Posts Tagged Energy
Principles, principles everywhere. First test of the ‘energy solidarity’ principle in Poland v EC (Nordstream /Gazprom).
As I continue to dabble in research and talks about the innovation ‘principle’ (not in existence), and find myself in court (an attachment procedure following judgment in Israel) discussing the common law principle that ‘he who comes to equity must approach the court with clean hands’, the CJEU (General Court) yesterday in T-883/16 held Poland v EC a first test of the TFEU Energy title’s ‘principle of energy solidarity’. Note Poland’s litigant friends (Latvia; Lithuania), and the EC’s (Germany). This tells you something about energy security of supply on our Eastern borders.
Article 194 TFEU: ‘1. In the context of the establishment and functioning of the internal market and with regard for the need to preserve and improve the environment, Union policy on energy shall aim, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States, to:…’
The gas pipeline Ostseepipeline-Anbindungsleitung ﴾OPAL) is the terrestrial section to the west of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. Its entry point is located in Germany and its exit point is in the Czech Republic. In 2009, the Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA, the German regulatory authority) notified the Commission of two decisions that exempted the capacities for cross-border transmission of the planned OPAL pipeline from the application of the rules on third party access and tariff regulation laid down in Directive 2003/55. Those decisions concerned the shares belonging to the two owners of the OPAL pipeline. The same year, the Commission adopted a decision by which it requested the BNetzA to modify its decisions by adding certain conditions. Under those conditions, in particular, a dominant undertaking, such as Gazprom, could reserve only 50% of the cross-border capacities of the OPAL pipeline, unless it released onto the market a
volume of gas of 3 billion m³/year on that pipeline (‘the gas release programme’). In accordance with those three decisions of 2009, the capacities of the OPAL pipeline were exempted from the application of the rules on regulated third-party access and tariff regulation on the basis of Directive 2003/55. This decision was later (2016) slightly amended albeit not in substance.
Poland argue that the grant of a new exemption relating to the OPAL pipeline threatens the security of gas supply in the European Union, in particular in central Europe. Poland suggests that the 2016 decision breaches the principle of energy solidarity in that it enables Gazprom and undertakings in the Gazprom group to redirect additional volumes of gas onto the EU market by fully exploiting the capacities of the North Stream 1 pipeline. Taking into account the lack of significant growth in demand for natural gas in central Europe, according to Poland, that would, as its only possible consequence, influence the conditions of supply and use of transmission services on the pipelines competing with OPAL.
The General Court yesterday (the case no doubt may be appealed) held that the application of the principle of energy solidarity does not mean that the EU energy policy must never have negative impacts on the particular interests of a Member State in the field of energy. However, the EU institutions and the Member States are required to take into account, in the context of the implementation of that policy, the interests both of the European Union and of the various Member States and to balance those interests where there is a conflict. In neither the preparation of the 2016 decision nor its actual content is there any trace of the EC having considered the principle and its impact: the Decision is therefore annulled.
The case adds to the corpus of judgments where the CJEU is called upon to apply ‘principles’ and clearly emphasises preparatory due diligence, rather than second-guessing the actual application of the principle in substance.
(Handbook of) EU Environmental Law (with Leonie Reins), 2017, Part I Chapter 2.
I reviewed Mengozzi AG’s Opinion in C-5/16 Poland v EP and Council here. The CJEU today confirmed his reading. Firstly (at 41), aim and content of the measure determines its legal basis. Not its actual effects after entry into force for that would require speculation. Further (at 43 ff) Article 191 TFEU mandates the EU to take measures to tackle climate change. The measures taken to that end necessarily affect the energy sector of Member States. A broad interpretation of point (c) of the first subparagraph of Article 192(2) TFEU would risk having the effect of making recourse to the special legislative procedure, which the Treaty FEU intended as an exception, into the general rule.
At 61: the MSR is a one-off intervention on the part of the legislature for the purpose of correcting a structural weakness of the ETS that could prevent the scheme from fulfilling its function of encouraging investment with a view to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in a cost-effective manner and being a driver of low-carbon innovation contributing to the fight against climate change. At 62 and in conclusion: it does not follow from the analysis of the aim and content of the contested decision that the first outcome pursued by that decision is significantly to affect a Member State’s choice between different energy sources and the general structure of its energy supply.
(In the remainder of the judgment the Court rejects arguments based on proportionality etc.).
This is an important day for the legal basis of EU environmental policy.
Others have studied the EU’s legal basis for energy policy much better than I have. Chiefly among them Dr Leonie Reins. e.g. for RECIEL here and in her Phd here. The impact of this discussion is high. The Lisbon Treaty introduced a formal energy Title in the EU Treaties. Whether so designed or not, the prospect of that Title’s requirement on unanimity for measures which ‘have a significant effect on a Member State’s choice between different energy sources’ looms heavily over the EU’s environment policy.
The EU’s emissions trading system – ETS is the prime candidate for falling victim to an extensive interpretation of Article 192(2)c TFEU, which harbours the unanimity requirement within the Treaty’s environment Title. [The energy Title, Article 194, has similar challenges].
In C-5/16 Poland v EP and Council Mengozzi AG Opined last week. At issue is Poland’s opposition to a MSR. MSR is a market stability reserve for the Union greenhouse gas emission trading scheme,. Essentially it is a long-term parking for surplus allowances to enable the ETS to safeguard collapse of prices in the event of excess supply. The resulting increase in the price of allowances was inter alia intended to encourage fuel switching and to discourage investments in coal-fired power stations (hence of course Poland’s interest).
