France:-  Policy and regulatory

Glossary Entry
France is a Republic divided into 26 regions and 101 departments (in 2011), 4 of which are overseas. 
Located in Western Europe, France has 3,427 km of coastline and is bordered, clockwise from the north,
by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Spain and Andorra. France covers
544,435 km² and has a population of 60,185,831. Paris is the capital of France.
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1.    GENERAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK

France has no specific legislation concerning contaminated sites. The only law for managing the remediation of soil contaminated by industry is the law of July 19, 1976 concerning Classified Installations (annulled and replaced in September 2000 by the Environment Act), and its decree of September 21, 1977 (see below).

The first text regulating installations that are sources of nuisances or risks was the imperial decree of October 15, 1810, "establishing three classes of factories and workshops that emit an unhealthy or offensive odour". The law of December 19, 1917 concerning dangerous, unhealthy and disruptive establishments revised these regulations by replacing the authorization required for the 3rd class with a simple declaration.

The law of July 19, 1976 concerning Classified Installations for the Protection of the Environment (the ICPE law) updated the 1917 law, notably by extending its scope to include all installations regardless of their legal status and strengthening the government’s powers of action. It was significantly modified by the laws of July 3, 1985, in particular, which notably increased penalties, of July 22, 1987 concerning major risks, of July 13, 1992 (2 laws) concerning waste and genetically modified organisms, of January 4, 1993 concerning quarries and of February 2, 1995 strengthening the Protection of the Environment. On September 21, 2000, it was assimilated into the Environment Act.

National policy and the measures to be applied are defined in circulars issued by the Ministry in charge of the environment to the Prefects of the departments (who represent the central government).

Two key documents are the circulars from the Ministry in charge of the environment of December 3, 1993 and of December 10, 1999, defining the major features of a national policy for contaminated sites.

2.     Circulars

December 1993 Ministry in charge of the environment circular to Prefects defining the general policy for contaminated sites. Major tasks in this document are:

  • Principles of a realistic soil remediation policy
  • Measures and tools to implement this policy - Investigation of contaminated sites and soil - Risk assessment and evaluation of site vulnerability – Setting up of a concerted information network at a regional level – Creation of a national inventory of contaminated industrial sites
  • Initial classification of contaminated sites

April 1996 Two Ministry of the Environment circulars to Prefects describing how to select top-priority industrial sites for conducting Preliminary Site Investigations and Simplified Risk Assessments.

 

Priority

Branches

1

Special industrial waste-processing and waste-recycling facilities

Production and storage facilities for chemical, petrochemical, carbochemical, pharmaceutical, and pesticide industries, gas works, coke plants, oil refineries

Hydrocarbon tanks and storage facilities

Iron and steel industry, plus non-ferrous metal processing and surface processing

Tanning and wood-treatment facilities

Crystal- and ceramic-processing industries

2

Thermal power plants

Secondary steel industry (blast furnaces), transformation of steel, mechanical industries, including repair and maintenance shops

3

Other industries

Figure 1 – High-priority branches according to the Ministry of the Environment Circular of April 3, 1996

June 1996 The Ministry in charge of the environment sends the Prefects administrative and legal instructions for the remediation of contaminated sites, in particular orphan sites.

September 1997 The Ministry in charge of the environment describes the chain of liability for the various actors in soil-remediation management (owner, operator).

December 1999 The Ministry in charge of the environment sends the Prefects a blueprint for defining remediation objectives.

3.    Framework laws

Other important regulatory documents that address contaminated sites are:

Law of July 15, 1975 concerning Waste disposal and material recovery. This law covers all aspects of industrial and municipal waste treatment, and the obligations of the producer and/or owner of the waste. All waste disposal installations require authorization.

Law of July 19, 1976 concerning Environmental permits for Classified Installations for the Protection of Environment ("ICPE" law). This law covers all environmental aspects of industrial activity, including waste management, and requires large facilities to be authorized (there are currently 68,000 large sites) and smaller facilities to be declared (there are currently 500,000 smaller sites). It also covers legal provisions for closing down industrial facilities and the discovery of contamination next to industrial plants.

Articles 1 and 2 list all of the categories of installations that might create a hazard or nuisance for the vicinity in terms of safety, public health, agriculture, environmental protection, the preservation of sites and monuments, based on a nomenclature of hazardous or nuisance-causing elements drawn up by decree by the Council of State (Conseil d'Etat). No distinction is made on the basis of the legal status of the installation. This nomenclature is broken down into two main parts: "substances and preparations" (headings 1000 to 1999) and "activities" (headings > 2000).

Installations whose impact on the environment is minimal must simply be declared. The operator submits to the Prefect a declaration specifying the nature of the future activity. The Prefect examines the declaration and gives the operator a receipt and the general prescriptions that apply to the category of activities concerned. Installations that present more serious risks or hazards cannot operate without an authorisation from the Prefect. The application for authorisation must include an environmental impact assessment and a quantitative risk assessment whose contents must be proportional to the predictable effects on the environment. The application must also include a non-technical summary and the applicant must specify his or her technical and financial resources.

The application procedure must include a public enquiry and consultations with the technical services, local councils and the departmental health and safety council.

