Judgment of the Court (Seventh Chamber) of 21 September 2016, European Commission v. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Case C-304/15


The European Court of Justice found that a coal-fired power plant built in 1971 is violating European standards.


The European Commission brought the action claiming that the United Kingdom had improperly applied a derogation of Directive 2001/80/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2001 governing emissions of certain pollutants from large combustion plants to the Aberthaw Power Station.  The United Kingdom issued a permit that improperly granted an operating license allowing for 1,050 mg/Nm3 for nitrogen oxide emissions rather than the stricter limit of 500 mg/Nm3 required by law.  The United Kingdom challenged the Commission’s reading of the law and argued that a footnote allowed for the higher limit.


The Seventh Chamber of the European Court of Justice rejected the United Kingdom’s arguments including the argument that “it is principally due to economic constraints that arrangements have not been made to improve the environmental performance of [the] plant . . . .”  Id. at para. 52.   The Court found that the United Kingdom failed to correctly apply the EU Directive to the Aberthaw Power Station and ordered the United Kingdom to pay the Commission’s legal costs.