Posts Tagged Precaution
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.
In C‑212/18 Prato Nevoso Termo Energy the CJEU held on the not always straightforward concurrent application of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) 98/2008 and the various Directives encouraging the uptake of renewable energy. It referred i.a. to the circular economy and to precaution.
On the face of it the economic and environmental benefits of the case may seem straightforward. Prato Nevoso operates a power plant for the production of thermal energy and electricity. It applied for authorisation to replace methane as the power source for its plant with a bioliquid, in this case a vegetable oil produced by ALSO Srl, derived from the collection and chemical treatment of used cooking oils, residues from the refining of vegetable oils and residues from the washing of the tanks in which those oils were stored. ALSO has a permit to market that oil as an ‘end-of-waste’ product within the meaning of relevant Italian law , for use in connection with the production of biodiesel, on condition that it has the physico-chemical characteristics indicated in that permit and that the commercial documents indicate ‘produced from recovered waste for use in biodiesel production’.
Prato Nevoso was refused the requested authorisation on the ground that the vegetable oil was not included in a relevant Italian list, which sets out the categories of biomass fuels that can be used in an installation producing atmospheric emissions without having to comply with the rules on the energy recovery of waste. The only vegetable oils in those categories are those from dedicated crops or produced by means of exclusively mechanical processes.
The argument subsequently brought was that the refusal violates Article 6 WFD’s rules on end-of-waste, and Article 13 of the RES Directive 2009/28. That Article essentially obliges the Member States to design administrative procedures in such a way as to support the roll-out of renewable energy.
The CJEU first of all refers to its finding in Tallina Vesi that Article 6(4) of Directive 2008/98 does not, in principle, allow a waste holder to demand the recognition of end-of-waste (EOW) status by the competent authority of the Member State or by a court of that Member State. MSs have a lot of flexibility in administering EOW in the absence of European standards. That the use of a substance derived from waste as a fuel in a plant producing atmospheric emissions is subject to the national legislation on energy recovery from waste, is therefore entirely possible (at 39). A13 of the RES Directive has no impact on that reality: that Article does not concern the regulatory procedures for the adoption of end-of-waste status criteria.
Nevertheless, the MS’ implementation of the RES Directives must not endanger the attainment of the WFD, including encouragement of the circular economy etc. and likewise, the WFD’s waste hierarchy has an impact on the RES’ objectives. A manifest error of assessment in relation to the non-compliance with the conditions set out in Article 6(1) of Directive 2008/98 could be found to be a MS violation of the Directive.
At 43: ‘It is necessary, in this case, to examine whether the Member State could, without making such an error, consider that it has not been demonstrated that the use of the vegetable oil at issue in the main proceedings, in such circumstances, allows the conclusion that the conditions laid down in that provision are met and, in particular, that that use is devoid of any possible adverse impact on the environment and human health.’ At 44: ‘It is for the national court, which alone has jurisdiction to establish and assess the facts, to determine whether that is the case in the main proceedings and, in particular, to verify that the non-inclusion of those vegetable oils in the list of authorised fuels results from a justified application of the precautionary principle.’
At 45 ff the CJEU does give a number of indications to the national judge, suggesting that no such infringement of the precautionary principle has occurred (including the reality that specific treatment and specific uses envisaged of the waste streams, has an impact on their environmental and public health safety). At 57: It must be considered that the existence of a certain degree of scientific uncertainty regarding the environmental risks associated with a substance — such as the oils at issue in the main proceedings — ceasing to have waste status, may lead a Member State, taking into account the precautionary principle, to decide not to include that substance on the list of authorised fuels’.
An important judgment.
Handbook of EU Waste law, 2nd ed. 2015, OUP, 1.166 ff and 1.189 ff.
Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post on e-collars, a short note on yet another trade and animal welfare /biodiversity case. In  EWHC 2951 (Admin) Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures v Secretary of State for the environment, food and rural affairs, Justice Jay (‘Jay J’ even though correct might sound a bit too intimate) upheld the UK’s planned ban on ivory trade, stricter than anything in place elsewhere. As a general rule, the Act interdicts the sale of antique worked ivory, that is to say pre-1947 artefacts, unless one of limited exemptions is applicable.
