Foul wind carries Madrid pollution suit in Brussels
Recorded levels of air contamination surpass amount permitted by EU
Brussels is keeping a watchful eye on the boina , or "beret," the thick carpet of pollution that covers the center of the capital and some outlying suburbs such as Coslada and Leganés. The European Parliament has decided to follow up on a complaint lodged by the ecological political grouping Equo. Contained therein, said a commission spokesman, are indications that European law may be being infringed.
Equo holds that both the regional and city authorities are in flagrant breach of Directive 2008/50 due to the levels of contamination regularly recorded in Madrid, which exceed the permitted levels and have caused requests for a moratorium - the regulations have been in place since 2010 - to avoid sanctions. The ecologists state that Madrid regularly moves its monitoring stations to less-polluted parts of the city to massage the figures. It also complains that the recent hike in public transport prices "promotes the use of private vehicles."
The European Commission will decide in a few months whether to grant the extensions to 2015 Madrid has requested to bring carbon dioxide levels in Leganés and Coslada within legal limits. Diesel cars are the biggest problem. Madrid announced a clean-air plan in 2006 that was supposed to see the creation of low-emission zones where heavily polluting vehicles would not be allowed to enter, but it was never implemented.
The commission also denied a petition by Barcelona for an extension to 2015 as the Catalan capital shows no sign of being able to meet pollution limits by that time. It also refused a state request for a moratorium on suspended particle levels and has sent a file on Spain's pollution infractions to the European Court of Justice.
"If cities with contamination problems do not establish low-emission zones, as 195 locations in Europe already have, Brussels is not going to give them a deferment," said Xavier Querol of the Spanish National Research Council and a co-author of the regional directive that Madrid and Barcelona, among others, are failing to comply with. No Spanish city has yet set up these zones and Madrid's so-called "low-emission area" - the center - merely imposes a 10-percent increase in parking fees.
The previous Socialist administration's air quality plan included low-emission zones in line with Europe, which ban cars that emit high levels of carbon dioxide. This plan is currently "under revision."