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Environmental Liability Directive

What is the Environmental Liability Directive and what does it require?

The Environmental Liability Directive external site (ELD) puts into practice the 'polluter pays' principle. Operators whose actions cause environmental damage are to be held financially liable for remedying this damage. This should mean operators take more care to prevent damage happening and are more likely to follow the precautionary principle.  Environmental liability applies alongside any prosecution for criminal offences.

The ELD was adopted in 2004.  In Scotland it takes effect through the Environmental Liability (Scotland) Regulations 2009 external site . Scottish Natural Heritage is one of the 3 competent authorities.

Operators are required to take preventative action in cases of imminent threat of environment damage, and to remedy environmental damage that they have caused.

What is environmental damage?

For the purpose of the Directive and the Regulations, environmental damage is damage to European habitats and species, to water ('status' under the Water Framework Directive) and damage to land that threatens public health. Only damage to habitats and species is considered here.

European habitats and species are those listed under two EU Directives and including:

(1) Birds directive  - birds mentioned in Article 4(2) (i.e. regularly occurring migratory species); listed on Annex I; and the habitats of these bird species; and

(2) Habitats directive  - animal and plant species listed in Annexes II and IV; the habitats of species listed in Annex II; the breeding sites or resting places or species listed in Annex IV, habitats listed in Annex I.

Lists of relevant European habitats and species known to occur in Scotland

Environmental liability applies wherever these habitats or species are affected. A habitat or species is considered damaged when an operation affects its favourable conservation status or its ability to maintain or recover to favourable conservation status.

The role of SNH

Scottish Natural Heritage, Marine Scotland and SEPA are the three named competent authorities.  On receipt of a plausible report from an interested party Scottish Natural Heritage must investigate potential cases of environmental damage to European habitats and species.  It will also support Marine Scotland and SEPA investigate cases where European habitats and species may also be affected.

Having established that there is environmental damage, Scottish Natural Heritage must take steps to require the operator(s) to avoid further damage to the conservation status of the habitat or species and to remedy any damage already done.

Reporting incidents

Any interested person or organisation may report environmental damage to the relevant competent authority.  If the authority considers the report plausible, it must investigate.

To report environmental damage to European habitats or species contact your local office of Scottish Natural Heritage.



Last updated on Wednesday 18th July 2012 at 08:50 AM. Click here to comment on this page