Formaldehyde takes Romania closer to the European Court of Justice

Independent Center for the Development of Environmental Resources
“Pollution-free Sebes!” campaign
Press Release
For immediate distribution

Brussels tells Bucharest: “Clean up your act!”
Formaldehyde takes Romania closer to the European Court of Justice

Sebes/Romania, 19 March 2010 – The European Commission has served Romania with a final warning (“Reasoned Opinion”) over its’ breach of several major pieces of EU environmental legislation in permitting the ‘Kronospan Sebes’ formaldehyde production plant (1). The infringement case (2) was opened by the European Commission’s Directorate for the Environment following a warning submitted by Romanian NGOs involved in the “Pollution Free Sebes!” campaign. If Romania fails to clear the charges brought forward then this could become first case where it is taken to the European Court of Justice over environmental impact assessments.

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 already caused a significant negative impact 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 and PM10 fine wood dust).

In 2007 Kronospan built on its existing industrial platform in the town of Sebes a formaldehyde production plant with a production capacity of 60.000 tones/year; this without an environmental impact assessment and prior to holding any development consent. The competent Romanian authorities (Alba County Environmental Guard) did not properly apply legal sanctions against Kronospan and thus infringed upon European Directives on environmental impact assessments (EIA Directive) and on the prevention of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances (SEVESO Directive). Worse still; following a request by Kronospan to ‘legalize’ the plant, the relevant Romanian authorities (Regional Environmental Protection Agency of Sibiu) simply issued an environmental avis for the already built but illegal construction.

In its’ communiqué dated 18 March 2010, the European Commission (EC) showed that Romania was in breach of the EIA and SEVESO Directives when it failed to apply the appropriate legal measures against the illegal plant with a production capacity of 60.000 tones of formaldehyde per year. According to the EC a first written warning (“Letter of Formal Notice”) was sent to Romania in October 2009. It received an unsatisfactory reply by the Romanian authorities requiring the EC to subsequently issue a “Reasoned Opinion” on the infringement situation.

“We wanted to involve the European Commission because we were so fed-up in having to witness the authorities’ blatant and ongoing disregard to enforce laws to protect our community and to ensure that we are properly informed and consulted prior to any decision over a development consent for such a major industrial operation. Not only did the Romanian authorities refuse to enforce the relevant legislation, but worse still; they actively teamed-up with Kronospan to cover-up the grave illegalities that had been committed,” said Matei Mircea, President of the Independent Center for Environmental Protection at Sebes.

“After monitoring the industrial plant in Sebes and the attitudes of the Romanian authorities towards Kronospan for well over 3 years, the conclusions are very worrisome for Romania as a whole: the authorities clearly lack the will to enforce environmental legislation and don’t seem to care about the public’s right to decide over the future health of their community and the environment. We will continue to pursue cases at various levels of decision-making, both European and national, to ensure that all relevant measures are applied; including against the responsible authorities,” declared Stefania Simion, Executive Director of the Independent Center for the Development of Environmental Resources.

***

For more information please contact ICDER at +40 264 599 204, Mobile: +40 741588270, e-mail office@centruldemediu.ro or visit http://sebesfarapoluare.ro

NOTES:

(1) http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/316&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

(2) Case no 2009/4425 (http://infomg.ro/storage/Photos/ECEnv_Kronospan_ICDER_24022010.pdf)

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