This post merely to cross-refer to my thoughts on Pikamäe AG’s Opinion in Joined Cases C 73/22P and C 77/22 P Grupa Azoty S.A. et al v European Commission, over at prof Peers’ EU Law Analysis blog.
A boutique blog and legal practice on niche areas of the law. Recent developments in conflict of laws; international economic law; environmental law.
This post merely to cross-refer to my thoughts on Pikamäe AG’s Opinion in Joined Cases C 73/22P and C 77/22 P Grupa Azoty S.A. et al v European Commission, over at prof Peers’ EU Law Analysis blog.
On 15 May an Antwerp justice of the peace (effectively a first instance judge in ia neighbourly disputes) has issued a common sense, no nonsense judgment against 3M’s pollution for its PFAS pollution of the soil around its manufacturing site at the Port of Antwerp. (For background to PFAS aka per and polyfluoroalkyl substances see also my earlier post on applicable law). PFAS produced there were mainly used in fire extinguishing foam.
Bypassing the sluggish criminal law and public law investigations and enquiries, and in view of alarming levels of PFAS found in the family’s blood, two immediate neighbours at the site claim against 3M on the basis of what is effectively common law nuisance. Such a claim is one of strict liability: it does not seek to establish fault or negligence, rather it aims at addressing the imbalance in proprietary enjoyment.
The judgment reminds us that the historic roots of many an environmental law (think Rylands v Fletcher (1868) LR 3 HL 330 and later Cambridge Water Co Ltd v Eastern Counties Leather plc  1 All ER 53 ) are still good law despite the overwhelming body of local, regional, federal, EU and international environmental statutory laws.
3M (other than to internal civil procedure rules on the court’s jurisdiction) referred ia to its environmental permit and to its use of ‘state of the art environmental technologies; to the distinction between the statutory remediation duty on the one hand and the liability for pollution, on the other; to its voluntary phasing out of PFAS at the site, and to the soil remediation (negotiated with /imposed by the Flemish authorities) it will carry out ia on the claimants’ property ; to the inconclusiveness of data on long-term health impact; and to the need to at the least stay the case in light of ongoing criminal and public law investigations.
The judge held that claimants’ individual rights exist independently of public and criminal procedures and may be enforced separately, and that all four elements for the laws of nuisance are present:
Neighbourliness (the only element not contested by 3M);
Nuisance. For the existence of nuisance, the judge referred ia to statements aka ‘extrajudicial confessions’ made by 3M executives during hearings in the Flemish Parliament;
Excessive nuisance. The nuisance is also held to be excessive, with simple reference ia to clearly abnormal PFAS readings in claimants’ blood;
Attributable to 3M. Here, too, the judge holds straightforwardly: ia mapping ordered by the Flemish Government shows a clear concentration of PFAS on the sites run by 3M.
The judge concludes with a provisional statement of €2,000 damages for the reduced enjoyment by claimants of their property.
The judgment does not indicate the parameters to be used for final determination of damages. Early commentary on the judgment indicates a number of open questions, such as the parameter within which claimants can be considered to be ‘neighbours’, etc. It is clear that 3M will not just appeal, but will generally continue its approach of litigating each and every claim (of note is that Belgium’s collective proceedings provisions are not optimal, and moreover difficult to apply to common law nuisance cases) with convoluted legal reasoning and much distinguishing. Yet the judgment is appealing in its straightforwardness and no doubt inspiring to the many proceedings which, sadly, are en route in this sad episode of industrial ‘innovation’.
Harris ea v Environment Agency  EWHC 2606 (Admin) I fear is another case I let slip on the blog. It is a judgment which discusses to right to an effective remedy following the earlier finding in Harris & Anor v Environment Agency  EWHC 2264 (Admin) that the Agency’s allowing water extraction in three Sites of Special Scientific Interest was in breach of retained EU law, namely Article 6(2) Habitats Directive (measures designed to prevent the deterioration of habitats and species) and of the equally retained EU law precautionary principle.
The issue at stake in current case is the appropriate remedy, a classic challenge in judicial review cases in instances where the authorities have been found in breach of an obligation of effort rather than one of result. Those of us involved in climate litigation will appreciate the difficulty.
The Agency suggests the finding that there was a breach is enough of a remedy. Claimants disagree, seeking an order in the nature of  EWHC 315 (Admin) which the Agency says must be distinguished on the grounds that the regulatory requirements relevant to that order, they argue, is more prescriptive.
