Environmental News and Data Services (ENDS)

MEPs take aim at EU soil directive

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The European parliament's rapporteur on a draft EU framework soil directive is proposing a significant softening of the European commission's proposals. Spanish centre-right MEP Cristina Gutiérrez-Cortines told the parliament's environment committee on Tuesday that a 'complete change' to the law is needed to give EU countries more flexibility in meeting its objectives.

Under her plans an obligation for member states to establish risk reduction targets for priority soil degradation areas would be removed. Member states would still be left free to decide which measures to apply to priority areas.

Ms Gutiérrez-Cortines also wants to remove an obligation on member states to identify potentially contaminated sites within five years. Instead, she says countries should merely establish within two years a system to identify such sites. There would be no deadline for identifying the sites themselves.

The Spaniard rejects a plan for soil status reports to be drawn up whenever sites where potentially polluting activities have taken place are bought and sold. She also opposes an obligation for governments to create public inventories of contaminated sites.

Although she supports a requirement to draw up remediation strategies for contaminated sites, Ms Gutiérrez-Cortines argues that member states should not have to take specific remediation measures if the costs are 'disproportionate', provided they restrict access to the sites.

The rapporteur's proposed dilution of the plans goes much further than that being considered by governments, who are also aiming to knock some edges off the European commission's original proposals (EED 20/07/07). The council of ministers' latest draft was circulated this week and is little changed from July (EED 20/07/07).

Nevertheless, Ms Guitiérrez claims that her amendments have support in the council and even the commission. In the debate several MEPs questioned whether an EU law is needed at all. Dutch Calvinist MEP Hans Blokland urged colleagues not to 'rush to legislate' and called for the legislation to be delayed until countries have gained more experience. 'At the moment we're all over the place', he said.

Courtesy of ENDS Europe Daily

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