollution falling to required levels by 2025 is unlikely, however, even if all suggested measures are sanctioned.

Zone 2 (Bergen):

  • Extension until 1st January 2015.
  • Action plan from 2008 aimed at improving air quality in place – no EEA law breach.
  • Authority believes it could be improved, however, by including more information measuring the quality of the observed effects of the measures adopted so far.

Zone 3 (Trondheim):

  • NO2 concentration thresholds exceeded every year 2008-11.
  • No action plan established to deal with this.
  • Excessive pollution levels PM10 (Particulate Matter up to 10 micrometres in size) also recorded 2009-12.
  • Action plan in place, but no timetable for dealing with the problem.
  • Plan has no clear timetable for implementing remedial measures.
  • No indication when the issue is expected to be resolved.
  • Norway failed to meet EEA law requirements.

Zone 4 (Øst/Eastern):

  • SO2 (Sulphur Dioxide) concentration thresholds exceeded in 2011.
  • No action plan produced despite this triggering a requirement for one – EEA law breach.
  • PM10 concentration levels exceeded in 2009 and 2011.
  • No action plan put in place to address these.

Zone 5 (Vest/Western):

  • NO2 exceeded and recorded 2008-11.
  • Action plan produced, but did not meet legislative requirements.

Zone 6 (Midt/Middle):

  • PM10 concentration threshold exceeded in 2012.

Better use

Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment officials remark to The Foreigner in an email that “in Norway, it is the local municipalities who have the responsibility of improving air quality.”

“They have a long list of available policies and measures that they can use to improve air quality, like congestion pricing, higher tolls on days with high pollution, lower speed limits and other permanent and temporary measures. Several measures are already in place, and generally the air quality has improved.”

Minister of Climate and Environment Tine Sundtoft says that municipalities could make even better use of the available regulatory measures.

Officials also say that the government is in addition considering exploring the possibility of giving municipalities a even wider set of regulatory measures that they can use to reduce air pollution.

“Norway is not alone having problems with the limit values in the directive. Air pollution is a widespread problem across the EEA, particularly in big cities, where emissions from diesel cars are a major contributor to poor air quality. The European Commission is currently pursuing similar infringement proceedings against several EU Member States,” they conclude.

The EFTA Court is currently in recess until 5th January 2015. Lawyers say they have not yet received the case from ESA, but will begin processing it in that month.




Published on Monday, 22nd December, 2014 at 13:26 under the news category, by Sarah Bostock and Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 23rd December 2014 at 10:53.

This post has the following tags: pollution, norway, eu, cars, travel, health, asthma.





  
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