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Saint-Gobain Glass Deutschland GmbH v European Commission

Jurisdiction: European Court of Justice

Principle law(s): EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) (Directive 2003/87/EC establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community and amending Council Directive 96/61/EC)

Side A: Saint-Gobain Glass Deutschland GmbH (Corporation)

Side B: European Commission (Government)

Core objectives:  Saint-Gobain challenged the decision of the European Commission refusing access to the information of the Federal Environment Agency of the Federal Republic of Germany relating to Saint-Gobain’s installations in Germany. 

Saint-Gobain, a company involved in the world glass market, operates installations covered by Directive 2003/87/EC, which established a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the European Community. Saint-Gobain applied to the competent German authorities for the free allocation of emission allowances. The company also submitted a request to the European Commission for access to information regarding some installations in Germany relating to the ‘initial installed capacities’, communicated for each sub-installation, and the annual provisional number of free emission allowances allocated to each of those sub-installations. The European Commission denied Saint-Gobain’s request arguing that Article 4(3) of Regulation No 1049/2001 provides an exception to the access to environmental information when it can undermine the institutions’ decision-making process.

On 31 October 2012, Saint-Gobain brought an action against the European Commission decision before the General Court of Justice (EGC), which dismissed the action on 11 December 2014. Saint-Gobain lodged an appeal before the Court of Justice (ECJ) on 11 February 2015.

The ECJ ruled that the exception provided by Article 4(3) of Regulation No 1049/2001 shall be interpreted in a restrictive way, taking into account the public interest served by disclosure and whether the information requested relates to emissions into the environment. Yet, the fact that the administrative procedure at issue (regarding the free allocation of emission allowances) had not yet been closed on the date of adoption of the contested decision does not in itself establish that disclosure of the documents requested would seriously undermine the Commission’s decision-making procedure. The ECJ has therefore annulled the Commission’s decision refusing the full access to the documents requested by Saint-Gobain.

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