In C-15/19 A.m.a. – Azienda Municipale Ambiente SpA v Consorzio Laziale Rifiuti, Kokott AG opined mid-January. Her opinion relies heavily on the specific provisions which the Landfill Directive 1999/31 includes for what one could effectively call legacy issues in waste management: how does one roll-out stricter requirements, including with respect to polluter pays, unto landfill sites that were already in existence?
I shall not repeat said provisions for the Advocate General does so extensively. Suffice to say that her reasoned roll-out of the polluter pays principle (she puts the onus on the landfill sites’ operators; principles of legal certainty do not allow to charge those having deposited the waste at the site retroactively to pay for longer aftercare) is based to a large degree on the window which the Directive foresaw for Member States to close down sites whom they did not think could be expected to meet the new Directive’s stricter obligations before its lenghthy implementation periods; and on the fact that the operators of these sites, unlike the depositors of waste, can be expected to be properly au fait with its aftercare requirements and hence also of the proper amount of charges to be invoiced to users of the site.
Another good example of EU environmental /waste law not quite being the environmental zealot which its critics often try to make of it.
It is too readily assumed by many that general Member States’ obligations under the EU’s environmental laws are context only, and not really legally binding. In my Handbook of EU Waste law however I report on a number of cases where the European Court of Justice has rebuked Member States for having failed to take measures to attain some of these general objectives. These cases relate to waste law, evidently, however in other cases the Court’s case-law extends this to EU environmental law generally.
One can now add C-153/16 EC v Slovenia to this list. Slovenia had attempted to address the continuation of waste tyres storage and processing at an abandoned quarry, in contravention of an expired environmental permit. The company dug in its heels, ia via prolonged litigation, with storage and processing continuing.
The Court of Justice found that Slovenia had infringed the general duty of care provisions, as well as enforcement obligations of the landfill Directive and the waste framework Directive. (On the related issues with respect to hazardous waste, the Court found the Commission’s infringement proceedings wanting).
Not all that glitters is gold, of course. The direct effect of these general duty of care provisions remains an issue, as does the absence, arguably, in EU law of a duty of care directly imposed upon waste holders and processors. For that, citisens need to pass via national law wich as current case shows, is not always up to scratch.