Use the Lexology Navigator tool to compare the answers in this article with those from other jurisdictions.  

Soil pollution

Liability

What regime governs liability for soil pollution (including the allocation, transfer and limitation of liability)?

Soil pollution is not comprehensively regulated at EU level. The protection and sustainable use of soil is regulated in measures, resulting in mainly indirect protection of soil – for example, through environmental policies on waste, water, chemicals, industrial pollution prevention, nature protection and biodiversity, nitrates and pesticides, sewage sludge, forestry strategy, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and biofuels.

EU legislation partly tackling soil protection includes:

  • the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC, as amended by Directive 2011/97/EU), which addresses the presence of toxic substances resulting from a land-filling operation;
  • the Environmental Liability Directive (2004/35/EC, as amended by Directive 2013/30/EU), which requests liable operators to undertake the necessary preventative and remedial action for a range of polluting activities; and
  • the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) (2010/75/EU), which aims to ensure that the operation of an industrial installation does not lead to deterioration in the quality of the soil.

The European Commission had proposed a Soil Framework Directive (COM/2006/0232 final) in September 2006 that aimed at filling this gap and providing a common strategy for the protection and sustainable use of soil. However, the commission withdrew the proposal in April 2014 as it had failed to be enacted after nearly eight years. The commission hopes to propose legislation on soil  again in the future.

Due diligence

What environmental due diligence measures are recommended before concluding land transactions?

As mentioned above, soil pollution is not comprehensively regulated at EU level. National and potentially regional rules need to be considered.

The EU legislation partly tackling soil (as noted in the section “Liability” above) includes:

  • the Landfill Directive, which addresses the presence of toxic substances resulting from a land-filling operation;
  • the Environmental Liability Directive, which requests liable operators to undertake the necessary preventative and remedial action for a range of polluting activities; and
  • the IED, which aims to ensure that the operation of an industrial installation does not lead to deterioration in the quality of the soil.

Remediation

What remediation and clean-up measures are typically applied and how can remediation costs be recovered?

Soil pollution is not comprehensively regulated at EU level. National and potentially regional rules must be considered.

Air pollution

Regulation

How are air emissions regulated? What air quality standards and emission limits apply?

At EU level, air emissions are primarily regulated by:

  • the Air Quality Framework Directive (2008/50/EC, as amended by Directive 2015/1480/EU), which:
    • sets up a regime for the monitoring and assessment of ambient air quality;
    • sets up an air quality management system using a series of environmental quality standards and targets; and
    • requires member states to draw up air quality plans and short-term action plans;
  • the Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU), which sets up a scheme whereby large-scale industrial installations must obtain permits in order to operate; and
  • the National Emission Ceilings Directive (2016/2284/EU), which has to be transposed into national law by 1 July 2018. This directive sets out 2020 and 2030 emission reduction commitments for five major air pollutants, and maintains other existing commitments.

Non-compliance

What are the consequences of non-compliance with air emissions regulations?

At EU level, the commission monitors member states to ensure that they closely adhere to the various targets and standards of EU law pertaining to air emissions. If a member state does not implement EU law, the commission may initiate an infringement procedure based on Articles 258 and 260 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

At national level, member states must enforce the EU rules, and enforcement procedures and sanctions are matters of national or regional law.

Water pollution

Regulation

What rules govern the discharge of wastewater and the protection of water resources?

At EU level, the discharge of wastewater and the protection of water resources are primarily regulated by:

  • the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC, as amended by Directive 2014/101/EU);
  • the Groundwater Directive (2006/118/EC, as amended by Directive 2014/80/EU); and
  • the Directive on Environmental Quality Standards (Water Policy) (2008/105/EC, as amended by Directive 2013/39/EU).

Non-compliance

What are the consequences of non-compliance with water pollution regulations?

At EU level, the European Commission monitors member states to ensure that they closely adhere to the various targets and standards of EU law pertaining to water. If a member state does not implement EU law, the commission may initiate an infringement procedure based on Articles 258 and Article 260 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

At national level, member states must enforce the law, and enforcement procedures and sanctions are matters of national or regional law.

Click here to view the full article.