Johnson J holds  that ‘the claimants have not just a presumptive common law right to a remedy, but also a statutory right’, given Article 19(1) TEU’s right to an effective remedy. A mandatory order that the Environment Agency must formulate a plan is issued , a plan which must be produced within 8 weeks ; that deadline has passed at the time of posting], disclose that plan to claimants  and with the precise formulation of the order  being
“The defendant shall, by 4pm on 7 December 2022, provide to the claimants details of the measures it intends to take to comply with its duties under Article 6(2) of the Habitats Directive (“Art 6(2)”) in respect of The Broads Special Area of Conservation. The details shall include an indication as to the time by which the defendant intends to have completed those measures. It shall also include, so far as practicable, the scientific and technical basis for the defendant’s assessment of the measures that are necessary to comply with Art 6(2).”
More on the nature of the kind of orders judges may give to authorities is currently discussed in a wide range of environmental law, including climate law litigation. It is an interesting application of the nature of judicial review and trias politica..
Monash University, Law 5478 Strategic and Public Interest Litigation.
In Zenith Energy Amsterdam B.V. and Exolum Amsterdam BV v The Netherlands a Dutch judge last week rejected the challenge by fuel traders of the Dutch ban on export of fuels to non-EU (particularly Ecowas) countries of fuels falling short of the EU requirements under Directive 98/70. The Dutch Statute is the culmination of established Dutch studies of the sector (The Netherlands being a prime tank storage country) and of repeated EOWAS calls that the export causes issues on their territories.
A first test is the duty of care under the Dutch environmental laws, which in summary obliges industry et al to prevent and /or limit the environmental and public health impacts of their production. The judge [4.10] refers to the travaux and recitals of the Act which contains the duty of care, as having recognised the global, one might say ‘extraterritorial’ impact of Dutch and European industrial activities, and emphasises that the duty of care requires a dynamic interpretation in line with societal and technical developments.
In 4.13 the judge emphasises that Directive 98/70 does not harmonise export outside of the EU and that the Directive therefore does not impede national rules on export and in 4.14 the rule is said not to force duties upon third States who themselves have signalled the difficulties. The judge also explicitly refers to Urgenda and UNEP to emphasise that looking after the environment and public health elsewhere, is an expression of the State’s own duty of care. 4.16 ‘fuel leakage’ (the drug dealer defence: trade will just move elsewhere, Antwerp in particular) has not been made out on the facts, quite the opposite, the State can show that the majority of traders already export cleaner fuel from Dutch ports.
Of note is also that the judge, Vetter J, in commendable Dutch style, does not exhaust himself in the arguments, rather cutting straight to the chase.
A judgment of note. Geert.
A short note to refer to this post on the Wave News which focuses on third party litigation funding and how it might be used in climate change litigation, with input by Yours Truly. A good introductory summary of the opportunities and points of attention of third party funding generally, too.
In Bravo & Ors v Amerisur Resources Ltd (Re The Amerisur plc Putumayo Group Litigation)  EWHC 122 (KB) claimants, who live in remote rural communities in the Putumayo region of Colombia, seek damages from the defendant pursuant to the Colombian Civil Code, and in reliance on Colombia Decree 321/1999, in respect of environmental pollution caused by a spill (or spills) of crude oil on 11 June 2015. The claimants’ two causes of action are pleaded under the headings (i) guardianship of a dangerous activity and (ii) negligence. It is common ground between the parties that the oil spillage was the result of deliberate acts by terrorist organisation, FARC.
Steyn J yesterday held on preliminary issues, including statute of limitation. Defendant contends that the two year limitation period provided by relevant Colombian law re Colombian group actions (‘Law 472’), applies to the claim. Parties agree that in substance, Colombian law is lex causae per A4 and A7 Rome II.
Claimants rely on two points of English law and one of Colombian law. First, they contend that the relevant Article of Law 472 is a procedural provision within the meaning of A1(3) Rome II, and therefore it falls outside the scope of Rome II. I believe they are right but the judge did not. Secondly, they refute the defendant’s contention that this action should be treated as a group action under Law 472. Thirdly, even if they are wrong on both those points, they submit that application of the time limit of Law 472 would be inconsistent with English public policy, and so the court should refuse to apply it pursuant to A26 Rome II.
