Legal persons to receive punishment for environmental infringements as well2016-08-01
Today has seen the entry into force of amendments to the Law on Environment Protection under which legal persons will be made liable as well. Until now legal sanctions with respect to legal persons for infringements of environmental protection and use of natural resources have not been regulated.
The Law on Environment Protection now contains a new special liability procedure for legal persons, in particular the rules on the identification and examination of environmental infringements and imposition of sanctions and a procedure for appealing against decisions. Financial penalties will be imposed by environmental officials, and the possibility to appeal against their decisions to an administrative court will be introduced. The law lays down 70 elements of the body of infringements such as infringements of the requirements for the management of waste and packaging, discharge of pollutants into the environment, infringements of the requirements for the management of chemical substances, infringements of the requirements for the use of natural resources, economic operations without a permit and infringements of the requirements for environmental monitoring and eco-labelling. Most of the infringements have been formulated when transposing the provisions of the European Union directives for establishing effective and deterrent sanctions. The penalties set for infringements by legal persons range from EUR 30 to EUR 150 000.
‘It is no secret that each offender always tries to avoid liability. Environmental officials have for years faced the problem where they have to punish workers for a company’s illegal actions, although workers claim they are innocent and were told to behave like that by the manager. You could make the manager liable, but it is often so that the manager has transferred the powers of ‘environmental responsibility’ to one of the employees. I have no doubt that the new legal regulation will solve similar problems, while the imposition of sizeable penalties on legal persons will cut the number of their infringements’, claims Minister of Environment Kęstutis Trečiokas.
According to its purpose and content of regulation, the Law on Environment Protection is an ‘umbrella’ document that lays down the basis for legal liability. Along with this law, a whole package of other legal acts has been approved to enlarge the powers of state environmental inspectors, state forest officers and officials of protected areas, harmonise legal concepts and precisely define the requirements that would entail sanctions on legal persons for their infringements. Taking the amendments to the Law on Environment Protection into account, the provisions of the Laws on Environmental State Control, Environmental Monitoring, Ambient Air Protection, Waste Management, Chemical Substances and Preparations, Marine Environment, Forests, Management of Packaging and Packaging Waste, Environmental Impact Assessment of the Proposed Economic Activity, Protected Areas, and the Underground have also been modified.