Archive for category Environmental law – EU

Access to information: The Court of Justice acts to prevent water under the bridge in Client Earth.

Access to information ironically is subject to a myriad of rules and regulations at the EU level: some of a general nature (particularly: Regulation 1049/2001), some lex specialis (such as Directive 2003/35 and Regulation 1367/2006), but with a complex relationship between lex generalis and lex specialis. Add to the mix in the environmental field, public international law in the form of the Aarhus Convention and, well, what you get is an awful lot of regulatory intransparency. Leonie and I have made an attempt succinctly to summarise same in Chapter 5 of our Handbook on EU environmental law.

In C‑57/16 P Client Earth v EC, the CJEU’s Grand Chamber set aside a General Court judgment which had earlier sided largely with the EC viz two requests of information: the first of those requests sought access to the impact assessment report drawn up by the Commission on the implementation of the ‘access to justice’ pillar of the Aarhus Convention, while the second sought access to the impact assessment carried out by the Commission on the revision of the EU legal framework on environmental inspections and surveillance at national and EU level. Both were refused on the ground for exception provided in Regulation 1049/2001, that ‘access to a document, drawn up by an institution for internal use or received by an institution, which relates to a matter where the decision has not been taken by the institution, shall be refused if disclosure of the document would seriously undermine the institution’s decision-making process, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.’

The Grand Chamber essentially held that access should be granted: core of its reasoning is at para 92: ‘Although the submission of a legislative proposal by the Commission is, at the impact assessment stage, uncertain, the disclosure of those documents is likely to increase the transparency and openness of the legislative process as a whole, in particular the preparatory steps of that process, and, thus, to enhance the democratic nature of the European Union by enabling its citizens to scrutinise that information and to attempt to influence that process. As is asserted, in essence, by Client Earth, such a disclosure, at a time when the Commission’s decision-making process is still ongoing, enables citizens to understand the options envisaged and the choices made by that institution and, thus, to be aware of the considerations underlying the legislative action of the European Union. In addition, that disclosure puts those citizens in a position effectively to make their views known regarding those choices before those choices have been definitively adopted, so far as both the Commission’s decision to submit a legislative proposal and the content of that proposal, on which the legislative action of the European Union depends, are concerned.

Essentially: a true transparent policy process requires citisens to be able to impact the flow of the water before it disappears under the bridge.

EC Institutions continue to fight rearguard actions against transparency, which subsequently have to be addressed by the likes of Client Earth. The CJEU could not be clearer in highlighting the patch access to EU policy should continue to follow.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Environmental Law, first ed.2017, Chapter 5. (With Leonie Reins).

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Climate change litigation reaches the CJEU’s desk.

One can say many things about climate change litigation by individuals. (See my earlier piece on the Dutch Urgenda case). Many argue that the separation of powers suggest that governments, not judges, should be making climate policy. Or that international environmental law lacks the type of direct effect potentially required for it to be validly invoked by citisens. Others point to the duty of care of Governments; to binding – even if fluffy – climate change obligations taken on since at least the 1990s, and to the utter lack of progress following more than 25 years of international climate change law.

It is therefore no surprise to see that this type of litigation has now also reached the European Court of Justice: the text of the application is here, see also brief legal (by Olivia Featherstone) and Guardian background.

Like cases before it, colleagues shy of preparation materials for an international environmental law course, with comparative EU law thrown in, can use the case to hinge an entire course on.

As Olivia reports, the legal principles involved are the following:

The claimants state that EU emissions leading to climate change are contrary to:

  • The principle of equality (Articles 20 and 21, EU Charter)
  • The principle of sustainable development (Article 3 TEU, Article 11 TFEU)
  • Article 37 EU Charter
  • Article 3 UNFCCC
  • The no harm principle in international law
  • Article 191 ff TFEU (the EU’s environmental policy

One to watch.

Geert.

EU Environmental Law, with Leonie Reins, Edward Elgar, 1st ed. 2017, part I Chapter 2 in particular.

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Protreat: The end of Waste status of Waste lubricating oil; the waste hierarchy; and the absence of duty for Member States to issue regulatory guidance.

Does a Member State have any obligation at all, either generally or in case-specific circumstances, to provide guidance as to when a product derived from Waste lubricating oil – ‘WLO’ has or has not achieved end-of-waste status through either re-refining or reprocessing? And in the case at issue, was the UK’s Environment Agency correct in its classification of the treated WLO as still being waste, specifically: did the Agency unfairly favour waste oils recovery over material recycling?  These were the issues in [2018] EWHC 1983 (Admin) Protreat v Environment Agency in which Williams J evidently looked primarily to EU Waste law, the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98 in particular.

