Most of the Danish environmental regulation is based on directives from the EU. The following will, in general terms, describe the major acts in the field of environmental law.
The Act of Physical Planning
According to this Act, regional authorities must decide how areas of land may be used. On the regional level, there are three different types of areas: 1. City areas, 2. Countryside areas and 3. Summerhouse areas. The local authorities must respect these gradings and plans when deciding what to use a specific area for.
Every time a project affects the environment substantially, an EIA must be made (Environmental Impact Assessment). The EIA is performed by the local authorities and describes the anticipated environmental effects of the project.
It is important to note that the EIA approval must be granted before the realisation of the project can begin.
The Act of Protection of the Environment
The purpose of the Act is to prevent and control pollution of the environment. The Act specifically aims at prevention and control of the pollution of air, water and soil, but also at the inconvenience of noise.
A number of businesses, plants and appliances have been listed by the Minister for the Environment on an exhaustive list, meaning that commencing these businesses, plants or appliances requires prior approval.
The businesses, plants or appliances recorded on this list are referred to as List Businesses. These List Businesses may neither be enlarged physically nor operationally without an approval.
Approval is granted by the local authority.
The local authority’s decision must be based on considerations on the general rules on environmental protection, the location of the List Business, the List Business’ activity and economy and other regulation focusing on the specific kind of List Business.
Act on Soil Protection
The scope of the Act covers soil which, due to human impact, may have a harmful effect on water, human health and the environment in general.
A central part of the protection of soil relates to the mapping of the polluted areas which is usually performed by the local authorities. The results of these mappings decide whether the soil may be used for habitation or business, or whether an order should be issued.
A polluter is obliged to follow an order issued by the local authorities. Typically, the order will demand that the polluter cleans the area. The owner of the polluted soil cannot generally be met with a claim to clean the pollution if the owner is not the polluter himself. This follows from the “Polluter Pays” principle.
The polluter is either:
The person who, with a commercial or public purpose, manages the relevant activity or uses the plant from which the pollution derives. The pollution or a part of it must be from that specific point of time, or
Other persons who may have caused the pollution through unreasonable behaviour or other behaviour that due to other provisions leads to liability.
Acts on Protection of Nature
This area of Danish legislation is specifically based on two EU directives, The Wild Birds Directive and The Habitats Directive.
Through plans made by the EU, the national and local authorities designate several areas to be habitats of wild birds and other animals. These habitats are typically located near lakes, rivers and beaches.
Within these designated areas, it is generally impossible to carry out projects which affect the environment. An example could be that a farmer is prohibited from emitting waste water into local rivers if the river runs into a designated area later.
When designated areas of land are already owned and used by a private owner, the owner has the right to compensation from the national authority.
The Act on Compensation for Environmental Damages
The Act regulates compensation for damages done against the environment, primarily in relation to air, water, soil and the underground.
Generally, no compensation may be granted for a non-financial loss unless special authorisation is provided by an Act.
By virtue of Section 2, no. 1 of the Act, compensation must be given for personal damages, including physical damages and loss of a provider.
According to Section 2, no. 2 of the Act, compensation must be given for damage to property caused by a pollution of the environment.
Section 2, no. 3 of the Act prescribes that compensation must be given for economic losses which exceed the character of what is expected in the certain area.
If the person injured had expenses due to prevention or avoidance of the pollution, these may be claimed according to section 2, no. 4 of the Act.
The degree of liability needed to cause obligation to pay compensation differs from the ordinary liability. Any person who, with a commercial or public purpose, manages an activity, or uses a plant from which the pollution derives, is responsible for the pollution. Therefore, a strict liability exists in the area of environmental pollution.
The above does not constitute legal counselling and Moalem Weitemeyer Bendtsen does not warrant the accuracy of the information. With the above text, Moalem Weitemeyer Bendtsen has not assumed responsibility of any kind as a consequence of a reader's use of the above as a basis of decisions of considerations.