Two new ministerial decrees regarding dredged sediment management were recently published in the Official Gazette: Ministerial Decree 172/2016 on the methods and technical standards for dredging operations in remediation sites of national interest and Ministerial Decree 173/2016 establishing the procedures and technical criteria for the disposal of dredged materials at sea.
The Council of Ministers recently approved a new regulation on uncontaminated soil and other naturally occurring material excavated in the course of construction activities. Under the regulation, different rules will apply depending on whether the soil and material will be used on the site where they were excavated or elsewhere.
During the past two decades, the precautionary principle has played a major role in shaping Italian environmental and safety policies which influence industry requirements. The precautionary principle requires that some action be taken to handle serious and identified environmental risks, and recent Constitutional Court and High Administrative Court decisions have addressed the problem of how to establish the level of environmental protection required.
Following a request for a preliminary ruling by an Italian administrative court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has declared invalid the maximum annual free allowances for greenhouse gas emissions set out in European Commission Decision 448/2013. The ECJ pointed out that the different language versions of the relevant provision establishing how the maximum annual amount of allowances should be calculated were inconsistent.
Decree-Law 105/2015 recently transposed the Seveso III Directive into Italian law. The decree-law makes no substantive changes to existing rules; instead, it aims to improve their coherence and clarity and improve coordination with EU legislation. The changes introduced include updating the list of chemicals covered by the directive and strengthening the rights of citizens to access information.
The Chamber of Deputies recently approved a package of measures promoting the green economy and the use of natural resources. The law contains rules promoting recycling and the reduction of waste. The re-use, reparation and exchange of goods are also encouraged, and companies which produce, market and sell or purchase goods made with recycled materials could receive government subsidies.
The Council of State recently made a clear stand regarding the duties of an owner of contaminated land that is not responsible for the pollution. The judgment focused on the case of a landowner who conducted commercial activities on contaminated land. The court affirmed that the liability of a landowner in this context cannot be based solely on its ownership, as the pollution cannot be attributed to that party for its individual actions or on the basis of objective criteria.
The Basilicata Regional Administrative Court recently ordered the Italian public administration to pay material damages to a company for unlawfully ordering the suspension of activities, finding that public authorities were responsible for material damages under the principle of non-contractual liability. This is an unusual decision in Italian jurisprudence; courts have traditionally been reluctant to award damages in similar cases.
In a recent decision in a case concerning the remediation of contaminated land, the Council of State explicitly welcomed the principle of proportionate liability in the event of contamination resulting from several responsible parties. The ruling represents a major change in interpretation: previous jurisprudence had instead adopted the principle of joint and several liability.
Italy has become one of the latest European countries to take strategic action in the global fight against climate change with the approval of the National Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change. The strategy responds to the broader goals set out in the European Commission's adaptation strategy package, with the aim of making Europe better prepared to withstand existing and future climate impacts.
The government recently approved a draft law that transposes the primary changes put forward by the EU Seveso III Directive on the control of major accident hazards involving harmful substances. In doing so, it makes a significant contribution to providing a high level of protection for citizens, communities and the environment throughout the European Union.
The Senate recently approved a new law on environmental crimes in line with the EU Environmental Crime Directive. The definitions of new crimes are a welcome addition to the corpus of environmental legislation, but the language used to codify them is arguably ambiguous. As a result, judges will play a key role in ensuring that the new law is applied in an effective and balanced manner.
The Liguria Regional Administrative Tribunal recently concluded that in the context of environmental damage, the polluter-pays principle cannot be invoked as the legal basis to oblige the responsible party to restore the safety of a site that is subject to environmental risks. The decision is significant because it carefully outlines the meaning of the polluter-pays principle.
Italy has a large amount of brownfield land which could be the ideal setting for foreign industrial investment due to its low cost. Recent amendments to contaminated land regime regulations, which aim to help investors that are willing to clean up brownfield sites in order to reindustrialise them, should make foreign investment in Italy easier.
The Court of Cassation has held that criminal liability for unauthorised waste landfilling persists after final closure and cessation of all landfill operations. Confirming the lower courts' decisions, the court held the defendant liable for illegally landfilling waste produced by third parties, which consisted mainly of excavated earth and rocks, in a limestone quarry.
Waste originating from shredding, sifting and packaging plants (STIR) must be considered as urban waste, albeit solely when its disposal must be managed. This was the conclusion recently reached by the Council of State in a landmark decision, which seems to resolve the relatively lengthy affair concerning the movement of STIR waste between regions.
Following a recent Council of State decision, Italian industrial operators may see their requests for environmental permits rejected on the grounds of international standards that have yet to find recognition at European level. The council confirmed a denial of environmental integrated authorisation on the basis of non-compliance with limits prescribed by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
More comprehensive rules on waste classification were recently introduced into Italian environmental law. Producers must now properly classify waste by labelling it with the appropriate European Waste Catalogue code before it has left the production site. However, although the new rules are broad in scope, they fail to provide specific guidance on a number of cases in which previous regulations or rules will apply.
Regional laws in Italy must respect the fundamental principles of the Constitution when making provisions on competencies or obligations pertaining to the regulation of electric installations. This is the conclusion drawn from two recent Constitutional Court decisions, which declared two regional statutes unlawful in that they failed to respect the constitutional distribution of powers between the national and regional governments.
Following a recent Court of Cassation decision, industrial operators in Italy may rest assured that they will not incur criminal penalties for causing emission-induced nuisance affecting or likely to affect the public under Article 674 of the Criminal Code, provided that they possess valid permits and operate within the emission limits established thereunder or by law.