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France: Law on Environmental Liability

(Oct. 7, 2008) Law 2008-757 of August 1, 2008, on environmental liability, transposes Directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 21, 2004, on the prevention and remedying of environmental damage. The Law also implements articles 3 and 4 of the Environmental Charter contained in the Preamble of the 1958 Constitution, France's current Constitution. These articles specifically address prevention and remedying of environmental damage. The Law is divided into two titles.

In Title I, on the prevention and remedying of environmental damage, the Law states that the prevention and remedying of such damage should be implemented through the 'polluter pays' principle. The new liability regime applies to environmental damage to land, water, protected species, natural habitats, and natural resource services, that is to say the functions performed by a natural resource for the benefit of another natural resource or the public.

The Law does not apply to environmental damage caused by armed conflict, civil war, or insurrection; activities principally conducted in the interest of national defense or international security; natural phenomena of an exceptional, unavoidable character; or activities for which a liability regime has already been determined by an international agreement. The Law further provides for preventive and remedial measures to be taken by operators causing the damage and gives the conditions under which operators bear the cost of these measures. It sets forth a 30-year statute of limitations.

In Title II, the Law provides for stringent penalties for maritime pollution and addresses air quality, the fight against the greenhouse effect, biocide products, and waste. (Loi 2008-757 du 1er août 2008 relative à la responsabilité environnementale et à diverses dispositions d'adaptation au droit communautaire dans le domaine de l'environnement, JOURNAL OFFICIEL [France's Official Gazette], Aug. 2, 2008, at 12361.)