In the mid-1980s a Swedish mining company exported toxic waste to Chile to be processed. In the 1990s the waste was allegedly used in building foundations and the high arsenic levels allegedly caused serious health issues to the local residents. Subsequently, close to 800 Chileans sued the Swedish mining company. The trial started in October 2017 after more than three years of preparatory proceedings. A decision is expected in early 2018.
The Land and Environment Court of Appeal recently determined a case regarding exemption from national provisions to protect the fungus species Sarcosoma globosum. While the ruling provides some nuance and clarification, the case has since been subject to interesting and varying interpretations by land owners, authorities and law practitioners.
The Cross-party Committee on Environmental Objectives recently presented its final report, "A climate policy framework for Sweden". The Climate Policy Framework is a result of a cross-party political agreement that will supposedly make the climate a top issue in all policy work. The report resulted in a draft bill which was circulated for consideration. The Council on Legislation presented its views on the new Climate Act in February 2017.
The Environmental Court recently rejected a farmers' organisation's appeal and refused to grant a new emergency authorisation for the use of Stomp SC in Sweden regarding the commercial production of onions. According to the appellant, the decision could jeopardise the competitiveness of certain Swedish crops on the European market, since Stomp SC is allowed in other EU member states and no equally effective alternatives are available in Sweden.
The Drinking Water Inquiry recently submitted its final report to the government. The aim of the report was to identify challenges to a secure drinking water supply from raw water sources to delivery, and to suggest relevant actions. The inquiry contains good proposals to improve planning and management of drinking water from source to tap. However, its future success relies heavily on the work of authorities within their appointed areas of responsibility.
The Federal Council recently published its dispatch regarding the total revision of the Federal Act on the Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions for 2021 to 2030. The parliamentary debate on the revision of the act will start in 2018. This will define the development and course of Swiss climate policy for upcoming years. Switzerland aims to tighten the act and reinforce its contribution to the limitation of global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Contrary to the EU emissions trading system (ETS), thus far the Swiss ETS does not incorporate aviation emissions. In order to align and link the Swiss and EU ETS, the Swiss system must include these emissions. As such, the Federal Council recently adopted the Ordinance on the Acquisition and Reporting of Tonne-Kilometre Data relating to Distances Covered by Aircraft.
Various amendments to Swiss environmental statutes and ordinances came into effect in 2016 or will come into effect in 2017. These new measures include certain amendments to the adjustments to the Ordinance on Movements of Waste, a revision of the Ordinance on the Protection against Non-ionising Radiation and amendments to the Federal Act on Forests and the Ordinance on Forests.
Swiss environmental laws provide for certain requirements to allow new building zones and new buildings in areas that are affected by noise. To assess compliance with these requirements, noise measurements are required. In a recent decision, the Federal Supreme Court decided that a widely used method of measurement – so-called 'ventilation-window practice' – is not compatible with legal requirements.
The Federal Supreme Court recently decided on the environmental liability of owners that make their property available to landfill operators in return for financial compensation. The court also held that the cost-bearing duty of the initial property owner did not transfer to the heirs and so they must therefore be released from any cost-bearing duty.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently issued a new policy in order to prohibit the department from using its civil enforcement authority to compel compliance with agency guidance documents. The policy has major implications for civil environmental enforcement actions, such as new source review cases and Clean Water Act matters in which the DOJ relies heavily on Environmental Protection Agency guidance documents to establish violations of law.
The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a guidance memo that reverses its interpretation of the 'once in, always in' policy, which locked a source into meeting the maximum achievable control technology standards for major sources of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The revised guidance may provide sources that no longer exceed the major source threshold with the opportunity to reduce burdensome monitoring, record-keeping and reporting requirements.
The Toxic Substances Control Act inventory reset process is now taking place. The reporting deadline for chemical manufacturers and importers was February 7 2018 and the deadline for all other companies that use chemicals is October 5 2018. Meeting these deadlines is important because a chemical will not be legal for use in the United States if it is not identified, reported (or subject to an exemption) and included in the active Toxic Substances Control Act inventory.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently issued an order rejecting North Dakota's bid to intervene to oppose an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) settlement. In 2015 the environmental groups sued the EPA in district court, alleging that the EPA had failed to undertake non-discretionary statutory duties periodically to review and, if necessary, revise its Resource Conservation and Recovery Act solid waste rules.
The California Supreme Court recently ruled that the charges that the city of Ventura pays to the United Water Conservation District for groundwater conservation activities are neither taxes nor fees that require approval by property owners or vote. This decision limits to some degree the ability of the municipal water supplier to set rates for water service and will have an effect on both agricultural and residential water users.