Lithuania's top court finds restrictions on waste-to-energy plants unconstitutional

  • 2020-02-18
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - The 2018 amendments to Lithuania's Law on Waste Management that imposed a ban on building waste-to-energy facilities within 20 kilometers from residential areas are unconstitutional, the Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday.

The court found the ban disproportionate. 

It also ruled that the provisions of the law that authorized the government to set criteria for designating such power plants as projects of national importance and allowed it to make decisions on the further implementation of ongoing projects run counter to the Constitution. 

Thirty-one opposition parliamentarians petitioned the Constitutional Court in the fall of 2018 for its opinion on the amendments.

According to the court, while the freedom of economic activity, enshrined in the Constitution, is not absolute and may be restricted to ensure the general well-being of the nation, protect human health and the environment from harmful effects, and compensate for environmental damage, such measures must be proportionate to the objective pursued. 

"The objective of reducing the adverse effects of waste incineration plants on public health may be achieved through other measures that are less restrictive to waste incineration operations, such as an obligation to perform a mandatory environmental impact assessment of the planned economic activity (...)," the court said in a press release.

Therefore, the requirement for waste incineration plans to be built at a minimum distance of 20 kilometers from residential areas, which is not based on objective criteria, makes it disproportionately difficult to manage waste in the most environmentally and public health-friendly way, it said.