The ECJ giveth and the ECJ taketh away in environmental impact assessment: Incremental projects subject to further EIA scrunity, but with limited scope for compensation

Two important weeks at the ECJ for those interested in the application of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive. In Case C-244/12 Salzburger Flughaven, the Court on 21 March rebuked Austria for operating a threshold for projects made subject to an EIA, which effectively meant that whole classes of projects (in particular: gradual extensions of small airports) are in advance exempt from EIA. In Case C-420/11 Leth, however, this time concerning Vienna-Schwechat airport, the Court on 14 March all but ruled out (see Hans Vedder for further analysis on the liability front) a Francovich type claim (compensation for a breach of EU law by a Member State) for pecuniary damage (a drop in property value) as a result of an infringement of the EIA Directive.

Ms Leth’s avenues for compensation may not be entirely closed off, however it is clear that the ECJ’s approach to the EIA Directive is one of extreme sympathy for the environment, less so for individuals’ damage as a result of insufficient EIA. As always, plenty of material to distinguish these cases from others (in particular, Leth), however the trend would seem clear.

Geert.

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