All but one links to case-law in this post refer to my discussion of same on the blog, with pieces of course further linking to the judgment. Apologies for the pat on my own back but it is nice to see that all but one (Vilca, where parties essentially agreed on the Rome II issue) of the cases referred to in the judgment all feature on the blog.
For claimants, Alexander Layton KC referred to Wall v Mutuelle de Poitiers Assurances and Actavis UK Ltd & ors v Eli Lilly and Co (where the issues were discussed obiter). Defendants rely on Vilca v Xstrata Ltd  EWHC 27 (QB), KMG International NV v Chen  EWHC 2389 (Comm), Pandya v Intersalonika General Insurance Co SA  EWHC 273 (QB),  ILPr 44 and Johnson v Berentzen  EWHC 1042 (QB).
My reception of the High Court’s conclusions in KMG, Pandya, and Johnson was not enthusiastic, and in my review of Pandya in particular I also suggest that the same scholarship relied on in this case, did not actually lend support to the defendant’s arguments, and I stand by that, too.
Hence Steyn J’s conclusion  that Article 15 Rome II
contains a list of matters which are ‘in particular’ to fall under the designated law, irrespective of whether they would be classified as matters of substance or procedure
that the provisions of article 15 of Rome II should be construed widely
in my view is wrong. (Note the linguistic analysis in  will be of interest to readers interested in authentic interpretation of multi-lingual statutes).
 The key question then is which Colombian limitation period applies to these English proceedings, which brings the judge to discuss  ff ia Iraqi Civilians v Ministry of Defence (No.2). Here the judge, after discussing Colombian law evidence, holds 
that this action has not been brought under Law 472, and it does not fall to be treated as if it had been brought as a Colombian group action. Therefore, this action is not time-barred pursuant to article 47 of Law 472.
Hence claimants lost the argument on Rome II’s procedural exception but won the argument on application of Colombian law.
 ff whether the limitation rule should be disapplied pursuant to A26 Rome II is discussed obiter and summarily, with reference of course to Begum v Maran which I discuss here. The judge holds A26’s high threshold would not be met.
Both parties have reason to appeal, and one wonders on which parts of Rome II, permission to appeal will be sought.
EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, ia para 4.80.
RWE’s case (seeking huge damages for the impact on its assets following the Dutch coal phase-out) under investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) continues I understand (I would also suggest it is problematic given the ECT’s fork in the road provisions), while Uniper’s will be dropped as part of its bail-out conditions. Yet this post is about yesterday’s first instance Uniper judgment and RWE judgment in the Dutch courts. I use the Uniper judgment for this post, the RWE judgment is not materially different as to its legal analysis.
Of note is first of all that these judgments are by the ‘commercial’ chamber at the Den Haag court, not an ‘environmental’ chamber. This might be relevant for those wishing to present the judgment as one of a maverick band of environmental crusaders.
RWE and UNIPER’s claims are based on ‘A1P1‘ (Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights) and Article 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, both of which protect the right to property.
[5.6] the court lays out the benchmarks (translation courtesy of DeepL and double-checked by me):
( a) is there “possession” (property)
( b) is there “interference,” that is, deprivation or regulation of the right to property?
If both these conditions are met, then the following requirements are examined:
( c) is the interference “lawful,” that is, provided for by law;
( d) if so, does the infringement have a legitimate objective that serves to promote the “general interest,” and
( e) if so, is there a “fair balance,” that is, a reasonable balance, between the requirements of the general interest and the protection of the fundamental rights of the individual?
The latter “fair balance test” is not satisfied if there is an individual and excessive burden on the person concerned.
[5.9] the State had argued that uncertain future earnings are not caught by A1P1 however the court [5.10] disagrees. The corporations have a long-term guarantee to use of the site, ia via a long-term lease. That the earnings might potentially not qualify as possessions, does not diminish the qualification of the guaranteed economic interest as ‘property’.
Interference, lawfulness and general interest are established each in one para [5.11 ff] , and did not seem to be the focus of much discussion even by the parties.
Fair balance is discussed extensively [5.14] ff. [5.15.3] the court qualifies the measure as regulatory interference and not de facto expropriation (the latter would have triggered guaranteed compensation rights). Even if electricity generation using coal will be phased-out, after the end of the transition period, Uniper will continue to have use of the site and has indeed already assumed such use in announced coal-free business plans.
The court then discusses the foreseeability at length, concluding [5.16.31] that although the Dutch Government frequently expressed support for modern facilities generating electricity using coal, this was always done with the caveat that that method had to be compatible with the Dutch climate commitments. [5.16.35] the ETS permit defence is dismissed.
