European Commission might take legal action against Latvia over air pollution - ministry

  • 2019-05-14
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The risk of the European Commission taking legal action against Latvia over an excessively high levels of coarse particulate matter PM10 in the air is very high, the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s undersecretary of state for environmental protection matters Alda Ozola told LETA.

The Environmental and Climate Subcommittee of the Saeima Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee met today to discuss the issue of air pollution in Riga.

Ozola told lawmakers at the meeting that in 2014 the European Commission started an infringement procedure against Latvia over PM10 air pollution, which was one of the most serious infringement procedures launched against Latvia over noncompliance with environmental standards. The European Commission warned already in 2015 that if the problem is not dealt with, Latvia might face legal action and sizable fines.

In Ozola’s words, the infringement procedure was started because of especially critical air quality indicators in Riga. The fines Latvia might be charged for violating air quality requirements could reach tens of millions of euros.

“The procedure has been put on hold for now, as the European Commission assesses the implementation of Riga city’s air quality improvement program for 2016-2020, but the risk of legal action is quite high,” Ozola said. The Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s experts do not believe Latvia can meet the air quality targets for 2020 set by the European Union.

Evija Pinke, head of the Riga City Council’s Environmental Administration, said that the PM10 concentration limit can be legally exceeded on 35 days in a year and that Riga did not breach the norm in 2018, according to the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Center’s data.

Also, in order to meet the air quality target, the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry has worked out an air quality improvement plan, which has been put to public debating and could be approved the government in September.

The Saeima subcommittee decided to send the Riga City Council an official letter urging to take all the necessary measures to reduce the risk of legal action over air quality in the capital city. The politicians will also call for more specific and ambitions targets in the air quality improvement program.