Pouring waste oil into water or polluting the air would become criminal offences across the European Union under proposals put forward by the EU's executive body on Tuesday. The offences are already outlawed under EU law but, in many cases, offenders currently face only civil sanctions or must pay compensation.
Legislation proposed by the European Commission would ensure that the most serious breaches of environmental law would face criminal penalties when committed intentionally or due to serious negligence. EU member states themselves will decide the criminal penalties for breaches of the environmental rules.
"Experience has shown that the sanctions currently established by the member states are not always sufficient to achieve full compliance with Community law," a Commission memorandum on the proposals said. "There are still many cases of severe non-observance of Community law on the protection of the environment which are not subject to sufficiently dissuasive and effective penalties," it said.
Actions that would be criminal offences under the proposed legislation include: discharging waste oil or sewage sludge into water; discharge of waste on land or into water; killing of or trading in protected wild animals and plants; and seriously damaging a protected habitat.