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Constitutional Court’s judgement no. 218 of 20 October 2017: The “Environment” and the limits of the regional legislative power

Corte Costituzionale - Italia


With the Judgment no. 218, 20 October 2017 the Constitutional Court reaffirmed that Regions have to abstain to derogate in peius from the environment standards set by the national legislator.

The Constitutional Court, with the Judgment no. 218 20 October 2017, indicated the limitations of the regional legislative power in environmental matters.

The subject of the present Judgement is article 7, paragraph 2, with reference to Annex C4, point 7, letter f), of the Law no. 10 of the Veneto Region of 26 March 1999 (Disciplina dei contenuti e delle procedure di valutazione d’impatto ambientale) that provides screening procedures exclusively for secondary roads outside urban areas over 5 kilometers in length. Such provision is in clear conflict with “article 23, paragraph 1, letter c), and Appendix III, List B, point 7, letter g), of the legislative decree no. 152/2006 (the “Environmental Code”), that provides to make subject to screening procedure any secondary roads outside urban areas regardless of their size”.      

The Constitutional Court, seized of the case, has ruled the declaration of unconstitutionality of the above mentioned provision, “where indicates the exclusion from the screening procedure of roads outside urban areas over 5 kilometers in length”.

The Judgment reaffirms that the “protection of the environment”, in the context of the distribution of competences, is a cross-sectoral matter, where the Italian State has the role of establishing uniform environmental standards on the entire territory of the country. Regions may solely derogate from national provisions improving the protection standards, in order to provide for higher environmental standards, without prejudice on the balance of conflicting requirements identified by national legislator. The principles contained in the Environmental Code are minimum and essential standards to ensure the environmental protection over the national territory. Regions and autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano may derogate the Environmental Code provisions only by the adoption of stricter environmental requirements (article 3-quinquies of Legislative Decree 152/2006).

It must be pointed out that, while awaiting the Constitutional Court decision, both the size criteria contained in the Environmental Code and in the Regional Law have been modified (Regional Law no. 4/2016 has repealed and replaced Regional Law no. 10/1999 and the law, which is currently in force, provides for screening procedures – under the competence of the Provincia - for secondary roads outside urban areas without any size thresholds).

The Constitutional Court Judgment, however, is significant for the principle on the legislative competence of Regions and, as a consequence, on the primacy of the “environment protection” such that would require a vigorous national legislative power.

Link to the Judgement