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U.K. issues consultation on E.U. liability directive

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LONDON--The United Kingdom's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has issued its consultation paper on the implementation of the European Environmental Liability Directive (2004/35/CE) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The directive "strengthens the polluter-pays principle" for environmental damage, according to the DEFRA in a statement. Under the directive, companies that threaten or cause environmental damage will be held strictly liable for the prevention and cleanup of damage at their own expense, the government department added.

Minister for Climate Change and Environment Ian Pearson said: "We have always supported the principle that the polluter should pay for their environmental damage, but we must ensure this is done in a responsible and proportionate way. The consultation looks at how we can encourage businesses to better consider the risks of environmental damage their operations might pose, and to take steps to minimize those risks."

Mr. Pearson added: "It will be important to secure these changes in a way that avoids imposing unnecessary costs on business and which takes into account the overall environmental protection regulatory framework."

DEFRA expects that less than than 1% of the 30,000 incidents each year of environmental damage in the United Kingdom will fall within the scope of the directive.

The legislation will apply to damage occurring from April 30, 2007.

More information on the consultation paper is available at www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/env-liability/index.htm.

The deadline for comments is Feb. 16, 2007.