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Law 4/2015, for the prevention and remediation of soil contamination in the Basque Country

It has recently been published this new Law 4/2015 regulating the prevention and correction of soil contamination in the Basque Country. This Law seeks to reduce administrative intervention, simplify administrative procedures and adapt the regulation in the Basque Country to some issues already raised in the Spanish Law 22/2011 on waste and contaminated soil.

Following is a short summary of the main news introduced by this Basque Law 4/2015:

  • Update of the inventory of potentially soil polluting activities or sites, within a maximum period of one year;
  • Classification of potentially soil polluting activities according to their potential of pollution, entailing different obligations in each case;
  • Establishment of different administrative procedures: statement of soil quality, statement of qualification for use of the soil or exempted soil (according to the different possibilities established by this Law);
  • New provisions and obligations for sites where waste disposal activities were carried out in the past;
  • Greater detail and attention to the water condition requirements to potentially contaminated waters as a result of soil contamination;
  • Establishment of a new system of taxes for different procedures regulated by Law; and
  • A new structure of the legal text that aims to provide greater consistency and clarity to the regulated contents.

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Legal text:

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Royal Decree 183/2015, amending the Environmental Liability framework in Spain.

Important amendments have been introduced by the new Royal Decree 183/2015 in the Environmental Liability framework in Spain (regulated by Law 26/2007 and Royal Decree 2090/2008):

  • Operators of activities with little potential to cause environmental damage and low accident rate are exempt from the obligation to subscribe an insurance policy covering its potential environmental liabilities and, therefore, are also exempt to conduct an environmental risk assessment. Thus, this insurance policy will only be mandatory for operators of higher risk activities (IPPC activities, SEVESO activities and certain mining wastes);
  • A new methodology for the calculation of the environmental risk, based on the calculation of an Index of Environmental Damage, and the quantification and monetization of the worst scenario identified. For this purpose it has been published the new Annex III (“Methodology for estimating an Index of Environmental Damage associated with each accidental scenario”);
  • The verification of the environmental risk assessment is not longer mandatory and it has been replaced by a “responsible statement” or affidavit from the operator of the activity. For this purpose it has been published the new Annex IV (“Minimum content of the responsible statement under Article 33”) where the operator of the activity must declare that the before mentioned assessment, as well as the subscription of an insurance policy, have been carried out in compliance with all requirements of the Law 26/2007; and
  • Different minor amendments of the regulation in accordance with the experience gained since the publication of the Law 26/2007 and the Royal Decree 2090/2008, in order to clarify, correct or delete certain aspects.

All these amendments will entry into force on 27 April 2015.

It should be noted that this new Royal Decree does not alter the obligation that all operators of activities included in the Annex III of the Law 26/2007 have to prevent, or correct if the damaged has been caused, all environmental damages. Therefore the aim of the Environmental Liability framework in Spain, based on the principles of prevention and “polluter pays”, is not altered by this new Royal Decree 183/2015.


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Official legal text:

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New Royal Decree 110/2015, on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

It has been published the Royal Decree 110/2015, that transposes into the Spanish legislation the European Directive 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

The aim of this Royal Decree is to regulate the prevention and reduction of adverse impacts of the generation and management of WEEE on human health and in the environment. It also identifies the Spanish goals for collection and treatment of this waste and the procedures for proper management, traceability and accounting. It repeals the Royal Decree 208/2005.

In accordance with Law 22/2011 on Wastes, this Royal Decree improves the efficiency in the use of resources and reduces the overall impact of this use, giving priority to preventing the generation of WEEE by preparing for its reuse, thereby contributing to sustainable development.

The Royal Decree 110/2015 applies to all electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) classified in the categories set out in its Annex III. In the Annex IV it has been published a non-exhaustive list of equipment falling within the categories set out in Annex III.

Key points of the new framework on WEEE in Spain introduced by this Royal Decree 110/2015:

- The establishment of a workgroup dependent of the “Coordination of waste” commission.

- The inclusion of distributors of electrical and electronic equipment as key element in the WEEE collection in Spain,

- The regulation and homogenization of the requirements for the authorization of WEEE treatment facilities throughout the Spanish territory,

- The unification of criteria for the authorization of collective systems of “extended producer responsibility” (this is one of the means of encouraging design and production of EEE which take into full account and facilitate its repair, possible upgrading, re-use, disassembly and recycling),

- Amendment of the categories of EEE (passing from the existing 10 categories today to 7),

- The obligation to large distributors/stores exceeding the 400 squared metres of sales area to collect very small WEEE,

- The distinction between EEE and used WEEE, and

- The provisions for the delivery of waste equipment by users to second-hand shops.


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New Decree 18/2015 on contaminated soils in Andalusia

The Government of Andalusia has published the Decree 18/2015 regulating the legal and technical criteria for the management of contaminated soils and the activities likely to cause environmental impacts in the soil. 

