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Italy: New Measures to Respond to Environmental Emergencies

(Feb. 14, 2014) Italy’s Senate adopted a decree on “Urgent Measures Designed to Tackle Environmental and Industrial Emergencies and to Facilitate the Development of the Concerned Areas,” on February 5, 2014. (Legislative Decree No. 136 [hereinafter the Decree] (Dec. 10, 2013), NORMATTIVA.) The Decree aims to address the current environmental emergencies in the regions of Campania and Puglia, known as the “land of fires”(la terra dei fuochi) because of the extent of industrial burning there. (Una Regione in Fumo [A Region in Flames] [interactive map], La Terra dei Fuochi website (last visited Feb. 12, 2014.)

The Decree provides for urgent measures to guarantee the safety of agricultural foods in the Campania region and mandates that specified government agencies map agricultural lands,with the goal of determining the potential existence of contaminants caused by chemical spills and the illegal disposal of materials generated by combustion. (The Decree, art. 1(1).) The Decree creates an Inter-Ministerial Committee and a Commission with the task of identifying and implementing monitoring and oversight actions for the environmental protection of groundwater in wells in agricultural soil in the affected areas. These tasks are for both the Committee and the Commission. (Id. art. 2(1&2).)

The Commission is entrusted with the tasks of coordinating extraordinary and urgent remediation efforts in those areas, in the interest of public health, the environment, natural resources, and food production, and of providing a guarantee of continuity of remediation efforts already under way and overseeing the economic revitalization of those areas. (Id. art. 2(4).) It also appropriates funds for technical investigation in the region. (Id. art. 2(6) & 3(2(d).)

The Decree recognizes the pressing need to pursue more vigorous prosecution of those responsible for the unlawful combustion of waste. To that effect, the Decree creates the new criminal offense of “illegal burning of waste” and adds the aggravating circumstances of membership in organized criminal organizations and contamination of an area previously declared to be in a state of emergency. (Id. (1,3,&4).) The Decree empowers the Prefect of the Campania region to request the assistance of the armed forces for the enforcement of the new criminal provisions. (Id. art. 3(2).) Penalties include the confiscation of the means of committing the crime and any proceeds from it. (Id. art. 3(5).)

The Decree extends the disclosure requirements already imposed on the national Public Prosecutor in regard to the prosecution of environmental offenses, which are provided in the Environmental Code (Legislative Decree No. 271 of 1989, NORMATTIVA [search by decree number] and the Penal Code (Codice Penale, ALTALEX (Oct. 29, 2013)). (The Decree, art. 4.) It extends until December 31, 2015, the operation of the technical-administrative unit established for the current waste emergency in Campania and authorizes the use of extraordinary funds by the local governments of the Campania region to achieve the purposes of the Decree. (Id. art. 5(1&3).)

In addition, the Decree streamlines the procedures for the approval measures and activities for environmental and health protection in the concerned areas. (Id. 7(1)(a).) It also establishes a special procedure for authorizing the implementation of environmental and health protection measures in the area of Taranto. (Id. art. 8(1).)

Finally, to preserve businesses in the affected areas, the Decree empowers the special commissioners mentioned in a 1999 decree on “New Rules for the Extraordinary Administration of Large Firms in a State of Insolvency” to regulate, by agreement with the purchaser of the company or respective business units (subject to ministerial approval), appropriate management mechanisms to favor the preservation and continuity of business and employment levels pending the issuance of a bankruptcy decision by the appropriate court. (Id. art. 9(1); Legislative Decree No. 270 (July 8, 1999), NORMATTIVA.)