Independent Center for the Development of Environmental Resources
For immediate distribution
14 February 2009
The Brasov court of justice yesterday rejected via a definitive judgement a complaint submitted by Kronospan Romania against the fines applied by the Brasov environmental guard. With yesterday’s verdict the Brasov court of justice acknowledged the legality of the measures taken by the Brasov environmental guard against Kronospan for building a composite wood (PAL) industrial plant in the town of Brasov without a valid environmental accord. The Independent Centre for the Development of Environmental Resources (ICDER) was an intervener in the interest of the environmental authority.
Kronospan Romania is the largest producer of wood based panels in South-Eastern Europe and a branch of the multi-national company Kronospan. In Romania Kronospan is operating in 3 different locations: Sebes, Brasov and Constanta. Kronospan’s activities in Sebes and Brasov gravely violate applicable legislation for environmental and construction permitting, and have caused significant negative impacts on the health of local people and the environment, due to the emission of toxic substances used for the production of the wood panels (i.e. formaldehyde).
In the past Kronospan has been repeatedly fined by the competent authorities. However, the company prefers to pay the all-too-often symbolic fines to avoid legal consequences while continuing to endanger human health and pollute the environment.
In February 2008 Kronospan started constructing a new PAL wood composite production plant in the town of Brasov. This move provoked negative reactions and worries from the part of the locals directly affected by the works. Well over 600 petitions against the new plant were submitted by citizens of Brasov to the competent authorities (1).
In May 2008 ICDER officially warned the Brasov environmental guard that SC Kronospan Brasov was carrying out construction works based on an invalid environmental accord. ICDER requested that the company should be fined and be ordered to halt all relevant works. As a result the environmental guard sanctioned Kronospan with a fine and ordered for the works to be stopped.
Kronospan subsequently took the environmental guard to court; attacking the inspection report at the base of the fine. In October 2008, ICDER intervened in this court action to the defence of the environmental authorities (2). The court debates focused on the validity of the environmental accord which the company had obtained in 2002 and which expired in 2007; before the inception of the construction works. ICDER also argued that the environmental accord had been obtained at a time when Romania’s environmental legislation was much more permissive and not yet harmonized with EU Directives. In January 2008 the Brasov Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided that in order to obtain a new environmental accord Kronospan would need to launch a new and much stricter environmental impact assessment procedure to meet all relevant EU directives. It is within this context that Kronospan by completely ignoring relevant legal provisions and decisions started the construction works in February 2008.
„Yesterday’s court decision shows the big polluters that it is important to enforce environmental legislation. At the same time it is also encourages more and wide access to justice for environmental problems from the part of the environmental NGOs,” declared attorney Dr. Andreea Ciurea, who represented ICDER.
(2) Civil File nr.9798/197/2008 at the Brasov court of justice