Due to dissatisfaction with the recognition of the harmfulness of flat-rate decisions in environmental matters, the Association for Nature, Environment and Sustainable Development Sunce, following the judgment ofthe High Administrative Court of the Republic of Croatia rejecting the claim to carry out the environmental impact assessment procedure in the so-called Lećevica case, will initiate proceedings before the competent authorities of the European Union.
In the environmental impact assessment (EIA procedure) in 2006. the Lećevica Waste Management Centre has been assessed as environmentally friendly by a decision of the Ministry of Environment and Energy. The WMC itself, that is, the intervention includes 6 zones of work with various types of machinery and technology (administrative service zone, waste disposal zone, biological waste treatment zone – MBT…) with a total capacity in all zones of 180,000 tons per year. Please note that at that time (2006) there was no obligation to separately collect waste and separately recover various components.
Ten years later, in 2016, the action for amending the procedure of WMC Lećevica began, when an application was submitted for the implementation of EIA Screening procedure for the proposed amendments. The amendments are essentially related to the reduction of landfill capacity due to the presumed adherence to the provisions on the reduction of waste quantities in accordance with the Sustainable Waste Management Law, as well as due to the change in plant technology. The revised capacity of the entire operation now (2016) is approximately 136,000 tonnes of waste per year, and the part of the plant carrying out mechanical biological treatment (MBT) of waste is capacitated to 109,000 tonnes per year.
The procedure resulted in a decision of the Ministry of Environment and Energy on June 14, 2017, which establishes that the changes are of such a nature that they will not have a probable environmental impact; therefore it is not necessary to carry out the EIA procedure.
The Association Sunce filed a complaint with the Administrative Court in Split against this decision in July 2017, essentially asking for the annulment of the decision and the return of the case for retrial with the purpose of adopting a decision ordering the implementation of a more serious EIA procedure. Together with Sunce, the Unešić Municipality and the Association Krizni Eko Kaštelanski Stožer were involved in the dispute. During the dispute, Sunce’s legal team insisted on the need to develop an environmental impact study and a more serious assessment of the environmental impact of this procedure. The team also outlined a number of reasons why they believe that the construction of the Centre can have a potentially negative impact on the environment and human health.
One of the pleas, which according to the plaintiff was disputed, is the capacity of the Centre, which has not been clearly established, i.e. it is not possible to determine with certainty how much municipal waste will come to the plant and how a certain type of waste will be disposed of. The WMC was conceived as part of a unique waste management system in the county, which means that the amount of waste that is brought and disposed of there, depends on the amount of waste that is created and properly separated and recycled at the level of municipalities and cities in our county. Given the poor performance that all local self-government units in the county have, there exist legitimate fears that the capacity of the Centre will actually increase significantly, which will have a direct impact on the environment of the wider area in which is planned to be built.
By presenting the fact that the WMC Lećevica’s has a capacity of 109,000 tons per year, the Ministry (as an first instance body), and therefore the court was led to the wrong conclusion that there is a significant reduction in the capacity of the WMC compared to the previous solution. However, this fact has not been accurately established, since the capacity of the WMC is approximately 136,000 tons per year, summing up all the components of the waste that are entering the procedure. Moreover, by accurately establishing the fact of the actual capacity of the Centre, it is clear that the capacity does not decrease by 50% compared to the previous decision and does not represent a mitigating factor that would justify the failure to carry out a more detailed EIA procedure.
Thus, at first instance, the Ministry erroneously established the factual situation (capacity) and consequently could not make a relevant decision on what impact the WMC would have on the sensitive environment of the Dalmatian hinterland.
By judgment of 20 May 2019, the Administrative Court in Split also flatly rejected the arguments of the Association Sunce, stating that the holder of the procedure correctly based the projections on quantities, due to (future) adherence to the provisions of the Law on Sustainable Waste Management, while ignoring the fact that reality shows diametrically opposed figures, and ultimately without establishing the material truth. The recent judgment of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Croatia is based on the same conclusions, therefore the Association Sunce decided in this case to contact the competent European authorities.
Contact for more information:
Head of the Department of Environmental Law of Sunce, Ivana Krstulović Baković