Environment

EU refers Bulgaria to court for high values of SO2 caused by coal-fired power plants

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Published

July 31, 2019

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Published:

July 31, 2019

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The European Commission has decided to refer Bulgaria and Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU over poor air quality. The reason in Bulgaria’s case is failing to respect the limit values of sulfur dioxide (SO2).

This decision is part of reinforced action by the European Commission (EC) to engage with EU Member States to protect citizens’ health from poor air quality, as set out in the Clean Air for All package of May 2018, the EC said in a press release.

In the case of Bulgaria, the latest sulfur dioxide (SO2) data presented show persisting non-compliance with the hourly and/or daily limit values for SO2 in the South-East zone, where the four largest thermal power plants (TPPs) in Bulgaria are located. Since 2005, EU rules set limit values for SO2 concentration in ambient air. These provisions are applicable to Bulgaria as of its accession to the EU from January 1, 2007.

This decision constitutes a second referral to the Court of Justice of the EU for Bulgaria’s failure to comply with EU air quality standards. In its judgment of April 5, 2017, the Court confirmed Bulgaria’s failure to comply with the limit values for PM10.

Bulgaria was also among half of the EU’s 28 member states, including Cyprus, Greece, Romania, and Slovenia, which failed to prepare their air pollution reduction plans by the April 1 deadline.

According to the press release, when limit values set by EU legislation on ambient air quality (Directive 2008/50/EC) are exceeded, as in the cases of Bulgaria and Spain, Member States have to adopt air quality plans and ensure that such plans set appropriate measures so that the exceedance period can be kept as short as possible.

Air pollution continues to be the number one environmental health problem in the EU, with estimates pointing to around 400,000 premature deaths attributable to air pollution per year.

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