Spain and Bulgaria referred to EU court of justice over air pollution

The EU Commission has referred Spain and Bulgaria to the European Court of Justice for failing to protect citizens from air pollution.

The newest air quality data provided by Spain to the EU revealed a ‘systematic breach’ of EU rules on nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particularly in Madrid, Barcelona and Vallès-Baix Llobregat, the Commission said.

According to the European Environment Agency, almost 9,000 premature deaths in Spain are attributable to NO2 each year.

Madrid introduced a low-emission zone called Madrid Central in November under former Mayor Manuela Carmena.

However, the new city council administration decided to scrap the scheme earlier this year, which was one of the measures that previously persuaded the EU Commission not to refer Spain to the court as it did with the UK.

Barcelona

Earlier this month, a judge in Madrid ruled that Madrid Central must stay and the city council must abandon plans to roll back the scheme.

Barcelona will introduce a low-emission zone in the city on January 1 2020. Under the plan, polluting vehicles will be banned from entering 95 square kilometres of the city.

Regarding Bulgaria, the latest sulphur dioxide (SO2) data presented show the country consistently failed to comply with hourly and daily limit values for SO2 in the country’s south-east zone, where the four largest thermal power plants in Bulgaria are located.

In 2005, EU rules set limit values for SO2 concentration in ambient air which has applied to Bulgaria since they joined the bloc in January 2007.

The Commission has also sent letters of formal notice to Romania and Croatia urging its authorities to address a ‘systemic failure’ to monitor air pollution as required by EU legislation on ambient air quality.

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