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Environmental inspections: minimum criteria
This recommendation sets, in a non-prescriptive way, minimum criteria for organising, performing, following-up and publishing the results of environmental inspections in all Member States with the aim of improving compliance and ensuring that EU environment legislation is applied and implemented more consistently.
Recommendation 2001/331/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 April 2001 providing for minimum criteria for environmental inspections in the Member States [Official Journal L 118 of 27.4.2001].
In their respective Resolutions of 14 May 1997 [EP 259.215/63] and 7 October 1997 [Official Journal C 321 of 22.10.1997], the European Parliament and the Council stressed the need to fix criteria and/or minimum guidelines for inspections performed in Member States and possible ways to enable Member States to supervise their implementation. This would foster greater consistency in implementing and applying environment legislation in the Member States.
This recommendation aims to meet this need by putting forward minimum criteria for organising, performing, following up and publishing environmental inspections. However, they are not binding on the Member States.
It covers environmental inspections of all industrial installations, companies and facilities subject to authorisation, permit or licensing requirements under current EU environmental legislation ("controlled installations").
Inspection entails the following:
- checking that installations comply with EU environmental requirements;
- monitoring the impact of installations on the environment.
The following actions are planned: site visits, monitoring compliance with environmental quality standards, inspecting environmental audit reports and statements, checking premises and equipment, checking the suitability of environmental management and of the relevant records.
The recommendation lays down a general obligation on Member States:
- to aim for a high level of environmental protection when organising and carrying out environmental inspections;
- to cooperate with the other Member States on an administrative level in applying the recommendation.
Member States will have to plan their environmental inspection tasks and have at all times at least one environmental inspection plan covering the controlled installations on their territory. Such plans may be drawn up at local, regional or national level and must be available to the public in accordance with Directive 2003/4/EC concerning freedom of access to information on the environment. They must include: an indication of the geographical area, the period and the sites they cover, information on updating the plans, programmes for routine inspections, procedures for non-routine inspections and a plan for coordination between the different inspecting authorities.
Environmental inspections will include routine on-site inspections by the authorities, which must:
- respect a number of minimum criteria (compliance with Community legal requirements, risk analysis based on an integrated approach which studies all the effects of the installation on the environment, enhancing the knowledge of those who run such installations as regards environmental requirements, coordination between the different inspection authorities involved);
- be mandatory in certain specific areas (enquiries carried out following environmental complaints, enquiries into accidents, incidents or infringement cases; checks carried out before authorising a controlled activity or before renewing authorisations);
- be recorded in reports which will be made available to the public in accordance with Directive 2003/4/EC.
Additional requirements are set for enquiries into serious accidents, incidents and infringements of Community legislation:
- to clarify causes, environmental impact, responsibilities and possible liabilities;
- to indicate the action to be taken to mitigate, end or prevent incidents;
- to allow for penalties and to indicate follow-up action.
Two years after the publication of the recommendation in the Official Journal, Member States will report to the Commission on how it has been applied. The results will be made available to the public. On the basis of these reports, the Commission will examine the functioning and effectiveness of the recommendation and will assess the case for extending the scope of the minimum criteria. It will submit a report to the European Parliament and the Council and, if appropriate, a proposal for a directive. The Commission must also, in cooperation with the European Environment Agency and the IMPEL network, draw up minimum criteria concerning the qualifications of environmental inspectors. Member States should develop the necessary training programmes.