A Swedish refinery operator has applied for a permit to expand the capacity of its refinery in Western Sweden. The refinery is the largest in the Nordics and its expansion will give rise to increased greenhouse gas emissions, at least locally. The permit assessment has given rise to a question with potentially far-reaching consequences – particularly with regard to the Climate Act – which goes to the core of Sweden's centre-left government.
The Supreme Court recently clarified that Chapter 32 of the Environmental Code can be applied between contracting parties and that it is possible to derogate from those provisions and even exclude their application through contractual provisions. While this ruling confirms that a contracting party can safely rely on terms which modify the liability rules in the Environmental Code, it also highlights the importance of ensuring that such provisions are clearly worded and well understood.
In a case concerning the distribution of the cost of remediation of pollution caused by polychlorinated biphenyls, the Land and Environment Court of Appeal denied the operator compensation from the polluter for remediation costs. The case demonstrates that a civil law agreement can be deemed a relevant circumstance and be considered by a court when making its assessment of reasonableness regarding how costs for environmental damage should be distributed among joint and several liable operators.
The legislature has decided that official decisions which could have a major impact on future environmental conduct should be made at the political level rather than through a judicial review. Although there are benefits to politicians being accountable for decisions regarding businesses that have a significant environmental impact, it remains to be seen whether the legal uncertainty in this regard will inhibit the willingness of companies to expand into Sweden.
In a long and extensive environmental liability suit in Sweden, approximately 800 Chileans sued a Swedish mining company. The claim was based on the grounds that the mining company had exported toxic waste to Chile which subsequently caused damage to the plaintiffs' health. The case regards a potentially tortious act which occurred more than 30 years ago and poses the question of whether a company can be liable for environmental damage disclosed long after the tortious act has taken place.