Commission to prosecute six countries over lax planning against major pollution accidents

The European Commission is to take Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal and Austria to the European Court of Justice over their failure to prepare for major industrial accidents involving dangerous substances.

Luxembourg, Ireland and Portugal have failed to communicate any legislation that complies with the Major Accident Hazards Directive, aimed at preventing major accidents involving dangerous substances. Germany, Belgium and Austria have adopted incomplete legislation, according to the Commission.

“Experience tells us we need to be pro-active in avoiding major industrial accidents,” said Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. “I therefore find it disturbing that six Member States are more than a year late in fully adapting their laws to this important Directive, which has as its central aim public safety.”

The Directive imposes obligations on companies holding dangerous substances, requiring information to be notified to authorities, and the preparation of a major-accident prevention policy, a safety report and emergency plans. Following accidents such as Bhopal, the Directive also sets out requirements for land-use planning and public information, as well as emergency plans for containing and controlling incidents in order to minimise their effect on people and the environment, and for cleaning up the environment.

Tom Kitt, Irish Minister for Labour Affairs said that regulations to implement the Directive are currently being finalised in consultation with the Parliamentary Draftsman’s Office and a copy of the latest draft has been sent to the European Commission as evidence of Ireland’s good intentions.

According to Kitt, Ireland currently has measures implementing a previous Directive on the prevention of major accidents. “The [new] Directive is extremely complex and required co-ordination among a number of concerned Departments and Agencies which has contributed to a very lengthy and detailed negotiation process.”

The deadline for adopting national legislation complying with the Directive was in February last year. According to the Commission, the decision to prosecute these countries is a mark of its determination to establish a common framework for preventing and limiting the consequences of major accidents involving dangerous substances.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie