Brussels, 12 October 2010
State aid: Commission clears aid for rehabilitating polluted site in Austria
The European Commission has authorised a grant of approximately €146.27 million to Voestalpine Stahl for the remediation of a site owned by the company in Linz (region of Upper Austria) and whose contamination dates back to World War II. The Commission found the state support to be in line with EU rules on state aid for environmental protection. In particular, it respects the "polluter pays" principle and does not result in overcompensation.
Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: “The EU generally welcomes aid for the remediation of contaminated sites as an important contribution to environmental protection, provided it is in line with our state aid rules. I am satisfied that the planned measure will contribute to the quality of the ground water in the region without unduly distorting competition."
The site in question is heavily contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and mineral oil hydrocarbons, which are the result mostly of air raids during the Second World War and post war demolition. A coke oven that involved the use of tar, benzol and other contaminating products started operations in 1942. These substances were usually kept in closed production circuits or were stored in tanks, but due to the destruction during and after World War II they have leaked into the ground.
The present measure is part of ongoing efforts on the part of Austria to encourage the remediation of inherited waste. While the aid falls under a scheme for remediation of inherited waste, which was approved by the Commission in 2008 (see case N 383/2008), the individual measure had to be notified to the Commission because the aid amount exceeds the ceiling set in the Guidelines for State aid for environmental protection (see MEMO/08/31), which in this case would be €7.5 million.
The Commission first assessed that the "polluter-pays" principle was respected and that the aid will not lead to overcompensation. Furthermore, the Commission came to the conclusion that the negative effects on competition and trade were limited, while the positive effects for the environment are considerable so that the overall balance of the measure is positive.
The current measure was preceded by a similar case of aid, a remediation of an Austrian landfill site in Brückl, which was contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons from the production of chlorides. (see decision N 197/2010)
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number N 135/2010 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.