EU court backs fines for excessive airline noise

BRUSSELS Thu Feb 17, 2011 6:17am EST

An engineer examines the engine of a Brussels Airlines aircraft at Zaventem international airport near Brussels April 20, 2010. REUTERS/Yves Herman

An engineer examines the engine of a Brussels Airlines aircraft at Zaventem international airport near Brussels April 20, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Yves Herman

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union member states are entitled to penalise airlines that make too much noise in built-up areas near airports, a top adviser to the EU's highest court said on Thursday.

Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon wrote in a non-binding opinion that EU rules on maximum noise levels and operating restrictions do not prevent member states from imposing their own penalties if airlines make too much noise, as measured on the ground.

DHL group's European Air Transport EAT.L airline had asked the court to reject a fine imposed in Belgium for excessive night-time noise made by its aircraft.

But the court adviser found the Belgian regulations did not constitute operating restrictions that prevent access to an airport, they simply imposed penalties if maximum noise levels were exceeded.

Cruz Villalon also pointed out the European Court of Human Rights has found noise pollution forms part of the environment and that EU states can take protective measures against it.

"The protection of fundamental rights -- in particular the fundamental right to private and family life, and home, and the right to environmental protection -- justifies the adoption of such measures," the advocate general wrote in his opinion.

Judges in the court will still need to rule on the matter. While they are not bound by the court adviser's opinion, they back the line of an advocate general in the majority of cases.

(Editing by David Hulmes)

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