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Environment & Climate Change
Civil law as basis for interpretation in cases of allocation of responsibility for environmental damagesSweden | 13 January 2020
In a case concerning the distribution of the cost of remediation of pollution caused by polychlorinated biphenyls, the Land and Environment Court of Appeal denied the operator compensation from the polluter for remediation costs. The case demonstrates that a civil law agreement can be deemed a relevant circumstance and be considered by a court when making its assessment of reasonableness regarding how costs for environmental damage should be distributed among joint and several liable operators.
The legislature has decided that official decisions which could have a major impact on future environmental conduct should be made at the political level rather than through a judicial review. Although there are benefits to politicians being accountable for decisions regarding businesses that have a significant environmental impact, it remains to be seen whether the legal uncertainty in this regard will inhibit the willingness of companies to expand into Sweden.
In a long and extensive environmental liability suit in Sweden, approximately 800 Chileans sued a Swedish mining company. The claim was based on the grounds that the mining company had exported toxic waste to Chile which subsequently caused damage to the plaintiffs' health. The case regards a potentially tortious act which occurred more than 30 years ago and poses the question of whether a company can be liable for environmental damage disclosed long after the tortious act has taken place.
A number of revisions to the Environmental Code recently entered into force. The new rules apply to operators of hydroelectric power plants and plants that originally intended to produce hydroelectric power. The legislative changes aim to provide hydroelectric power plants with modern environmental conditions and ensure efficient national access to hydroelectric power.
A Swedish district court recently ruled on a matter where approximately 800 Chileans had sued a Swedish mining company for damages, based on the grounds that the mining company had exported toxic waste which subsequently caused damage to the plaintiffs' health. The court held that the mining company was not liable for damages and the plaintiffs were obliged to pay the mining company's full litigation costs.
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 new Ordinance on Traffic Noise Levels in Housing Construction contains provisions on noise from rail, road and airport traffic. The main purposes of the ordinance are to harmonise the legal framework for construction and promote the construction of residential buildings in urban areas. The ordinance sends a clear signal that the legislature intends to fulfil the goals set out to promote housing construction in urban areas.
The Land and Environment Court of Appeal recently tried two cases concerning the interpretation of the EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds. Both cases concerned the construction of wind turbines in areas where birds protected under the directive live and breed. The central question was whether the construction of the wind turbines should be considered to be the deliberate killing of these birds, and therefore prohibited.
The Chemicals Agency has published new guidelines for suppliers of articles concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals duties to inform about candidate list substances. The new guidelines underline the importance for Swedish suppliers to comply with the Swedish interpretation of how to calculate the level of substances in an article.
One of the largest science infrastructure projects in Europe, the European Spallation Source (ESS), has been given the formal go-ahead to start construction on the outskirts of Lund, Sweden. The groundbreaking took place after permission from the Swedish Land and Environmental Court and the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. The environmental licensing of the ESS has given rise to a wide array of complex assessments.
A recent Environmental Court of Appeal ruling has clarified a property owner's liability for contaminated land. Such liability is subsidiary to the polluter's liability and comes into play when it is impossible to find the liable operator, or when the operator is unable to pay for or carry out the necessary remedial measures. The court has now established the scope of the subsidiary liability in relation to the specific time limit rule.
Target values for noise emissions from traffic and industrial activities follow authority guidelines and are not set by statutory law. Existing rules on noise pollution are believed to impede the building of new dwellings in Sweden, especially in urban areas where the demand is greater. In order to increase building, the government has decided to investigate the possibility of improving coordination of the existing regulations.
In a recent decision the Environmental Court of Appeal discussed the concept of operator liability and stated that in each individual case the person or entity which is the operator of the polluting activities must be considered. The decision established that, under certain circumstances, a parent company could be held liable for activities by its subsidiary which have caused contamination.