The European Commission has rejected Spain's request for Madrid to be granted another five years to comply with its maximum pollution limits.
EU legislation permits a maximum annual average of 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic meter. Madrid has failed to comply with the limit since 2010, when it was first introduced, and now faces sanctions.
"The Commission thinks that it is appropriate to make objections regarding the extension of the deadline for compliance with the annual and time value limit of nitrogen dioxide since the Spanish authorities have not shown the possibility of complying by 2014," reads the text of the decision, dated May 16, to which EL PAÍS has had access.
According to the time limit, maximum levels of nitrogen dioxide can only be exceeded 18 times a year. Madrid surpassed that at six monitoring stations in 2010 — one on 76 separate occasions.