The Basilicata Regional Administrative Court recently ordered the Italian public administration to pay material damages to a company for unlawfully ordering the suspension of activities, finding that public authorities were responsible for material damages under the principle of non-contractual liability. This is an unusual decision in Italian jurisprudence; courts have traditionally been reluctant to award damages in similar cases.
In a recent decision in a case concerning the remediation of contaminated land, the Council of State explicitly welcomed the principle of proportionate liability in the event of contamination resulting from several responsible parties. The ruling represents a major change in interpretation: previous jurisprudence had instead adopted the principle of joint and several liability.
Italy has become one of the latest European countries to take strategic action in the global fight against climate change with the approval of the National Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change. The strategy responds to the broader goals set out in the European Commission's adaptation strategy package, with the aim of making Europe better prepared to withstand existing and future climate impacts.
The government recently approved a draft law that transposes the primary changes put forward by the EU Seveso III Directive on the control of major accident hazards involving harmful substances. In doing so, it makes a significant contribution to providing a high level of protection for citizens, communities and the environment throughout the European Union.
The Senate recently approved a new law on environmental crimes in line with the EU Environmental Crime Directive. The definitions of new crimes are a welcome addition to the corpus of environmental legislation, but the language used to codify them is arguably ambiguous. As a result, judges will play a key role in ensuring that the new law is applied in an effective and balanced manner.
The Liguria Regional Administrative Tribunal recently concluded that in the context of environmental damage, the polluter-pays principle cannot be invoked as the legal basis to oblige the responsible party to restore the safety of a site that is subject to environmental risks. The decision is significant because it carefully outlines the meaning of the polluter-pays principle.
Italy has a large amount of brownfield land which could be the ideal setting for foreign industrial investment due to its low cost. Recent amendments to contaminated land regime regulations, which aim to help investors that are willing to clean up brownfield sites in order to reindustrialise them, should make foreign investment in Italy easier.
The Court of Cassation has held that criminal liability for unauthorised waste landfilling persists after final closure and cessation of all landfill operations. Confirming the lower courts' decisions, the court held the defendant liable for illegally landfilling waste produced by third parties, which consisted mainly of excavated earth and rocks, in a limestone quarry.
Waste originating from shredding, sifting and packaging plants (STIR) must be considered as urban waste, albeit solely when its disposal must be managed. This was the conclusion recently reached by the Council of State in a landmark decision, which seems to resolve the relatively lengthy affair concerning the movement of STIR waste between regions.
Following a recent Council of State decision, Italian industrial operators may see their requests for environmental permits rejected on the grounds of international standards that have yet to find recognition at European level. The council confirmed a denial of environmental integrated authorisation on the basis of non-compliance with limits prescribed by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
More comprehensive rules on waste classification were recently introduced into Italian environmental law. Producers must now properly classify waste by labelling it with the appropriate European Waste Catalogue code before it has left the production site. However, although the new rules are broad in scope, they fail to provide specific guidance on a number of cases in which previous regulations or rules will apply.
Regional laws in Italy must respect the fundamental principles of the Constitution when making provisions on competencies or obligations pertaining to the regulation of electric installations. This is the conclusion drawn from two recent Constitutional Court decisions, which declared two regional statutes unlawful in that they failed to respect the constitutional distribution of powers between the national and regional governments.
Following a recent Court of Cassation decision, industrial operators in Italy may rest assured that they will not incur criminal penalties for causing emission-induced nuisance affecting or likely to affect the public under Article 674 of the Criminal Code, provided that they possess valid permits and operate within the emission limits established thereunder or by law.
In light of the recent transposition of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive into domestic law, Italian legislation regulating the environmental effects of industrial installations has incorporated a number of noteworthy changes reflecting the latest EU standards on industrial pollution arising from industrial activities.
The precautionary and proportionality principles are considered the most important provisions of the Environmental Code. These two principles often collide, but recent court decisions suggest that a compromise can be reached by considering the proportionality principle as a tool to define both the level and pace of the precautionary measures to be adopted for possible environmental risks.
Those wishing to invest in Italy need to know the extent of their potential environmental liabilities in advance. When the investment involves the acquisition of an industrial area, the main liability to consider is site contamination. A preliminary investigation of soil and groundwater – as well as careful drafting of the environmental liability clauses in the contract – should be considered in order to prevent unwanted liabilities.
The Environmental Code contains several thresholds for industrial air emissions and wastewater discharges. In the past, compliance with such limits was considered the fundamental obligation of industrial plants. Although this is still the case, it is no longer sufficient. Recent cases have put emphasis on the full implementation of best available techniques as an indispensable prerequisite for any ongoing industrial activities.
As waste frequently needs preliminary treatment before ultimate disposal, questions arise as to where and when the original waste producer's duty of care ends. The courts have traditionally contended that such liability comes to an end when waste is accepted by the first treatment plant. However, a recent court decision took a different approach, which could lead to significant changes in waste producers' environmental management systems.
Both the economy and the environmental protection movement are highly globalised phenomena. In light of this, action must be taken to create conditions that facilitate lasting and environmentally sustainable investments in Italy, especially in view of Expo 2015, to be held in Milan. For this to happen, Italian companies should intervene and potential foreign investors should adopt the correct approach.
In January 2013 new rules concerning municipal solid waste taxation were introduced. However, some municipal waste management companies have retroactively recalculated the waste tax rate without regard for the mandated transition period, requiring higher rates for past years and thus violating the principle of non-retroactivity of taxes. A recent court decision has confirmed this retroactive application as unlawful.