In general, the Austrian legal system does not give individuals the right to force the legislature to act in a specific way or pass concrete laws. Normally, only political pressure can combat inaction. However, when it comes to air quality, things are different. The Austrian Higher Administrative Court has declared that individuals who live in a territory where the air pollution limits are exceeded have the right to demand that measures under the Air Immission Protection Act be enacted or amended.
The first update and review of Austria's national water management planning instrument has revealed that the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive will be achieved neither to their full extent nor in a timely manner. Nonetheless, the National Water Management Plan 2015 is a useful and comprehensive document that contains extensive information for all stakeholders and sets out the next steps to achieve the ultimate goal of restoring Austria's water bodies.
The Constitutional Court recently reached a landmark decision and overturned the Federal Administrative Court decision which had rejected the permit for a third runway at Vienna International Airport on the grounds of climate protection and land use. This decision is significant in that it has far-reaching consequences for many other projects beyond the scope of the third runway. It is also relevant to Austria as a business hub.
The Federal Administrative Court recently hindered the plans for a third runway to be built at Vienna Airport, explaining that the positive aspects of the project could not justify the extra carbon dioxide pollution. The decision was reached despite the court conceding to the fact that air traffic will increase in the future and thus a third runway is necessary. This may be the first time that any court worldwide has rejected a project due to climate protection.
The Federal Administrative Court recently addressed whether the party to a winning project in a conflict procedure was entitled to claim rights in the environmental impact assessment for the inferior project. The court ruled that, on the one hand, the legal standing of a party in a conflict procedure is not strictly restricted to that procedure. On the other hand, the court found that being party to a conflict procedure does not guarantee unlimited legal standing in the approval procedure of the other project.
The government recently filed a compensation claim for environmental damage against mining company Pampa Camarones. The claim was based on the fact that Pampa Camarones' operations had violated a series of measures that the regional evaluation commission had stipulated to protect a nearby archaeological site. As a result, over 15 hectares of the site were destroyed without the required measures being undertaken to protect its archaeological value.
The Superintendence of the Environment (SoE) recently issued an environmental resolution ordering the permanent cessation of Compañía Minera Nevada (CMN) SpA's Pascua Lama mining project. After having considered the background and evidence provided during the investigative process, the SoE ordered the permanent closure of the mining site based on a number of breaches and imposed a series of fines. CMN SpA has filed a complaint against the resolution.
A recent Supreme Court of Justice decision required the applicant in a proceeding initiated to complete the good and legal title of surface water rights to notify all holders of water rights in the same watershed to which the application referred. Failure to involve other rights holders in the same river basin in the respective proceedings, as required by this decision, could render subsequent proceedings obsolete and thus result in the loss of considerable time for the applicant.
Congress recently approved a tax reform that introduced a new Pigovian or green tax and amended income and indirect tax rates. The green tax will apply directly to emissions derived from industrial processes that result in environmental damage. The new tax will be implemented before the end of 2017 and will affect industrial establishments that use boilers or turbines.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection recently issued new administrative measures concerning pollutants discharge permits. In addition to providing the issuance procedure for such permits, the measures stipulate penalties for various violations. The promulgation of the measures will likely be viewed as a signal of more stringent legislative control over enterprises' environmentally sensitive activities.
Denmark recently ratified the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, which aims to ensure that ships being recycled at the end of their operational lives pose no unnecessary risk to human health and safety or the environment. It is hoped that the convention will help to set global standards to ensure that ships are broken up safely.
Two new ministerial decrees regarding dredged sediment management were recently published in the Official Gazette: Ministerial Decree 172/2016 on the methods and technical standards for dredging operations in remediation sites of national interest and Ministerial Decree 173/2016 establishing the procedures and technical criteria for the disposal of dredged materials at sea.
The Council of Ministers recently approved a new regulation on uncontaminated soil and other naturally occurring material excavated in the course of construction activities. Under the regulation, different rules will apply depending on whether the soil and material will be used on the site where they were excavated or elsewhere.
During the past two decades, the precautionary principle has played a major role in shaping Italian environmental and safety policies which influence industry requirements. The precautionary principle requires that some action be taken to handle serious and identified environmental risks, and recent Constitutional Court and High Administrative Court decisions have addressed the problem of how to establish the level of environmental protection required.