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.
This article summarises key amendments to Swiss environmental laws which either came into effect in recent months or will come into effect in the foreseeable future. Recent developments in this area affect, among other things, plant and water protection, chemicals, non-ionising radiation, energy and CO2 reduction.
Jersey's environmental legislation covers areas including water pollution, nuisance, planning, wildlife and waste disposal. Further, the minister for planning and the environment has the power to exercise enforcement in a number of ways. This system ensures that all development within Jersey is carried out in accordance with the local legislation and any specific conditions imposed by the minister. However, even with active and engaged enforcement, legislation can only go so far.
The National Agency for Industrial Safety and the Protection of the Environment in the Hydrocarbons Sector recently published NOM-001-ASEA-2019 (NOM-001) in the Federal Official Gazette. NOM-001's main aims are to establish criteria to classify the special types of waste produced in the hydrocarbons sector and establish which of these must be subject to a management plan, as well as determine the contents of special management and hazardous waste management plans.
The Constitutional Court recently dealt with a complaint by an electric vehicle owner who had exceeded an Air Immission Protection Act speed limit. The driver claimed that his vehicle emitted no air pollutants and that the emission-dependent speed limit did not apply to him. The court disagreed. In response to this decision, the federal government created a legal exception for electric cars. However, whether all federal states will introduce an exception to the act's speed limit for electric cars remains unclear.
In view of recent policy changes relating to hydrocarbons and gasoline distribution via pipelines, liability for the remediation of soil and water contamination derived from hydrocarbon spills and leaks at storage terminals and pipelines has become a hot topic. These policy changes have largely been aimed at tackling criminal activities that have contributed to soil and water contamination, such as fuel and hydrocarbon theft.
In October 2018 the draft National Biodiversity Framework (NBF) was published for public comment. Considering that South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world, the government, as custodian of the country's biodiversity, has implemented approximately 30 national strategies, frameworks and systems in the biodiversity sector. The NBF's purpose is to coordinate and align the efforts of the many organisations and persons involved in the complex interplay between these strategies.
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.
While the Federal Act on the Reduction of CO2 Emissions (CO2 Act) has had some success in reducing CO2 emissions, the average CO2 emissions of passenger cars have increased in recent years. As the existing law cannot sufficiently meet the ambitious goals of the Paris Convention, Parliament should agree on a revised CO2 Act that can provide for appropriate instruments to reach these goals.
The Danish Energy Agency estimates that Denmark must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by between 32 million and 37 million tons by 2030 to reach its EU climate goals. To this end, the government recently published a new proposal regarding climate and air policy. The proposal contains 38 specific initiatives and mainly addresses the transport sector, agricultural production, shipping and green transitioning in housing and industry.
Parliament recently adopted a new comprehensive environmental package comprising the Aarhus Participation Act, an amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act and an amendment to the Federal Environmental Liability Act. With the new package, the legislature has attempted to manage the difficult act of balancing the necessary legal adaptations of administrative procedural law with EU law and creating a business environment that is nevertheless competitive.
President Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has already published his environmental agenda, which sets out the objectives to be met and the strategies to be implemented during his six-year term. Under the agenda, a number of regulatory changes regarding air emissions, environmental impact assessments and coastal and marine zones will be introduced. In addition, Mexico will keep working towards its goals under the Paris Agreement and its administrative offices will undergo significant changes.
The Guernsey Financial Services Commission recently introduced the Guernsey Green Fund designation to provide investment managers with an opportunity to "assure investors that their investments are contributing to initiatives that have a positive environmental impact on the planet and in so doing inspire confidence that their investments are well regulated". The designation is available to registered and authorised schemes run in accordance with the Guernsey Green Fund Rules.
The government is working hard to achieve its climate goals and has set new milestones to implement a carbon price floor, a climate agreement and the Climate Act. Further, in a landmark judgment, The Hague Appeal Court recently ordered the government to do more to combat climate change. The appeal court's judgment is unprecedented and may serve as a wake-up call for other governments worldwide.
The Federal Supreme Court recently ruled on the allocation of clean-up costs where certain polluters are exempt from liability. For the first time, the court discussed the question of whether a contaminated site owner's exemption from liability leads to a corresponding additional burden on the polluter which, through its own conduct, caused the clean-up measures or whether the additional burden passes to the canton and the municipality.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) criminal office recently announced criminal charges against employees of an oil and gas operation for tampering with and disabling pollution controls and on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems on the company's truck fleet. The EPA and DOJ are expected to continue to shift towards mobile source enforcement, particularly regarding OBD systems.
Article 3 of the Law of Environmental Crimes constitutes Brazil's sole provision regarding legal entities' liability. This clause intended to help to increase legal certainty by restricting the circumstances under which a company may be held criminally liable to those where there is evidence of wilful misconduct by its senior executives or board. However, an examination of court practice shows that many federal and state prosecutors have failed to comply with these legal requirements.
The Constitution provides so-called 'state targets', which are broadly diversified and include state targets on sustainability. The approval procedure for the third runway at Vienna International Airport has prompted the government to strengthen Austria as a business location. This should be achieved by amending the Federal Constitutional Law on Sustainability which, among other things, contains a state target on creating comprehensive environmental protection.
In recent years, Mexico has seen the significant deterioration of its forest resources, making it one of the 10 worst countries in terms of deforestation. To combat this issue, the New General Law for Sustainable Forest Development was recently published in the Federal Official Gazette. The law is an attempt to focus Mexico's forestry regulation on better management of resources, while also safeguarding human rights and social involvement.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality recently published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register, seeking comment on how best to update its implementing regulations for the National Environmental Policy Act. The Trump administration has identified the National Environmental Policy Act process as a key contributor to slowing down infrastructure projects and has floated changes to it on several occasions.