European Commission takes Poland to court over poor air quality

General view of a coking plant in the city of Bytom Silesia November 22, 2012. REUTERS/Peter Andrews

WARSAW (Reuters) - The European Commission has decided to take Poland to court over its failure to address its poor air quality, the EU’s executive said on Thursday.

The use of coal and, sometimes, garbage to heat houses makes Poland’s air the most polluted in Europe, according to local government data.

Air pollution is felt particularly in the south of the country, near ski resort towns in the Tatra Mountains where homeowners often neglect environmental rules.

The European Commission said Poland had persistently high levels of dust particles that pose a major risk to public health.

“The legislative and administrative measures taken so far to limit this persisting non-compliance have been deemed insufficient by the Commission,” the Commission said in a statement.

It would therefore refer Poland to the EU’s Court of Justice, the statement said.

The Commission is currently pursuing infringement actions for excessive fine dust levels against 16 member states, including Germany, Spain and Sweden, while a court case has been brought to the court against Bulgaria.

Environmental groups say that Poland has set inappropriately low standards for air pollution with safety levels set too high, more than double those in France.

More than 40,000 Poles die prematurely annually because of poor air quality, according to activist group Polski Alarm Smogowy data.

Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky