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Environmental Damage Regulations

The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2009 implement the Environment Liability Directive in the UK.

Under these regulations, we are the enforcing authority for damage to protected species and habitats and to sites of special scientific interest in the sea, except where the damage is caused by an activity permitted under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010, or an activity authorised by the Environment Agency.

What is environmental damage?

Not all damage is classed as environmental damage under the Environmental Damage Regulations. In relation to damage to protected species and habitats, environmental damage occurs when one of the specified activities causes damage which has "a significant adverse effect on reaching or maintaining the favourable conservation status of the protected species or natural habitat".

In relation to damage to sites of special scientific interest, environmental damage occurs when one of the specified activities or any other activity where there is negligence or intent on behalf of the operator causes damage that has "an adverse effect on the integrity of the site (that is, the coherence of its ecological structure and function, across its whole area, that enables it to sustain the habitat, complex of habitats or the levels of populations of the species affected)".

The specified activities are:

  • operation of permitted installations
  • waste management operations
  • mining waste
  • discharges requiring authorization
  • water abstraction and impoundment
  • dangerous substances plant protection products and biocidal products
  • transport (of dangerous or polluting goods)
  • genetically modified organisms
  • transboundary shipment of waste
  • any other activity if there is negligence or intent on behalf of the operator of the activity.

Exemptions

The damage from the following is exempt from the Environmental Damage Regulations:

  • an act of terrorism
  • an exceptional natural phenomenon
  • protection from natural disasters
  • oil pollution from shipping
  • national defence
  • radioactivity
  • commercial sea fishing (provided all relevant fishing legislation was complied with).

Summary of MMO powers

Where an activity has caused environmental damage, we can notify the operator that they must submit proposals to remediate the environmental damage.

Where an activity is causing environmental damage, or there are reasonable grounds to believe that it will cause environmental damage, we can serve a notice on the operator of that activity, describing the threat and requiring them to prevent damage.

Where an operator cannot be found, or if the operator fails to comply with a notice, or in an emergency, we can:

  • take all practicable steps to prevent damage
  • carry out reasonable works to remediate the environmental damage.

We can also recover costs relating to enforcement and preventing or remediating environmental damage.