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The European Community Environmental Legal System

February 1992

Citation: 22 ELR 10106

Issue: 2

Author: Roszell D. Hunter and Turner T. Smith

Editors' Summary: Serious environmental problems, rising environmental activism, and growing European Community (EC) power have produced important and ambitious environmental initiatives from the EC, as well as increased attention on the effective application of existing Community environmental law. The 1990 EC Commission report on the application of Community environmental law highlighted the inadequate and erratic implementation by member states of Community environmental law. As the EC moves toward an internal market without frontiers, however, Community-wide environmental law becomes increasingly important, and EC institutions attempt to tighten both EC legislation and member state implementation.

This Article outlines the anatomy of the EC and discusses the basis of EC power to adopt environmental measures. The authors first examine the EC's ability to legislate on environmental issues, the different legislative processes employed, and their effects on member states and implementation. The authors then survey the developing structure of Community environmental law by discussing and assessing the Community regulatory framework, including environmental impact assessment requirements, air protection regulation, water protection requirements, waste management legislation, chemical and dangerous substances regulation, and the quickly evolving civil liability regime in the Community. The authors conclude that Community law cannot be regarded independently of member state law and that growth of the Community environmental framework will continue as the EC moves toward the ideals of an internal common market.

Mr. Smith is the managing partner of the Brussels office of Hunton & Williams; Mr. Hunter is an associate in that office. Mr. Smith has co-edited a book entitled, Understanding U.S. and European Environmental Law — A Practitioner's Guide, and is Associate Editor of the Oxford Journal of Environmental Law. The practices of Messrs. Smith and Hunter focus primarily on advice concerning the effect of environmental law on business transactions and operations in Europe. The authors gratefully acknowledge the careful and intelligent assistance of Martine Blondeau, Law Librarian for the Brussels office of Hunton & Williams.

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