For over a year now, the Environmental Liabilities Directive (ELD) has been officially under study. The European Commission is assessing how the 27 member states have implemented the directive since 2010. Bio Intelligence, a consulting firm from Paris, is undertaking two studies on behalf of the Commission: one the challenges and obstacles of the ELD and a second about the feasibility of an EU-wide industrial pollution fund.

Julien Bedhouche

Julien Bedhouche

June can be seen as some kind of intermediary stage before the Commission’s final report next year. Studies published at the end of May were the subject to an ELD stakeholder conference in Brussels on 11 June, which FERMA attended.

Eighteen member states have sent their reports on the enactment of the ELD into their legal systems, and 13 are acceptable at the moment, according Commission officer Robert Konrad from the newly created governance, information and reporting unit at the DG Environment.

Mr Konrad summarised the Commission’s hot issues for 2014 as follows: What is the harmonisation effect of the ELD and what are the options for future amendments if the Commission chooses to promote binding rules, rather than guidelines and best practice recommendations?

Overall, what we noticed at the conference is that member states have done a lot of work over the last three years. They have developed tools and guidance, and the numerous national or local authorities in charge of the ELD are just starting to discover its potential. According to Edward Lockhart-Mummery from the UK Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs: “It’s time to consolidate, not to introduce new changes. Focus on what’s working, and strengthen best practices.”

For FERMA, the other issues on the agenda are rather clear. First, there should be no move towards a mandatory financial security scheme if it’s not needed. Resources are scarce and voluntary systems are working well in some countries.

Second, regarding the Hungarian proposal of an industrial pollution fund, it was comforting to see now that it is universally regarded as impossible in practice. The range and scope of such a fund would require such tremendous resources in terms of staff, budget and time for political agreement that it would quickly turn into a “bureaucratic monster”.