The Arnsberg District Administration (defendant) granted Trianel Kohlekraftwerk GmbH & Co. KG a permit to build a coal power station. The Nordrhein-Westfalen branch of Friends of the Earth (plaintiff) brought suit in German court seeking an invalidation of the permit based on the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention). Specifically, the Aarhus Convention prohibited national laws that prevented nongovernmental environmental organizations from bringing judicial actions seeking to invalidate permits for projects that would have significant environmental effects. The Aarhus Convention was approved by the European Union (EU), and EU law required the laws of each nation to align with the Aarhus Convention. The German court found that German environmental law protected the interests of the general public but not individuals. The court thus stated that Friends of the Earth did not have the ability to challenge the permit under German law. However, the court believed that this restriction may violate the Aarhus Convention. Accordingly, the court referred the question to the European Court of Justice.