In court: June 2015

29th May 2015

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Energy ,
  • Waste ,
  • Water


Josh Fothergill

A round-up of the latest environmental court cases.

Supreme court rules in air quality case

Environment secretary Liz Truss must set out by the end of the year how the government plans to improve air quality after the Supreme court ruled that Defra had breached EU legislation to limit nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions (p.12).

The ruling brings to an end a five-year legal battle by NGO ClientEarth to hold the UK government to account for failing to comply with the ambient air quality Directive, which came into force at the start of 2010. At the time, NO2 levels in 40 of the 43 air quality zones in the UK were exceeding the annual 40 μg/m3 threshold. Several countries, including the UK, were granted five-year extensions, but Defra acknowledged in 2014 that 16 areas would not meet the revised 2015 deadline, with London, Birmingham and Leeds likely to breach the thresholds until beyond 2030 under the existing plan from the environment department.

In 2013, the Supreme court ruled that the UK had breached the directive and asked the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) for a preliminary ruling on several questions on interpretation of EU law. The case was referred back to the Supreme court by the CJEU in November 2104 after it ruled that UK courts must require Defra to produce a meaningful plan to ensure that the limits on NO2 emissions are met as soon as possible.

The latest judgment, issued before the general election, stated: "The new government, whatever its political complexion, should be left in no doubt as to the need for immediate action to address this issue." Measures that Defra must consider include low emission zones, congestion charging and other economic incentives.

A spokesperson for Defra said: "Air quality has improved significantly in recent years and, as this judgment recognises, work is already under way on revised plans to meet EU targets on NO2 as soon as possible."

In February 2014, the European commission launched separate legal proceedings against the UK for failing to cut NO2 emissions.

Sita fined £20,000 for permit breach

Breaching leachate volumes at a landfill site in Perthshire 18 times between December 2012 and June 2013 and failing to report the problem has resulted in Sita UK being fined £20,000.

Perth sheriff court was told that three leachate wells at the Binn landfill site at Glenfarg were in excess of the two-metre limit over the four-month period. Leachate is the liquid that forms when waste degrades in landfill. To reduce the risk of it escaping and polluting groundwater, regulators impose a limit on the levels that can be reached. In this case, Sita failed to ensure that accumulation at the low point of each leachate collection system was kept below the two-metre ceiling.

The company also failed to notify the Scottish Environment Protection Agency that leachate levels had exceeded two-metres. The waste management business pleaded guilty to both offences.

Earlier this year, Sita UK was fined £110,000 by Redhill magistrates' court for breaching the leachate levels set out in the environmental permit for its landfill site at Albury, near Guildford, throughout 2013.

Roundup of EU infringements

The European commission is taking several members states to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) for failing to comply with EU environmental legislation. France has been referred to the CJEU for failing to ensure wastewater treatment met EU standards in 17 agglomerations. The commission had warned France in 2009 that it contravened the urban wastewater treatment Directive that requires member states to ensure water from towns, cities and settlements is properly collected and treated.

Poland and Slovenia face legal proceedings for failing to enact revised EU legislation on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). The commission is asking the court to impose a daily fine of €71,610 on Poland and €8,408 on Slovenia until the rules, which should have been transposed into domestic law by 14 February 2014, are enacted. Finally, the commission is taking Romania to court for failing to transpose the revised packaging Directive. The deadline was 30 September 2013, but the Romanian authorities have still not enacted the directive.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Swing voters show strong support for renewables

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

A project promoter’s perspective on the environmental challenges facing new subsea power cables

3rd April 2024

Read more

The UK’s major cities lag well behind their European counterparts in terms of public transport use. Linking development to transport routes might be the answer, argues Huw Morris

3rd April 2024

Read more

Tom Harris examines the supply chain constraints facing the growing number of interconnector projects

2nd April 2024

Read more

The UK government’s carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) strategy is based on optimistic techno-economic assumptions that are now outdated, Carbon Tracker has warned.

13th March 2024

Read more

The UK government’s latest Public Attitudes Tracker has found broad support for efforts to tackle climate change, although there are significant concerns that bills will rise.

13th March 2024

Read more

A consortium including IEMA and the Good Homes Alliance have drafted a letter to UK government ministers expressing disappointment with the proposed Future Homes Standard.

26th February 2024

Read more

Global corporations such as Amazon and Google purchased a record 46 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind energy last year, according to BloombergNEF (BNEF).

13th February 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close