In Zenith Energy Amsterdam B.V. and Exolum Amsterdam BV v The Netherlands a Dutch judge last week rejected the challenge by fuel traders of the Dutch ban on export of fuels to non-EU (particularly Ecowas) countries of fuels falling short of the EU requirements under Directive 98/70. The Dutch Statute is the culmination of established Dutch studies of the sector (The Netherlands being a prime tank storage country) and of repeated EOWAS calls that the export causes issues on their territories.
A first test is the duty of care under the Dutch environmental laws, which in summary obliges industry et al to prevent and /or limit the environmental and public health impacts of their production. The judge [4.10] refers to the travaux and recitals of the Act which contains the duty of care, as having recognised the global, one might say ‘extraterritorial’ impact of Dutch and European industrial activities, and emphasises that the duty of care requires a dynamic interpretation in line with societal and technical developments.
In 4.13 the judge emphasises that Directive 98/70 does not harmonise export outside of the EU and that the Directive therefore does not impede national rules on export and in 4.14 the rule is said not to force duties upon third States who themselves have signalled the difficulties. The judge also explicitly refers to Urgenda and UNEP to emphasise that looking after the environment and public health elsewhere, is an expression of the State’s own duty of care. 4.16 ‘fuel leakage’ (the drug dealer defence: trade will just move elsewhere, Antwerp in particular) has not been made out on the facts, quite the opposite, the State can show that the majority of traders already export cleaner fuel from Dutch ports.
Of note is also that the judge, Vetter J, in commendable Dutch style, does not exhaust himself in the arguments, rather cutting straight to the chase.
A judgment of note. Geert.