The Environmental Damage Regulations aim to prevent and remedy damage to land, water and biodiversity. They reinforce the 'polluter pays' principle by making businesses financially liable for threats of damage or actual damage.
The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2009 were introduced on 1 March 2009 to implement the provisions of the European Commission's Environmental Liability Directive into law in England.
They are based on the 'polluter pays principle' so those responsible for environmental damage are required to prevent, and if needs be remedy damage, rather than the taxpayer. Obligations are placed on businesses - or 'operators' of commercial 'activities' in the words of the Regulations - to put in place precautionary measures to avoid environmental damage and to take remedial action if it occurs.
The Regulations aim to create an incentive to operators of activities that are likely to cause environmental damage to take steps to avoid environmental damage, and to possess adequate funds (e.g. insurance) to pay for the remediation or clean up of any environmental damage they cause. 'Environmental damage' has a specific meaning in the Regulations, and covers only the most severe cases. Existing legislation with provisions for environmental liability remains in place.
The Regulations apply on land in England, on the seabed around the UK up to the limits set out in the Continental Shelf Act 1964, and to waters in the Renewable Energy Zone, which extends approximately 200 miles out to sea.
Natural England is one of the enforcement authorities where there is damage to biodiversity. Our companion enforcers are the Environment Agency, local authorities and the Marine Fisheries Agency.
For further information including an in-depth Defra public guide, leaflet and text of the Regulations please visit the Defra website.