Archive for category Environmental law – EU
In T‑574/18 Agrochem-Maks the General Court at the end of May upheld the Commission Regulation not extending market authorisation for the active substance oxasulfuron, a pesticide. The EC Regulation noted that EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, had identified a large number of data gaps resulting in the inability to finalise the risk assessment in several areas and that ‘in particular, the available information on oxasulfuron and its metabolites did not allow finalising the assessment of the overall consumer exposure, the groundwater exposure, the risk to aquatic organisms, earthworms, soil macro and microorganisms and non-target terrestrial plants’. Since ‘it has not been established with respect to one or more representative uses of at least one plant protection product that the approval criteria provided for in Article 4 of Regulation … No 1107/2009 [on plant protection products; see here, GAVC] [were] satisfied’, authorisation was not renewed.
The case at issue is brought by a small Croatian, family-owned company. That is a change from the classic pattern in this kind of cases, with large bio-agricultural industry routinely taking cases to the CJEU in laser-shoot fashion, hoping they might hit the target once or twice.
The General Court extensively outlines the procedure foreseen in the relevant EU laws, thereby identifying the core issue in near all of these cases held under the precautionary principle: the EU courts do not carry out a merits review; rather, they assess whether holes have emerged in the preparation of a decision, which could mean that the Institutions could not reasonably have come to the decision they came to.
That is no different here: at 62: ‘the EU Courts must verify that the relevant procedural rules have been complied with, that the facts admitted by the Commission have been accurately stated and that there has been no manifest error of appraisal or misuse of powers’. At 65, per CJEU T-13/99 Pfizer: ‘a scientific risk assessment carried out as thoroughly as possible on the basis of scientific advice founded on the principles of excellence, transparency and independence is an important procedural guarantee whose purpose is to ensure the scientific objectivity of the measures adopted and preclude any arbitrary measures.’
Specifically for current Regulation: at 66: ‘the burden of proving that the conditions for approval or renewal under Article 4 of Regulation No 1107/2009 are met lies, in principle, with the notifier.’ At 67 per CJEU T-584/13 BASF Agro: ‘it is the person seeking approval who must prove that the conditions of such approval are met in order to obtain it, and not the Commission which must prove that the conditions of approval are not met in order to be able to refuse it’.
The General Court then at length considers the procedure followed, including the reasons for the identified gaps, and then assesses the application of the precautionary principle to same: at 109 ff with reference to the 2000 Communication on the Precautionary Principle, COM(2000)1. Crucially, at 121, as noted ‘(u)nder Regulation 1107/2009 when the applicant words its renewal application, it bears the burden of proving the efficacy and safety of the substance in question.’ ‘Since it did not discharge that burden, the approval of the active substance could not be renewed.’
The case highlights once again the crucial nature of administrative compliance with the rulebooks under EU regulatory law. Many of us will have sat through presentations by EFSA or EC officials outlining the rules in excruciating and yes, not very sexy detail. Yet to follow procedure to a tee is crucial to ensure defence against corporations taking issue with the findings at the CJEU.
The case also emphasises the importance of burden of proof, as specified in the secondary law at issue and, preferably, the ‘no data, no market’ rule in EU regulatory law.
There might of course still be an appeal with the Court.
EU environmental law (with Leonie Reins), Edward Elgar, 2018, p.28 ff.
Kenyon: Court of Appeal emphasises again the discipline of the precautionary principle (here: in EIA proceedings).
Update 24 March 2020 thank you Gordon Nardell QC for pointing me to R (Merricks) v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry  EWHC 2698 (Admin), most probably the first case to consider the standard of review when an administrative authority applies the precautionary principle.
A quick note on Kenyon v Secretary of State for Housing Communities & Local Government et al  EWCA Civ 302 in which Coulson J checks planning consent ia against the requirements of the EU Environmental Impact Assessment- EIA Directive 2011/92. Of particular interest is his application of the Wednesbury judicial review test.
