Megan Thomas in First Environmental Damage Public Inquiry
September 25, 2014
Megan Thomas has represented Severn Trent Water Ltd at the first appeal ever to be heard under the Environmental Damage (Prevention & Remediation) Regulations 2009. These regulations enable the Environment Agency to hold an operator liable for environmental damage after a pollution incident.
Under the Environmental Damage (Prevention & Remediation) Regulations 2009, the Environment Agency can hold an operator liable for environmental damage after a pollution incident. There is an appeal process handled by the Planning Inspectorate and Megan Thomas, a senior planning and environmental law specialist, represented Severn Trent Water Limited at the first ever of these appeals on 23 September 2014 as Severn Trent were appealing against a notice of liability.
A manhole had been damaged by a third party and had caused sewage to discharge onto a Site of Special Scientific Interest. A clean-up operation took place immediately on discovery of the spill, and after the clean-up the Environment Agency served a regulation 18 notice on Severn Trent Water Limited as the operator of the sewerage system alleging that the spill had had an adverse effect on the integrity of the SSSI and therefore amounted to environmental damage as defined in the Regulations.
Ecologists acting on behalf of Severn Trent Water Limited did not accept that the integrity of the SSSI had been adversely affected by the spill and appealed against the notice.
Evidence filed included references to the European case of Sweetman & Others v An Bord Pleanala (ECJ case C-258/11, 11 April 2013) and whether the spill had had an adverse effect on the lasting preservation of notified habitats. The inquiry opened but the Environment Agency withdrew the notice as an out-of-court agreement had been reached between Natural England, the Environment Agency and Severn Trent Water Limited.