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Few E.U. members meet pollution law deadline

Few E.U. members meet pollution law deadline

BRUSSELS, Belgium—E.U. legislation relating to liability for damage to the environment came into force last Monday, but only three member states had complied with the requirement to transpose the directive into their national law.

Italy, Latvia and Lithuania are the only member states to have implemented the directive, which is the first E.U. law specifically based on the "polluter pays principle." It is designed to ensure that environmental damage is prevented or remedied, and that those who cause it are held responsible. Environmental damage includes damage to water resources, natural habitats, animals and plants as well as contamination of land which causes significant harm to human health.

European Commissioner for Environment Stavros Dimas expressed his dismay at the widespread failure of member states to implement the required legislation.

"I am very concerned that only three member states have transposed this vital legislation so far. If the others do not follow suit very soon, the Commission will have to consider starting legal action," he said.

Public authorities will be responsible for ensuring that responsible operators undertake themselves--or finance--the preventative or remedial measures. Public interest groups, such as nongovernmental organizations, will be allowed to require public authorities to act and to challenge their decisions before the courts.

The directive does not oblige operators to ensure coverage of their potential liabilities by financial security products, such as insurance, but member states are required to encourage operators to do so.