Relevant to future reference is especially the AG’s view at 25, which I include in full:
‘as a derogation, Article 192(2)(c) TFEU is to be interpreted strictly, especially since an efficient modern environment policy cannot ignore energy questions. I share the fears expressed by the defendants and the interveners that the applicant’s proposed interpretation of Article 192(2)(c) TFEU and the conclusions which it draws from that interpretation for the examination of the legal basis of the contested decision would effectively block any legislative initiative by recognising a right of veto for Member States, as the Union would adopt measures inviting them only to rationalise their CO2-consuming activities. Furthermore, such an interpretation would doom the ETS to failure as it would prevent the EU legislature from correcting its structural deficiencies. In addition, although I would point out that the goal of introducing the MSR is not to form the price of allowances but simply to ensure the efficiency of the ETS, in any event, an operator’s choice of a certain energy source or production technology cannot depend on that price alone, which does not in itself define the production costs, which are determined by a variety of factors. Even with the introduction of the MSR, the choice of technology still remains in the hands of operators and is not dictated by the European Union.’
I am not sure to what degree the Court’s judgment will enable us to draw criteria with wider impact than just the current case – but it would certainly be helpful.
Mengozzi AG firstly emphasises strict interpretation of the ‘energy mix’ exception. Further, in the paras preceeding the aforecited one, he links amendments to existing laws largely to the legal basis of that initial instrument. He also supports the Institutions and Spain, France and Sweden (intervening; the position of Germany, also intervening, was not made clear) in their warning against veto power in the energy /climate change context. Finally he further dilutes the exception by looking at policies as they work in practice, not just in theory. On this point, the AG looks at the ETS specifically however his view has broader appeal: it would essentially mean that when Member States’ and individuals’ /undertakings’ behaviour is determined by regulatory intervention, some of which clearly based on a legal basis other than Article 192(2)c TFEU, the latter is not determinant in deciding proper legal basis.
This is an important case for the future of EU environment and energy policy.
At first sight, it may seem a bit nerdy to report on Dyson, Case T-544/13. Yet (pun alert) once the dust settled on the judgment, the case in my view reveals quite a lot on how the CJEU sees the role of the EC as a regulator involved in all three steps of risk analysis: risk identification; risk management; and risk communication.
Arguably, misleading information often does more damage than a lack of information. It is on this basis that well-known Dyson, producer ia of bagless hoovers (or vacuum cleaners), challenged a delegated EC Regulation which establishes, in its own wording, ‘labelling and the provision of supplementary product information for electric mains-operated vacuum cleaners, including hybrid vacuum cleaners’. The purpose of the Regulation and of its mother Directive on energy labelling, evidently is to encourage consumers to purchase hoovers using less energy.
The contested regulation requires tests conducted with an empty dust bag. That, Dyson essentially argues, is like testing a Ferrari and a 2 CV on fuel consumption, with both cars in stationary condition (my comparison, not theirs). It will, in Dyson’s plea, lead to: (i) reporting of inaccurate information; (ii) ‘during use’ information not being integrated into the energy performance data; (iii) less incentive for manufacturers to invest with a view to improving the energy efficiency of vacuum cleaners; and (iv) labelling which does not serve to attain the objective of reducing energy consumption and, on the contrary, leads to an increase in energy consumption.
The Court held (at 47) that the Commission cannot be criticised for having failed to require tests conducted with a dust-loaded receptacle if, under its broad discretion, it decided that such tests were not yet reliable, accurate and reproducible. Even though the Court in various parts of the judgment acknowledges the inadequacy of the resulting product comparison, it cannot be held that the Commission made a manifest error of assessment by favouring a test conducted with an empty receptacle over a test conducted with a dust-loaded receptacle (at 53).
The judgment entertains many arguments brought forward however they essentially all revolve around the seemingly unavailable nature of appropriate, peer reviewable testing methods. The Court dismisses them all as (pun alert) hot air and effectively requires Dyson to offer the peer reviewable, repeatable alternative.
With respect, I believe the judgment is fundamentally mistaken. It was obviously not considered to be of a very crucial nature (chamber of three). Yet despite its very focussed nature, it reveals a lot about what the EU expects of its Institutions. In this case, misinformation is essentially considered preferable to no information. Surely (pun alert) that sucks.
The case was before the General Court hence appeal with the CJEU is not impossible.
Travel is a wonderful opportunity to catch up on reading back issues of The Economist. Now I have made a valiant effort in recent years to reduce the pile. I am now only a few months behind. (I read the magazine diagonally when it comes out. Properly a little later). In the issue of 28 February of this year, there is a report on the town of Windsor, New York, along with 14 other towns along New York’s border with Pennsylvania, wanting to secede and join Penn. I have not been able to get an update on the state of affairs, and I am not sure whether the idea got much traction.
It is the ultimate answer to regulatory competition: to move an entire slice of territory into what is perceived as a preferable regulatory regime. The cause? New York’s strict (some might say: cautious) policy on fracking /shale gas. Penn State is fracking friendly. New York has banned it.
The Economist also flag that State secession in the US has only ever succeeded in 1777: when a chunk of New York became Vermont. Now, that’s a State where others pack and move to in upwards harmonisation fashion: for Vermont is arguably the top of the regulatory curve when it comes to environment and food regulation.
In Lone Pine Resoures v Canada, the company involved has filed a claim under NAFTA’s Chapter 11, which protects investors against ‘regulatory takings’. Quebec has placed a moratorium on fracking (shale gas exploration) by revoking all permits pertaining to oil and gas resources under the St Lawrence river.
I shall be reporting tomorrow on the rejection by the French Constitutional Court of the challenge to the French moratorium. In a related (not to fracking but to regulatory takings) development, the European Commission has posted an interesting defence of Biltateral Investment Treaties here. Reference is made ia to the ongoing Philip Morris and Vatenfall (Nuclear energy) issues, both high profile cases of alleged regulatory taking.