At 12: ‘A decision as to whether a proposed development is or is not likely to have significant effects on the environment can only be struck down on Wednesbury grounds’. ‘Wednesbury unreasonableness‘ is akin to CJEU standard of judicial review. Diplock J formulate it later as an administrative decision being annulled only if it was ‘So outrageous in its defiance of logic or accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question to be decided could have arrived at it.’ The grounds in Wednesbury are very akin to the CJEU grounds: annulment will follow only if (well summarised by Wiki):
- in making the decision, the defendant took into account factors that ought not to have been taken into account, or
- the defendant failed to take into account factors that ought to have been taken into account, or
- the decision was so unreasonable that no reasonable authority would ever consider imposing it.
Applied at issue at 63 ff to the precautionary principle, applicant’s argument that ‘inevitable air pollution caused by the development’ must be taken into account, fails. at 67: ‘In circumstances where there was no doubt in the mind of the relevant decision-maker, there is no room for the precautionary principle to operate.’ (Clearly and in applying all Wednesbury principles, that absence of doubt must have followed from the right information having been taken into account).
EU environmental law (with Leonie Reins), Edward Elgar, 2018, p.28 ff.
Confédération Paysanne, precaution and GMOs. French High Court issues its final ruling taking CJEU findings to their logical conclusion.
A short post to flag the French Conseil d’Etat’s final ruling in which on 7 February it held that organisms obtained via in-vitro mutagenesis techniques should be subject to GMO regulation and that consequently as EurActiv summarise the French authorities must update regulation to include such crops within six months, which includes identifying the agricultural plant varieties which have been obtained by these techniques and subjecting them to the assessments applicable to GMOs.
The ruling follows the CJEU’s mutagenesis finding in C-528/16, reviewed at the time on Steve Peers’ blog here and subsequently by KJ Garnett in RECIEL here. The ruling put agro-bio industry narrators in a spin but in essence is an utterly logical consequence of EU law.
Your regular waste law teaser. Upper Tribunal finds in Devon Waste Management that ‘Fluff’ is not being discarded.
In  UKUT 0001 (TCC) Devon Waste Management, Biffa and Veolia v Inland Revenue, the tax and chancery chamber of the Upper Tribunal discussed the classification of ‘fluff’ as waste. The fluff at issue is not the type one may find in one’s pockets (or, dare I say, belly button). Rather, the “black bag” waste material that is disposed of at landfill sites and used by operators as a geomembrane liner and geotextile protection layer.
As Constantine Christofi at RPC reports, (see also UKUT at 22) the first tier tribunal – FTT had earlier found that that the use made of the material disposed of was only an indicator of whether there was an intention to discard the material, and that use was not conclusive in determining whether it was discarded. In the view of the FTT, the use of such material as a protective layer was not sufficient to negate an intention to discard it as it was destined for landfill in any event and because there was no physical difference between that material and the other general waste disposed of at the landfill sites. The FTT therefore held that the disposal of the waste was a taxable disposal by way of landfill: not everything that could be characterised as “use” was sufficient to negate an intention to discard.
The FTT had (UKUT does not at all) considered EU law precedent. UKUT relied on English authority and overturned the FTT’s finding on the basis of the FTT having fallen into the “once waste, always waste” trap (at 74). In deciding like this, UKUT itself in my view may have fallen into the alternative ‘once someone’s waste not that of another’ trap. At 52: ‘An owner of material does not discard it, within the meaning of the statutory provisions, if he keeps and uses it for his own purposes’. Making use of materials for the site operator’s purposes connected with regulatory compliance, when they are deposited in the cell, is use that is necessarily inconsistent with an intention to discard the materials.
This arguably is the kind of single criterion test which when it comes to (EU and UK) waste law has been rejected.
I seem to be having my environment cap firmly on this week so I am happy to thank Le Monde for flagging the judgment of the French Constitutional Court 2019-823 of 31 January in which it sanctioned (against the wishes of applicants, the Union des industries de la protection des plantes, essentially Bayer, Syngenta, BASF) the Government’s ban on the manufacturing of and exportation of pesticides banned for use in France but hitherto available for export, mostly to Africa.
The case I would suggest is one that is also very suited to a business ethics class. Interestingly the Act also mentions that it applies to the degree it is not incompatible with WTO rules – the WTO is not addressed in the judgment.