[5.17.9] the court, having studies the various scientific reports presented to it, holds that there are most definitely alternative uses for the site. That their profitability is uncertain, is simply also a feature of energy markets as a whole.
[5.18] the court holds that the Dutch coal phase-out does have an effect on reduced CO2 emissions (carbon leakage is not accepted as being of much relevance to that conclusion). For the measure to be considered not the least trade-restrictive, the Dutch State is held to have a wide margin of manoeuvre and it is not established that the State gravely erred in opting for a coal phase-out [5.18.7]. The long transition period is held to substantiate enough room for compensation [5.19.6], again with reference to the volatility of market returns as being part and parcel of energy markets full stop.
Like the Dutch judgments eg in Urgenda, this judgment on protection of property rights viz GHG emission reduction policies, is likely to serve as an international benchmark. It can be appealed, of course.
Others will no doubt analyse Friends of the Earth Ltd & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy  EWHC 1841 (Admin) at much more length. I just thought I would pen down my thoughts when reading the judgment.
The case is a further judgment holding Governments to account for not addressing climate change challenges properly. The United Kingdom being a dualist country (all the more so following Brexit), the arguments do not much feature the Paris Agreement directly. Rather, claimants aim to hold Government to how Parliament said it should act in addressing climate change in the Climate Change Act 2008 – CCA 2008, and, additionally, through the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, whether or not in combination with the UK Human Rights Act. The core of the exercise and judgment therefore is one of statutory interpretation.
Of note first of all is that most of the claimants’ arguments were rejected and one assumes therefore that they will be seeking permission to appeal (just as the Government will).
The judgment kicks off with the oblique reference to trias politica. Holgate J  cites R (Rights: Community: Action) v Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government  PTSR 553 at : –
“It is important to emphasise at the outset what this case is and
is not about. Judicial review is the means of ensuring that public
bodies act within the limits of their legal powers and in
accordance with the relevant procedures and legal principles
governing the exercise of their decision-making functions. The
role of the court in judicial review is concerned with resolving
questions of law. The court is not responsible for making
political, social, or economic choices. Those decisions, and those
choices, are ones that Parliament has entrusted to ministers and
other public bodies. The choices may be matters of legitimate
public debate, but they are not matters for the court to determine.
The court is only concerned with the legal issues raised by the
claimant as to whether the defendant has acted unlawfully.”
And : judicial review in this case must not be merits review and the judge must adopt a ‘light touch’.
Starting with the ECHR arguments, there were summarily dismissed  ff. They engaged with Article 2 ECHR’s right to life, Article 8’s right to family life (these two being the classic anchors for environmental rights in the ECHR) and Article 1 of the first protocol (‘A1P1′)’s right to [protection of property. Holgate J holds that the claimants’ argument on the ECHR ‘goes beyond permissible incremental development of clear and constant Strasbourg case law’  and [269-270] that the Dutch Urgenda decision offers a narrow window of ECHR relevance to climate law which does not open in the current case (with  in fine an explicit warning that Dutch authority, it being a monist country, should not hold much sway in England and Wales).
A first ground discussed the role of quantitative v qualitative assessment and whether and the degree to which the Minister was to show the targets could be met quantitatively. The judge held that ‘the CCA 2008 does not require the Secretary of State to be satisfied that the quantifiable effects of his proposals and policies will enable the whole of the emissions reductions required by the carbon budgets to be met. The [statutory] obligation …does not have to be satisfied by quantitative analysis alone.’ .
However one of the grounds on which the challenge did succeed is the quality of the input for the Minister’s decision: this overall briefing was held to have omitted data the minister was legally obliged to take into account, and which was not insignificant. As a result the Minister failed to take it into account as a material consideration, so that his decision was unlawful (compare ).  the briefing was held to have been wanting, in that it failed to identify under the quantitative analysis the contribution each quantifiable proposal or policy would make to meeting the UK’s carbon budgets; and it failed to identify under the qualitative analysis which proposals and policies would meet the 5% shortfall for one of the carbon budgets and how each would do so.
 ff (where Holgate J does refer, albeit with statutory distinguishing, to relevant Irish cases), another partial ground is upheld namely that of proper information given to Parliament (and therefore also the public; both a sore point in the current UK Government) on the data reached for the Ministerial conclusion and data on the pathways for delivery themselves. : ‘contributions from individual policies which are properly quantifiable must be addressed in’ the report given to Parliament and hence the public.
