The European Commission’s decision last year to revise limits on harmful air pollutants is back in the spotlight. It has sparked controversy, pitting environmentalists against owners of Europe’s coal plants and mines. Now the latter is suing.

In response, environmental groups including the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) on February 28 applied to intervene in the case to defend the new rules, which were formally adopted by the Commission following a vote of member states in April last year.

The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations with around 140 organisations in more than 30 countries.

“Air pollution from coal knows no borders,” said Jeremy Wates, Secretary-General of the EEB. “Emissions from one country are a problem for people and the environment across Europe. It is essential and inevitable that we move Europe beyond coal and the sooner we do it the better for our health, our climate and our environment.”

According to Wates, the updated limits introduced last year are a modest step forward and only require plants to reduce pollution in line with tried-and-tested techniques that have been used for decades already.

“Industry’s opposition is a desperate attempt to ensure their permission to pollute at higher levels for decades to come. We have applied to join this case to ensure it cannot succeed,” he said.

The suit against the European Commission was filed by Euracoal, an industry lobbying group that describes itself as “the voice of coal in Europe”.

It is also worth noting that EU member Poland is also challenging the decision to adopt the new standards in a separate case. Like the Euracoal case, Poland’s case (also supported by Bulgaria) centres on claims of procedural errors ahead of the adoption of the new measures.