Environmental Liability Directive – A Quick Summary
The Environmental Liability Directive 2004/35/EC establishes a framework based on the “polluter pays” principle to prevent and remediate environmental damage.
This framework aims at ensuring that the economic operator bears the financial consequences from harm or damage caused to the environment. “Environmental damage” is defined as damage to protected species and natural habitats, damage to water or damage to soil.
Two liability regimes are provided in the directive:
- Operators of certain activities listed in Annex III to the directive can be held liable in the event of environmental damage occuring.
- The second regime relates to damage to protected species and natural habitats caused by any activities other than those listed in Annex III.
Where environmental damage has not yet occurred:
- The operator shall, without delay, take measures to inform the competent authority of all aspects of the situation.
Where environmental damage has occurred:
- All relevant authorities should be informed, and all practical steps taken in order to limit further environmental damage.
- The operator is liable under the directive to bear the cost of the necessary preventative or remedial measures.
- The competent authority may initiate cost recovery proceedings against the operator within five years of the remedial measures having been completed.