The Court of Justice on polluted sites: no obligation of repair by innocent owner

The European Court of Justice's ruling on the European Court of Justice (Sentence C-534/2013) of 4 March 2015 on the question referred to by the Council of State at the Plenary meeting, with reference to the obligations of the innocent owner relating to the securing and remediating a polluted site.

The Court, by joining the majority of national case-law, confirmed that the owner of a polluted area, if not the perpetrator of the contamination, is not bound to adopt emergency and remediation measures .

This interpretative solution was considered to comply with Community law and, in particular, with the "polluter pays" principle enshrined in art. 191 TFUE.

An essential prerequisite for the application of the liability regime established by EU Directive 2004/35 is the identification of a person who may be qualified as responsible for contamination, since the Administration has to establish the causal link between the alleged environmental damage and the alleged activity performed by the operator.

The innocent owner is therefore only required to reimburse the expenses incurred by the competent authority within the limits of the market value of the site determined after the execution of such interventions.