Among the many points of factual discussion is a review of the Member States’ duties under the Waste hierarchy: Protreat argue (at 67) that the Environment Agency, ‘as an emanation of the State, is under a duty proactively to direct its resources and use its powers to seek to ensure the result required by the Waste Directive. It is submitted, too, that the result required includes “the management of waste in accordance with the waste hierarchy set out in Article 4 of the Waste Directive”. According to the Claimant, this requires the Defendant to perform its functions, so far as possible, to ensure that waste oil treatments higher in the waste hierarchy “are more attractive than treatments lower in the hierarchy”‘.

Williams J is entirely correct at para 71 ff to hold that the hierarchy does not imply that its strict application in all circumstances is not always justified: indeed the hierarchy instruct first and foremost the best environmental outcome in specific circumstances.

That in and of itself makes regulatory guidance difficult to issue – and EU law in general does not impose any obligation to do so: at 81: ‘the terms of Article 6 and, in particular, paragraph 4 thereof, do not support the contention that the Directive imposes upon Member States a specific obligation to provide end-of-waste guidance whether in relation to the products of re-refining or the products of any other process of conversion of waste. The power to decide end-of-waste status “case by case in accordance with the case-law” would, no doubt, permit a regulator to issue guidance. I am not persuaded, however, that this language can be the vehicle for the creation of a specific obligation to issue guidance.’ (Sir Wyn also referred to Article 4 and Article 21 to support that analysis).

Reference to Luxembourg was requested but declined.

Geert.

 

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Micro and nanoplastics pollution. The European Union shifting into gear.

There are many scientific and legal /regulatory angles to the pollution caused by micro and nanoplastics (MNPs). I was pleased to have been invited to be part of a scoping exercise with the European Commissions Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, following which that Group issued its initial statement early July.

MNPs is an issue where the EU undoubtedly can recognise its regulatory leadership – at the same time appreciating that the challenge is of a truly global nature (many of the worst plastics pollution issues are located in river deltas way outside EU borders). At the scientific level, studies particularly in the marine environment show cause for great concern – but not necessarily easy fixes.

I accepted therefore to be part of the SAPEA Consortium (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) Working Group on MNPs, which will oversee in first instance the collation of the state of the art: from a regulatory as well as a scientific point of view – and subject to tight deadlines.

Autumn should be interesting.

Geert.

 

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Some data crunching on manufactured nanomaterials.

A short post on manufactured nanomaterials and data. (Readers will be aware that although the blog focuses mostly on litigation, I dabble in regulatory research and practice, too. And that nanotechnology regulation has been a consistent interest of mine).

Thank you Lynn Bergeson and Carla Hutton for flagging the study by EUON on data collection and reporting methodology for manufactured nanomaterials. EUON, the European Union’s Observatory for Nanomaterials, is hosted by ECHA – the EU’s Chemicals Agency. The study’s purpose is made clear on p.15 (only) of the report: the overall context is for the regulators to have an overview of the heterogeneous market for nanomaterials. In order to do so, the study measures the reliability etc of existing reports and studies on the nanomaterials market. It concludes that a Delphi study of the existing research would be required.

For those of you with an interest in information flows and the transparency of data, the implications are clear: part of the exercise of regulating new technologies is to know what is out there; and manufacturers’ data clearly are not making it into the public domain in a transparent and coherent manner. Consider alongside this report, for instance the proposed US EPA rule on transparency in regulator science.

Geert.

 

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Palin Granit down under. EPA v Grafil Pty and MacKenzie.

There are in fact many differences between Environment Protection Authority v Grafil Pty Ltd; Environment Protection Authority v MacKenzie [2018] NSWLEC 99 and the CJEU’s Palin Granit; and the regulatory context in NSW is quite different from the EU’s. My title therefore is a crowd pleaser rather than legally sound. Yet some of the issues are similar, hence justifying inclusion in the comparative environmental law /waste law binder (and a good teaser for the W-E).

Samantha Daly and Clare Collett have excellent as well as extensive analysis here and I am happy mainly to refer.

Defendants received materials from recycling depots operated by skip bin companies in Sydney. These materials were recovered fines which had been processed and recycled from building and demolition waste, for which there was no market for re-sale at the time (due to the high volumes of such material produced by the recycling industry). This material was trucked to the Premises by transporters from the recyclers and placed in mounds or stockpiles on the Premises.

Was there a stockpile of ‘waste’? Palin Granit considers similar issues in para 36 in particular.

Geert.

 

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Time to update the Waste Handbook. The circular economy package published. OJ [2018] L150.

One or two of you are aware I have written a whole handbook on EU waste law. That now needs updating as a result of the publication of the adopted ‘Circular Economy package’ – although implementation dates are some time off so if you do have a copy, do not discard it just yet.

The package includes amendments to the ELV, Batteries, WEEE, Landfill, packaging and packaging waste, and waste framework Directive.

I am hoping to write a paper on the package which will summarise the developments – watch this space.

Geert.

Handbook of EU Waste law, 2nd ed. 2015: all chapters 🙂 .

 

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