Supreme Administrative Court rules in favour of “380 kV Salzburg-power line”
The Austrian Supreme Administrative Court recently put a final stroke under the EIA permission for extension of the high voltage power line in the region of Salzburg. In a highly anticipated ruling, the court provides interesting opinions on several environmental issues, ranging from forestry law to the relationship of SEA and EIA procedures. For the latter, the opponents of the project complained about the lack of an SEA decision regarding this part of the high level power grid, which in their eyes would render any EIA decision invalid. The Supreme Administrative Court rejected this however, as it stated, that even without any SEA decision, the ruling would have been the same. The “overriding public interest” necessary for the project the court took from the EU’s PCI list. Regarding the question whether the power lines need to be built as buried cables, the court sided against that and allowed for them to be built above ground. There is no more legal remedy available and the project can move ahead.
Climate Aspects within the Strategic Environmental Assessment
For a climate-neutral Europe, it is crucial that national plans, programmes, and other provisions are examined in the light of climate change. The environmental law network Justice and Environment (J&E) has recently published guidance and recommendations on the matter. A comparative study carried out in nine different Member States also shows that an SEA regarding NECPs has been conducted only in very rare cases. National, international, and European climate targets can only be achieved if decision-makers consider both the effects on the climate and adaptation to climate change. This “climate mainstreaming” of plans and programmes is especially crucial during the early planning phase and regarding high level plans and programmes. The coherence should not only be aligned to the Paris Agreement or EU national climate goals, but also with other strategic goals related to climate change (e.g. Agenda 2030 goals and national strategies). Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is and already existing tool to ensure these requirements.