(CN) – Members of the European Union can develop their own guidelines on holding polluters liable for environmental contamination and forcing them to clean it up, Europe’s top court ruled.
The ruling stems from three cases centered on the Augusta Roadstead region in Sicily, a hub for the oil industry that’s been exposed to environmental pollution since the post-World War II era.
Italian oil companies filed suit against national authorities seeking to decontaminate the area.
The Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that a “polluter pays” principle does not preclude national legislation to remedy contamination.
However, the country must establish a link between current operators and the pollution, give the operators an opportunity to present their case, invite landowners to submit their observations, and state the reasoning behind any decision.
The national authority is not required to establish fault for the pollution, but must investigate it, the court ruled. It may also condition continued operation of allegedly polluting facilities on environmental remediation, Europe’s high court concluded.