Applicants’ case is grounded on the freedom of ‘enterprise’ or ‘commerce’, as expressed in the 1789 Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen – but also the Decret d’Allarde 1791. To the mix of objectives to be balanced, the Court adds the protection of public health (Constitutional recital, 1946) and the Environment Charter 2004, from which the court deduces that environmental protection, as common heritage of mankind, is a Constitutionally ringfenced objective.
At 6 the Court without much ado posits that the French Government in pursuing environmental policy, justifiably may take into account the extraterritorial environmental consequences of activities on French soil.
Having referred to the EU ban on the use of the substances at issue, based on scientific considerations discussed at length in the run-up to the EU law at issue, the Court at 9-10 refers to the principle that it should not overzealous in second-guessing the exercise by Parliament of its balancing exercise. At 11, it notes that the 3-year transitionary period gives corporations ample transitionary time in line with their freedom of commerce.
To the Court, it’s all very much self-evident. For environmental policy and extraterritoriality, its findings are quite relevant.
Update 6 July 2020 The Court held at the end of May (at the time of writing, an EN version is still not available). Given the mixed messages in the language versions of the Regulation’s Annexes, it gives priority to the international agreement which the Regulation is meant to transpose, ie the Basel Convention. From the statutory build-up of the relevant Basel Annex, it holds that mixtures of wastes cannot be classified under one of the relevant entries of the green list; and also that up to 10% impurities do not impact the classification.
In C-654/18 Interseroh Sharpston AG opined on 30 January, in answer to a German court wishing to ascertain whether a waste stream composed principally of paper products should be categorised as so-called ‘green’ waste and therefore subject to the flexible control procedure provided in the EU’s Waste Shipment Regulation 1013/2016. The referring court also asks whether such waste can still be categorised as ‘green’ if it contains up to 10% impurities.
The Regulation combines rules of purely EU origin, with a sometimes complex combination of OECD and 1989 Basel Convention rules. It generally employs a listing system with corresponding light signals (green and amber, previously also red) with the green list being the most desirable to exporters: these only require compliance with the same rules as ordinary commercial transactions.
Regardless of whether or not wastes are included on the list of wastes subject to the Green Control Procedure (Appendix 3 of the EU Regulation), they may not be subject to the Green control procedure if they are contaminated by other materials to an extent which (a) increases the risks associated with the wastes sufficiently to render them appropriate for submission to the amber control procedure, when taking into account the criteria in Appendix 6 to this Decision, or (b) prevents the recovery of the wastes in an environmentally sound manner’.
In the dispute at issue Interseroh collects used sales packaging (lightweight packaging) from private final consumers throughout Germany which it then consigns to recovery. It ships the prepared waste paper across the border for recycling in a paper factory in Hoogezand (Netherlands). New paper and new paperboard is produced from the waste paper. The Netherlands purchaser, ESKA stipulates that the waste paper must meet the following specifications. It should be composed of at least 90% used, residue-drained, system-compatible paper, paperboard or cardboard (PPC) articles and PPC-based combinations, with the exception of liquid packaging board including packaging parts such as labels etc. Also, the waste stream must contain no more than 10% impurities (‘the mixture of wastes at issue’).
The Dutch and German import cq export authorities differ as to the inclusion or not of the transported wastes at issue, with the Dutch taking a more relaxed approach on the basis of the Dutch version of the relevant Basel entry B3020.
- The Dutch version reads „De volgende materialen, mits deze niet vermengd zijn met gevaarlijke afvalstoffen:
Oud papier en karton:
– ongebleekt papier en karton of gegolfd papier en golfkarton; – overig papier en karton, hoofdzakelijk gemaakt van gebleekt chemisch pulp, dat niet in bulk is gekleurd; – papier en karton hoofdzakelijk gemaakt van mechanisch pulp (bv. kranten, tijdschriften en soortgelijk drukwerk); – overige, met inbegrip van: 1. gelamineerd karton, 2. ongesorteerd afval
- The German version: “Folgende Stoffe, sofern sie nicht mit gefährlichen Abfällen vermischt sind:
Abfälle und Ausschuss von Papier und Pappe
– ungebleichtes Papier und Wellpapier und ungebleichte Pappe und Wellpappe; – hauptsächlich aus gebleichter, nicht in der Masse gefärbter Holzcellulose bestehendes anderes Papier und daraus bestehende andere Pappe; – hauptsächlich aus mechanischen Halbstoffen bestehendes Papier und daraus bestehende Pappe (beispielsweise Zeitungen, Zeitschriften und ähnliche Drucksachen); – andere, einschließlich, aber nicht begrenzt auf: 1. geklebte/laminierte Pappe (Karton) , 2. nicht sortierter Ausschuss.
