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Société Électricité de France (Water: removal or modification of an authorization)
Type of document:
National - higher court
Date of text:
June 24, 2011
Data source:
Court name:
Conseil constitutionnel
Seat of court:
Jean-Louis DEBRÉ, Président, Jacques BARROT, Claire BAZY MALAURIE, Guy CANIVET, Michel CHARASSE, Renaud DENOIX de SAINT MARC, Jacqueline de GUILLENCHMIDT, Hubert HAENEL and Pierre STEINMETZ
Reference number:
2011-141 QPC
ECOLEX subject(s):
Legal questions

The Constitutional Council is asked to review the conformity of article L.214-4 of the Environmental Code with the Constitution. This article allows the removal of building permits on streams without compensation in the hypothesis of major threat for the aquatic ecosystem. The applicants claimed that this disposition does not comply with the contractual freedom and the principle of contractual stability (articles 4 and 16 of the 1789 French Declaration of Human Rights), and the right of property (art.2 and 17 of the 1789 French Declaration of Human Rights).

As regards the right of property, the change or the withrawal of authorizations can only be exercised without compensation in the situations enumerated in the provision questioned. Therefore, it judged that the scope of situations is strictly proportional to the objective of protection of aquatic environment and protection of public security and safety. The limits to the property rights are proportioned to the aim.

Regarding contractual freedom, these authorizations can only be characterized as unilateral acts and not as contracts. In addition, the legislator has not excluded the possibility of compensation, even in the exceptional situation where the modification of the withdrawal will lead to an exorbitant cost for its beneficiary.  Consequently, article L.214-4 of the Environmental Code complies with the Constitution.