EU court partly backs damages claim under EIA law
Member states can be forced to pay compensation to citizens adversely affected by projects built without an environmental impact assessment (EIA), the EU court has ruled.
But member states are not automatically liable for such finanical damages and it will be up to national courts to determine whether there is a direct, causal link between the damages sustained and the fact that no EIA was carried out.
The court made the ruling in an Austrian case in which a woman whose house is located near Vienna airport is seeking €120,000 compensation for a decrease in the value of her property caused by noise pollution arising from the airport’s expansion.
Since 1995, when Austria joined the EU, the airport has been enlarged several times without any prior assessment of the environmental effects of the developments, the EU court noted.
The case now reverts to the Austrian supreme court for a final decision.
Environment law NGO Client Earth said the ruling sets an important precedent whereby EU citizens can claim damages for loss of property value under the EIA directive, something that is not possible under other EU environmental laws.
For instance, the environmental liability directive does not cover noise pollution.
The EIA directive is currently under review.
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