The authorisation can be granted only if the technical prescriptions, drawn up according to the technical information submitted on the application concerning the activity in question and the use of the areas surrounding the installation and intended to prevent or reduce hazards, pollution and nuisance that the installation will create, are respected. The operator might, therefore, be required to install a water treatment plant, treat atmospheric emissions, limit noise levels, eliminate non-hazardous waste and take all necessary measures to prevent risks.

Law of January 1992 concerning Water resource management and protection ("Water law"). This law considers water resources to be an indivisible national asset. The main principles are that:

  • Water is part of the national heritage: its protection and withdrawal, and sustainable resource development are of general importance and therefore in the public interest.
  • National and balanced management of water resources is required.
  • Water resources (surface water, groundwater, seawater within territorial boundaries) must be protected from all contamination and their quality reclaimed in order to protect public health and the drinking-water supply, and for public safety.
  • Large-scale planning is required to prevent pollution: SDAGE (Schéma Directeur d’Aménagement et de Gestion des Eaux) or Water Development and Management Master Plans are being developed at the basin scale (with overlapping at the boundaries of administrative regions).

The main differences (mainly for historical legal reasons) between the "Water Law" and the contaminated-land policy (under the ICPE Law) are:

  • The Water Law focuses on water management and protection. Water resources, in particular groundwater, are considered to be potential receptors of contamination. This is due mainly to the intensive withdrawal of groundwater for drinking water supplies, groundwater accounting for 45 % to 98 % of the supply, depending on the region (average = 65 %)
  • Contaminated-land policy focuses on the industrial sources of contamination. Water resources are one of the four targets or receptors studied in the French risk–based approach to contaminated sites (along with public health, ecosystems, and structures). Here, the "fit-for-use" concept must be applied.

In some authorized areas (defined at the basin level as part of the SDAGE master plans - see above), the differences between the two approaches is minimal because the remediation objective is to obtain acceptable drinking-water quality (maximum acceptable concentrations).

Law of July 13, 1992 concerning Municipal solid waste management. The main objective of this law is to reduce the direct landfilling of municipal solid waste that cannot be further treated, for instance by thermal recovery (incineration) or composting. The law includes a tax on direct landfilling and regulates the sale of land to facilities that operate under authorization of the ICPE law (see above). In this case, the seller must inform the buyer of any possible soil contamination prior to the sale.

Law of February 2, 1995 concerning the Funding of orphan sites. This law regulates the funding of orphan sites by applying a levy on the treatment of special hazardous waste. This has been integrated in the General Tax on Polluting Activities (TGAP – see below).

Law of July 30, 2003 concerning Natural and technological risk prevention and damage repair. This law introduces new legal instruments to better anticipate future soil contamination problems and implement financial guarantee mechanisms in order to ensure the remediation of contaminated sites at the end of plant life. Two new decrees are currently under development for implementing this new law, one concerning financial guarantees, the other concerning the actions to be undertaken when closing a site.

4.    Key Documents

The French approach to contaminated-land management - Revision 1 BRGM/RP-52276-FR
http://www.brgm.fr/result/telechargement/telechargement.jsp?id=RSP-BRGM/RP-52276-FR

Law of July 19, 1976 concerning Environmental permits for Classified Installations for the Protection of Environment ("ICPE" law)
http://www.ineris.fr/aida/?q=consult_doc/consultation/2.250.190.28.8.157

Law of July 15, 1975 concerning the Disposal of waste and recovered substances
http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/texteconsolide/UPEAC.htm

Law of January 1992 concerning Water resource management and protection ("Water law")
http://www.ineris.fr/aida/?q=consult_doc/navigation/2.250.190.28.8.147/4/2.250.190.28.6.9

Law of July 13, 1992 concerning Municipal solid waste management
http://www.ineris.fr/aida/?q=consult_doc/navigation/2.250.190.28.8.145/4/2.250.190.28.6.9

Law of February 2, 1995 concerning the Funding of orphan sites
http://www.ineris.fr/aida/?q=consult_doc/navigation/2.250.190.28.8.137/4/2.250.190.28.6.9

Law of July 30, 2003 concerning Natural and technological risk prevention and damage repair
http://www.ineris.fr/aida/?q=consult_doc/navigation/2.250.190.28.8.107/4/2.250.190.28.6.9

5.    Useful Web Links

French Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and the Sea
www.developppement-durable.gouv.fr

Sites-Pollués - French portal for contaminated land
www.sites-pollues.developpement-durable.gouv.fr

Regional Directorate for Industry, Research and Environment
www.drire.gouv.fr

6.    Abbreviations

 

Abbreviation

Description

ICPE

Installations Classées pour la Protection de l‘Environnement

SDAGE

Schéma Directeur d’Aménagement et de Gestion des Eaux

IC

Installation Classée

TGAP

Taxe Générale sur les Activités Polluantes

7.    Key Technical Terms

 

Term

Description

Schéma Directeur d’Aménagement et de Gestion des Eaux

Water Development and Management Master Plan

Taxe Générale sur les Activités Polluantes

General Tax on Polluting Activities

Installation Classée pour la Protection de l’Environnement (abrv.:ICPE or IC)

Classified Installation for the Protection of the Environment (ICPE)

Installation Classée

Classified Installation

8.    Acknowledgement

Extracted from The French approach to contaminated-land management - Revision 1 BRGM/RP-52276-FR)
http://www.brgm.fr/result/telechargement/telechargement.jsp?id=RSP-BRGM/RP-52276-FR

 

Authors
Jean François Brunet
BRGM, France

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