POLLUTERS are now liable for environmental damage under new regulations which took effect in England on the 1st March 2009. The regulations, which have been delayed nearly two years after the EU Environmental Liability Directive, will be implemented in all member states.

The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2009, which introduce a general ‘polluter pays’ principle, apply only in England with separate measures introduced for the rest of Britain.

The regulations provide that those who carry out certain economic activities will be held financially liable for preventing environmental damage, or remedying it where the damage has already occurred. The regulations relate to damage done to land, water, protected species, natural habitats and sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs).

All businesses, as well as many charities and public sector organisations, will be affected by the changes.

Under the regulations, operators have a duty to inform the appropriate authorities when environmental damage has occurred, or if there is a risk that their actions could cause damage. The authority may then serve a notice stipulating the steps that should be taken to prevent damage or further damage. Anyone who is likely to be affected by the environmental damage has the right under the regulations to notify the relevant authorities.

Partner Ian Liddle says of the new directive,

“The new regulations will require firms to review their processes in order to deal with the additional liabilities. Firms will also have to check their insurance policies, as they may be ill-equipped to meet the challenges posed by the new legislation.  Businesses will be required to remedy damage that has already occurred by removing the risk to human health, or by restoring the environment to its original condition, either of which could prove extremely costly.

A potential defence against the strict liabilities could be if operating in accordance with an official permit, or if it can be proved that the damage was caused by a third party despite appropriate safety measures being in place.  Failure to comply with the regulations could leave businesses with a substantial fine and even a prison sentence”.

For help and advice, speak with a Commercial Lawyer at Farleys Solicitors LLP now, call 0845 050 1958 or contact us by e-mail.