The result therefore is important in terms of accountability and transparency (where unfortunately no mention was made of the Aarhus Convention which continues to apply to the UK), with the latter element also being inspirational for other jurisdictions where Governments have been told to go back to the climate change drawing board.
A brief note on Case C-165/20 Air Berlin in which the CJEU held that under the EU’s emission trading scheme, the number of greenhouse gas emission allowances allocated free of charge to an aircraft operator must, in the event of cessation of that operator’s aviation activities (here due to insolvency) during the period of greenhouse gas emission allowance trading in question, be reduced in proportion to the part of that period during which those activities are no longer carried out.
Of note is in particular the Opinion of Advocate General Hogan who earlier, in answering arguments with respect to property rights and the need for their protection under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, had opined (28) that
‘Given that the allowances in question were allocated free of charge pursuant to an EU legislative scheme and do not derive from the assets or occupational activity of an aviation operator, in this case Air Berlin, they do not constitute property rights which must be safeguarded by the Union legal order pursuant, inter alia, to Article 17 of the Charter’
‘The emissions trading scheme is simply a mechanism designed to incentivise certain economic behaviour (namely, the reduction of greenhouse gases). While the allowances could be and were traded, this was permitted in the context of undertakings otherwise engaging in economic activity (such as aviation) which perforce was liable to contribute to environmental pollution. It was never envisaged that these allowances could themselves be monetised independently of this economic activity or that they would be regarded as tantamount to a form of quasi-currency which could then be treated as a liquid asset in an insolvency.’
The Antwerp court of first instance (criminal section) has held last Friday, 25 June (I have copy of the judgment (in Dutch) on file) in the prosecution against CMB (an Antwerp based shipowner; specifically: Bocimar NV) and a number of individuals for the alleged illegal transport of waste, in the shape of the discarded ship the Mineral Water, destined for beaching at Chittagong, Bangladesh (the same location of relevance in Begum v Maran).
The Mineral Water was built in 1999, bought by CMB in 2007. A decision was made ‘end 2015’ (the judgment does not clarify specific date and /or circumstance of that decision) to sell her, with a view to recycling. That sale was approved on 19 January 2016 by Bocimar Board Decision, to a cash buyer based on the British Virgin Islands, when the ship was anchored at Fangcheng, China. Actual transfer of the ship happened at Malaysia a few weeks later. The ship’s registry was changed from Antwerp to Niue after the transfer and she was beached at Chittagong in February.
The case is a criminal prosecution which of course carries with it a high burden of proof. Seeing as the ship sailed under Belgian flag, the principled application of Belgian and EU law was not as such disputed. Neither do the original owners dispute that at the time of the January 2016 decision, the ship met with the definition of waste ia per CJEU Shell. However defendants argue the EU Waste Shipments Regulation – WSR does not apply for, they argue, the Mineral Water never sailed in European waters and was not physically exported from the EU with a view to recycling (p.5 in fine).
[The court later (p.8) notes this is not quite correct: occasionally EU ports were used for (un)loading and in 2015 there was rare bunkering at Malta].
The court held for the defence. Core to the decision is Article 2, 30 31 and 32: the definitions of ‘import’, ‘export’, ‘transfer’. The prosecutor seeks support in Article 2.22: ”country of dispatch’ means any country from which a shipment of waste is planned to be initiated or is initiated’. The court however held that neither the place of decision nor the flag State is of relevance to the territorial scope of application of the WSR. (Note the contrast on that point with the Ships Recycling Regulation – SRG 1257/2013, not applicable to the facts at issue).
One imagines more on that issue can and should be said upon appeal.
The countries of dispatch, transfer and destination of the ship are all ex-EU. Importantly, at p.8 the court notes there is no indication that the owners would have gamed the system to ensure the ship lay outside EU territorial waters at the time of the decision to discard.
The case shows the importance of the flag State in the SRG (itself not free of difficulties; the IMO Hong Kong Convention should avoid gaming). Of note is also that the place of decision-making (relevant for conflict of laws: locus delicti commissi, eg under A7 Rome II as discussed in Begum v Maran) did not play a role. The crucial element was the almost complete lack of physical contact between the ship and the EU.
One assumes the prosecution will appeal.
Handbook of EU Waste law, 2015, Chapter 3.