Exciting news from Austria in current environmental cases
Expansion of Vienna Airport approved by Austrian Supreme Administrative Court
In 2017, the court decision that did not permit the expansion of Vienna Airport had caused (inter)national attention. Subsequently, the Austrian Constitutional Court overturned this decision because climate protection had been taken into account in the EIA without any legal basis. In 2018, the Federal Administrative Court had then approved the so-called "third runway" and residents and citizens' initiatives had filed a complaint against it. On March 6th, 2019, the Supreme Administrative Court confirmed the permit.
In the opinion of the Supreme Administrative Court, all necessary approach and departure routes had been sufficiently examined and no harmful aircraft noise was to be expected as a result of the airport expansion. Regarding climate protection, the Supreme Administrative Court acknowledged that effects on the climate must indeed be taken into account within the framework of the EIA directive. However, due to the EU emissions trading system GHG emissions must not be attributed to the airport but to the operators of the airlines. The GHG emissions of the airport itself are therefore so low that they do not preclude a permit.
From March 12th to 15th, 2019, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC) meeting took place in Geneva. ÖKOBÜRO participated in the hearing with Austria as a communicant. Regarding latest legislative developments, the ACCC noted that the recent amendment of the Austrian Environmental Impact Assessment Act indicates a step into the wrong direction. This amendment lays down that as an absolute requirement to participate and have access to remedies in any environmental procedure, environmental organisations must provide prove to have at least 100 members. Furthermore, the ACCC stressed that the implementation of Aarhus requirements in legal areas regulated by EU law (waste, water, air and nature protection) is not sufficient. For a full implementation of the Convention, further steps need to be taken. By October 1st, 2019, Austria has to submit the next report on measures to implement Aarhus on national level.