We recently received great news from our Slovak partners at Via Iuris concerning a controversial landfill project in the town of Pezinok. Community members and municipal officials oppose the project because it is located just about one-quarter mile from the center of their town. Furthermore, the landfill was not proposed for handling local solid waste, but to accept waste produced in other regions of Slovakia and from outside the country. Pezinok has an excellent recycling program and capacity to handle its own solid waste. The community’s grassroots effort to block the landfill project has gained international attention and recognition.
The Court of Justice of the European Union issued a decision declaring that Slovak state officials improperly withheld key information from community members and municipal officials during the course of the licensing proceeding. The licensing authority refused to release a copy of the land use decision (a critical document in the licensing proceeding) until after the project developer started construction. The Court strongly affirmed the right of citizens to participate in environmental decisions early in the process when there are options available and effective public participation can occur. The Court also stated that the licensing authority’s refusal to make the decision public was not justified by protection of commercial or industrial information. The case will now return to the Slovak Supreme Court for further decisions on the fate of the landfill. The project has been temporarily suspended since 2010, but the European Court’s decision provides some hope that the landfill will be cancelled permanently.
Slovak newspapers reported the optimistic response of Pezinok’s mayor: “The decision of the court fills us with hope that the years-long effort [to achieve] a healthy environment in the town will be successful[.]” Advocates around Europe are lauding the decision, as well.
Congratulations to our friends at Via Iuris!