The discussion engages CITES, pre-emption /exhaustion by harmonised EU law, the environmental guarantee of Article 193 TFEU (albeit not, oddly, the issue of notification to the EC), Article 34 TFEU, and A1P1 ECHR.
On uncertainty, Justice Jay refers to the precautionary principle: at 155: ‘we are in the realm of scientific and evidentiary uncertainty, and the need for a high level of protection. §3.1 of the Commission’s 2017 Guidance makes that explicit. Although the evidence bearing on the issues of indirect causation and demand in Far Eastern markets may be uncertain, statistically questionable, impressionistic and often anecdotal, I consider that these factors do not preclude the taking of bold and robust action in the light of the precautionary principle.’
Rosalind English has analysis here and refers even to Edmund de Waal’s novel The Hare with the Amber Eyes which has been on my reading list after my wife recommended it – this is a good reminder.
EU environmental law (with Leonie Reins), Edward Elgar, 2018, p.28 ff., and Chapter 17 (p.308 ff).
Rather than blogging my own piece on this week’s CEPS study (in which no mention is made of the covert study supporting same), I am happy to reblog the analysis of one of the co-authors of my earlier paper on same. Excellent analysis with which I agree entirely.
K J Garnett
On the day before Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s new team was voted in by the European Parliament, an independent, Brussels-based, think-thank CEPS published their third report on the Innovation Principle : ‘Study supporting the interim evaluation of the innovation principle’. With von der Leyen promising to tackle climate change and promote a European Green Deal now would be a good time to examine whether the innovation principle fits in with this vision for greater sustainability or whether its true intention is to curb Europe’s strict environmental laws?
As lawyers we are familiar with general principles and those practicing European law are familiar with the fact that the EU applies a number of general principles : proportionality, subsidiarity, substantive & fundamental human rights, precaution,… Authority for the EU’s legal principles stems from primary law, typically the Treaties themselves or, more rarely, when the CJEU…
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Starting with the infamous and fundamentally flawed Laws of Fear by Cass Sunstein, Europe’s precautionary principle has been under constant attack by industry both within and outside of the EU. My postings on the principle here and the section on it in my Handbook of EU environmental law with Leonie Reins attempt to show that despite industry propaganda against it, the principle has never been a blind ‘when in doubt, don’t do it’ approach to risk management.
In C-616/17 Blaise and others, the Court once again shows its measured approach. Defendants in national criminal proceedings, argued that they should be let off in a criminal damage prosecution. They are environmental activists and are charged with causing criminal damage to containers of herbicidal products (specifically ‘Roundup’) containing the chemical glyphosate. In their defence, they argue that the products present an unacceptable potential risk to human health and the environment and that the EU approval process is defective and therefore unlawful.
The Court found that the approval process on the basis of EU law is entirely in line with EU law, including the precautionary principle. Steptoe have excellent overview here and I am happy to refer entirely.
EU environmental law (with Leonie Reins), Edward Elgar, 2018, p.28 ff.
A short update on the innovation principle‘s continued (corporate-sponsored, let’s be frank) journey.
Thank you first of all prof Maria Lee for signalling the UK’s planned introduction of an ‘innovation test’, to be piloted as part of industrial strategy. Its goal is expressed as ‘We will create an outcome-focused, flexible regulatory system that enables innovation to thrive while protecting citizens and the environment.’ Not much more detail is given. Formulated as such, it does nothing that the current EU regulatory model does not already address – its true goal undoubtedly is a post-Brexit libertarian regulatory environment.
Further, Nina Holland observed with eagle eyes the link between Nafta 2.0 (USMCA) and innovation, in particular Article 12-A-4 ‘parties’ “recognize the importance of developing and implementing measures in a manner that achieves their respective level of protection without creating unnecessary economic barriers or impediments to technological innovation’ (like the UK initiative: meaningless for already addressed by current international trade agreements; the real intention actually is deregulation). American industry has been arguing that the US should ‘build on’ the new NAFTA when negotiating with the EU (should TTIP ever be resuscitated).