A Stormont department has been in breach of an obligation to test diesel cars for potentially dangerous emissions over the past 17 years, the High Court heard today. Counsel for environmental campaigners alleged a failure to carry out the checks on the level of pollutants scientifically linked to respiratory diseases and early deaths. Monye Anyadike Danes KC urged a judge to make an order compelling the Department of Infrastructure to recommence testing in Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.
She argued: “They have been in breach of this duty since 2006… and are not telling us when they are going to bring this sorry state of affairs to an end. “We need air quality being improved and polluting vehicles off the road.” Legal action is being taken by Friends of the Earth NI, supported by the Public Interest Litigation Support Project (PILS). They claim legally required exhaust emissions tests have not been carried out on any diesel cars at MOT centres in Northern Ireland since being introduced and stopped within months back in 2006. The alleged failure also breaches duties to protect public health, biodiversity and wildlife habitats, it was contended. Ms Anyadike-Danes cited an expert report on the presence of nitrogen dioxide and airborne particulate matter in diesel exhaust fumes. She told the court there was scientific evidence that emissions could have a harmful impact on human health, including serious disease and early death. “Northern Ireland has a disproportionately higher number of diesel vehicles than the rest of the UK for all sorts of reasons to do with the border and price arbitrage on diesel,” the barrister added. Despite lorries and buses still being tested, Ms Anyadike-Danes insisted that cars made up the vast majority of diesel vehicles. “We are talking about a breach that has been ongoing for 17 years with no sign that it will end,” she submitted. Questions were also raised about when two planned testing centres near Belfast, at Hydebank and Mallusk, will be fully operational. Even then, according to counsel, they will only be able to deal with 50% of diesel cars. Ms Anyadike-Danes added: “The urgency one would hope would be instilled in the Department just doesn’t seem to be there.” The case continues.
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