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The Impact of the EU Air Quality Standards on the Planning and Authorisation of Large Scale Infrastructure Projects in the Netherlands

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The implementation of the first Daughter Directive on Air Quality had a considerable effect on decision-making concerning large scale infrastructure projects. It was the Dutch administrative court that enforced the air quality standards in the Netherlands by ruling that the limit values are absolute standards to be applied at all levels of decision-making. Faced with the consequences of this interpretation the Dutch government tried to soften the economic and social effects of the court's policy. This analysis of the debate that followed illustrates the two opposing approaches. The first approach is to interpret EC air quality standards literally, meaning that the limit values have to be applied by all competent authorities. Those supporting the second approach argue that the limit values must be attained, in the first place, by national measures dealing with the sources of pollution, making use of technical solutions. The Dutch government has shifted slightly from the first to the second approach, as is clear from the Air Quality Order of 2005. However, it remains doubtful whether this will be sufficient to lift the current deadlock on infrastructure projects and attain the environmental limit values.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Environmental Law of the University of Amsterdam


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