Easing air quality rules put on hold
6 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — Environment State Secretary Pieter van Geel has delayed sending legislation to Parliament aimed at easing air quality regulations. The minister took the decision following criticism from the Council of State.
6 April 2005
AMSTERDAM — Environment State Secretary Pieter van Geel has delayed sending legislation to Parliament aimed at easing air quality regulations. The minister took the decision following criticism from the Council of State.
The Netherlands is obligated to meet European Union guidelines for air quality, starting this year with fine particles, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations by 2010.
Tests indicated at the start of this year that the government will not meet the deadline with existing measures. It is now seeking alternatives to improve air quality, such as a tax incentives for cleaner cars.
The government is also considering implementing a system in which a distinction can be made between areas where people live and unpopulated regions. Air quality regulations will only need to be met in populated areas.
But the Council of State — the government's legislative advice body — said this plan would be illegal without explicit permission from the European Commission. The Netherlands has not yet received that permission.
Subsequently, Van Geel has opted against sending to the Parliament for the time being a ministerial plan that includes the distinction.
The Council of State's advice places in doubt projects such as the construction of peak-hour lanes to reduce traffic congestion and the building of industrial terrains. The council was already opposed to such projects.
The legislative delay came as the Friends of the Earth warned The Hague Council on Monday that legal action will be lodged unless the city tackles air pollution in what has been described as the nation's dirtiest street.
Fine particles and NO2 cause smog and are released into the atmosphere by vehicle traffic, industry and agriculture.
People with bronchial problems particularly suffer from smog and on an annual basis; some 5,000 asthma and lung cancer patients die prematurely due to air pollution.
But State Secretary Van Geel also said that fine particles have a natural origin (pollen, sea salt) and generally blow across the Netherlands from other countries.
In the background, the European Commission is set to revise its regulations. The Netherlands is then likely to gain support from Germany, which is also struggling to meet air quality demands.
The Netherlands will not be able to adjust its regulations until the EC determines its stance, expected in the summer months. In the meantime, Brussels will discuss an exemption with member states, diplomatic sources said.
Van Geel will discuss air quality with the Parliament at the end of this month.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news