- The English version: The following materials, provided they are not mixed with hazardous wastes:
Waste and scrap of paper or paperboard of:
– unbleached paper or paperboard or of corrugated paper or paperboard; – other paper or paperboard, made mainly of bleached chemical pulp, not coloured in the mass; – paper or paperboard made mainly of mechanical pulp (for example, newspapers, journals and similar printed matter); – other, including but not limited to: (1) laminated paperboard, (2) unsorted scrap.
According to the wording of the German-language version, point 2 of the fourth indent covers ‘nicht sortierten Ausschuss’ (‘unsorted scrap’) and not ‘nicht sortierte Abfälle’ (‘unsorted waste’), as the Dutch Supreme Court held on the basis of the Dutch language version (‘ongesorteerd afval’). The term ‘scrap’ is not synonymous with the terms ‘waste’ or ‘mixture’. In addition, a distinction is drawn in the French language version between ‘mélange de déchets’ and ‘rebuts non triés’, just as in the English-language version between ‘mixture of wastes’ and ‘unsorted scrap’. The terms ‘scrap’ and ‘waste’ are therefore not synonymous. Since, in the Dutch language version of the heading of Basel Code B3020, the term ‘waste’ is not used, but it instead reads ‘papier, karton en papierproducten’, the term ‘afval’ in point 2 of the fourth indent in the Dutch-language version does not cover the entire entry, but only what does not come under the first three indents.
Specifically, on 20 May 2015, the Raad van State (Council of State, Netherlands) ruled in proceedings involving ESKA that a waste paper mixture, regardless of the presence of impurities, comes under Basel Code B3020. Accordingly, any such mixture of wastes constituted ‘Green’ listed waste and came within the list of wastes subject to the Green control procedure under Article 18 of Regulation No 1013/2006. It did so on the basis of the Dutch language version of Basel Code B3020. ESKA had previously been employing the stricter prior notification procedure under Article 4 of the Regulation.
Interseroh then brought an action before the referring German court seeking a declaration that it is entitled to ship the mixture of wastes at issue to other EU Member States in accordance with the Green control procedure.
Sharpston AG at 27 starts by pointing out that the shipments at issue are kosher commercial and regulatory transactions: at least 90% of the mixture is made up of what can be described generically as paper, paperboard and paper product wastes. The waste also includes a maximum of 10% impurities. This, in other words, is not a cowboyesque trafficking practice. She then explores the legislative history of the amended Annexes, paying less attention to the linguistic analysis perhaps than one might expect – object and purpose is, after all, a guiding principle in the interpretation of texts with seemingly diverging language versions. She concludes from that assessment (please refer to her Opinion itself; there is little point in me paraphrasing it here) that the lighter, green list procedure can only apply if the notifier shows with scientific evidence that the level of impurities does not prevent the recovery of the wastes in question in an environmentally sound manner. She also acknowledges at 72 (as the EC already did in its 2009 FAQs) that clarity on the issue is wanting: ‘establishing what is a tolerable level of contamination is a matter that is due (perhaps, overdue) for examination’. However given the lack of formal regulatory guidance on the issue, the Article 28 procedure of Regulation applies: where the competent authorities of the Member State of dispatch and the Member State of destination cannot agree on the classification of a particular consignment of wastes (and hence on whether the more flexible Green control procedure in Article 18 may be used), the Annex IV amber list procedure must be applied.
(Handbook of) EU Waste Law, 2nd ed 2015, Chapter 4.