Assessing risks under environmental responsibility law
Petrochemical companies, more so than others, must manage their liabilities with regard to environmental responsibility law. In Spain, the relevant regulation is the 26/2007 law of environmental responsibility and its subsequent amendments of the Directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage.
The law is aimed at preventing or minimising the potential environmental damage from any economic or professional activity, be it public or private. In addition to the principle of damage prevention, the law is also guided by the “polluter pays” principle which calls for payment of reparations. The regulation requires companies to conduct risk analysis to identify and assess accident scenarios that could lead to contamination and harm to flora and fauna as well as water or soil damage. For each scenario, the analysis needs to include the estimated environmental damage index (MDI), the probability of occurrence and the calculation of risk. Based on the criteria established by law, the companies also have to determine the amount of financial security to cover the environmental liability inherent in their intended activities.
Different methodologies such as UNE 150008 and ZHA can be used to perform risk analysis. Companies will find it beneficial to have a certified environmental management system (EMAS or ISO 14001 UNE) as this will make them exempt from the requirement to have financial security, provided it is less than two million euros.