The decree establishes a list of potentially soil contaminating activities and the technical criteria for qualifying a contaminated land. It also regulates the specific powers of municipalities, including those relating to the declaration, delimitation, approval of remediation plans, or declassification of contaminated soils located in their municipalities.

Among the management tools, the decree establishes:

  • Two inventories, one of declared contaminated soils and another one for potentially contaminated soils;
  • The development of five-year programs with measures for the prevention and remediation of contamination in potential historically affected lands;
  • The obligation of the owners of potentially contaminated lands to submit to the authorities a request to start the investigation and/or remediation process. The corresponding work should be assigned to a company that will be different from the company responsible for certifying the results. In the event of sites where potentially contaminating activities have been carried out in the past the owner shall be obliged to submit situation reports when applying for licenses or permits for the establishment of an activity that supposes a change in land use.
  • The technical criteria to carry out the soil characterization and risk assessment, to determine the generic reference levels for different pollutants and the procedures for evaluating the sites concerned. In this sense, the decree defines contaminated soil as a soil whose characteristics have been negatively altered by the presence of hazardous chemicals in concentrations that imply an unacceptable risk for human health or the environment.

Soil investigation and remediation projects are governed since 2005 in Spain by national and regional regulations attributing responsibility for its implementation to polluters and, secondarily, to owners or tenants of the land.

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Link to the text published  in the Offial Gazette:


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2015 International Year of Soil

The 68th UN General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soils #IYS2015

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been nominated to implement the IYS 2015, within the framework of the Global Soil Partnership and in collaboration with Governments and the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The IYS 2015 aims to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.

The specific objectives of the IYS 2015 are to:

  • Raise full awareness among civil society and decision makers about the profound importance of soil for human life;
  • Educate the public about the crucial role soil plays in food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and sustainable development;
  • Support effective policies and actions for the sustainable management and protection of soil resources;
  • Promote investment in sustainable soil management activities to develop and maintain healthy soils for different land users and population groups;
  • Strengthen initiatives in connection with the SDG process (Sustainable Development Goals) and Post-2015 agenda;
  • Advocate for rapid capacity enhancement for soil information collection and monitoring at all levels (global, regional and national).


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Municipal asbestos inventory in the Basque Country

SENGEOS has conducted the municipal inventory of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) for the Basque town of Usurbil. Taking into account their date of construction there were investigated 300 buildings in the municipality, finding ACMs in 135 of them. Special attention has been paid to public buildings used by sensitive people as well as to the municipal drinking water network.

At the completion of the survey it has been submitted to the local authorities a report containing the findings and conclusions, recommendations for the proper management of the municipal issues related to asbestos and a digital inventory (GIS file). SENGEOS has made a public presentation of the results.

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Environmental Liability Law in Spain

The main amendments of the Environmental Liability Law in Spain (recently introduced through Law 11/2014), at a glance:

1. The term “environmental damage” is extended in order to include damages caused to the environmental status of marine waters.“Water damage” is now considered any damage that significantly adversely affects the ecological, chemical or quantitative status or the ecological potential of the waters concerned; or the environmental status of the marine waters concerned.

2. The scope of the Law now includes damages caused by public works of particular relevance promoted by the Spanish Central Government or by the governments of the Autonomous Communities (i.e. the different regions in Spain).

3. The amount that should be subject to a financial guarantee (i.e. insurance) will be determined by the operators according to the intensity and extension of the environmental damage that their activities may cause.

4. The minimum content of the insurance policy is now set in the Law.

5. The financial guarantee is now required, approximately, only to a 2% of the companies operating in Spain. However, for the rest of companies, the Environmental Risk Assessment is considered the best way to identify, assess, prevent and, if necessary, remediate any environmental damage.

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Catalan Law 9/2014 on Industrial Safety

On 6th August the Catalan Law 9/2014 on industrial safety of sites, facilities and products entered into force. This new Law at a glance:

  • The legal regime for approval of inspection bodies is replaced for another one based on the “statement of compliance” (i.e. affidavit).
  • Simplification of the requirements to act as an inspection body.
  • In the field of industrial safety the Law introduces different administrative provisions in order to simplify and reduce administrative burdens, as the use of the “statement of compliance” for certain documentation.

This law is applicable to:

  • The “Major Accidents” sites (i.e. sites included in the Seveso Directive);
  • The facilities and products that, due to its sources of risks, can cause damage or injury to persons, properties or the environment as a result of an accident; and
  • Operators of industrial safety and, more specifically, the control bodies operating in the technical regulations for industrial safety.

However, this Law does not introduce any new mandatory technical requirement for sites, facilities and products subject to technical regulations for industrial safety, or subject to European directives for technical harmonization of products.

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