Environmental fines…à la carte

Environmental fines…à la carte

Environmental fines à la carte are promoted by the Ministry of Environment and Energy. The government changes the process of imposing fines for violations that harm the environment and links their amount to the turnover of each company. In other words, if two companies are caught for a similar environmental crime, the lowest fine will be imposed to the one with the lowest turnover, as well as to those which show shrinking income – something really common in Greece where the circulation of “black” money has not yet been controlled.

However, according to an amendment tabled to the energy efficiency bill, for anyone who causes any pollution or any other environmental degradation, depending on the severity, the frequency, the recurrence and the damage that the breach entails in the protection of the public interest,it  is provided by a simple written recommendation and by fines (from 500 euros up to 5,000,000 euros), until the temporary or permanent cessation of the operation of a business. However, the fines imposed to the companies that pollute the environment are distributed according to the category of the violation, as follows:

(a) for minor offenses, the fine shall not exceed 0.5% of the annual turnover (gross revenue) and may range from 500 euros to 50,000 euros;

(b) for infringements of moderate severity, the fine shall not exceed 1.5% of the annual turnover and shall range from  10,000 euros to 200,000euros ;

(c) for serious infringements, the fine shall not exceed 6% of the annual gross revenue and shall range from 40,000 euros to 800,000 euros;

d) for very serious infringements, the fine shall not exceed 10% of the turnover and shall range from 100,000 euros to 5,000,000 euros.

In case of recurrence, the percentages on the company’s turnover will double. The percentage criterion will not apply to projects and activities that do not have economic nature. The payment or regulation of final administrative sanctions imposed for environmental violations will be a condition for the granting of a state grant for a project or activity or for its inclusion in a state aid scheme.

As for the four categories of violations, they will be specified later on by a Ministerial Decision. It is also noteworthy that the limits of administrative fines (minimum and maximum) and any other details regarding their imposition can be adjusted by a joint decision of the Ministers of Finance and the Ministers of Environment and Energy.

Who will impose the fines?

Fines and penalties will be imposed on the recommendation of the services or competent bodies, as follows:

a) From the relevant Head of the Region, if the amount of the fine is up to 200,000 euros.

b) By the Decentralized Administration Coordinator, if the fine ranges between 200,000 euros up to 500,000 euros.

c) From the competent body of the Ministry of Environment and Energy, if the amount of the fine exceeds 500,000 euros.

In case of imposition of a fine, after an environmental inspection carried out by the General Directorate of the Body of Inspectors and Auditors of RIS, regardless of the amount of the fine, the decision will be issued by the competent body of the ministry.

What businesses are threatened with a cessation of operations?

If a business or activity causes environmental degradation, it may be temporarily banned from operating until the appropriate measures are taken to prevent pollution. At the same time, it may be fined, equal to twice the daily gross operating income and at least 500 euros for each day of violation of the ban.

The competent Head of the Region will have the right to impose a permanent cessation of operation of the company, if it does not comply with the measures indicated by the competent services or if the adoption of effective measures is not possible.

The fines will be collected in favor of the “Green Fund” and, by decision of the Minister of Environment and Energy, the collected revenues will be distributed to Municipalities and Regions, in the area where the pollution was caused and will be used exclusively to finance rehabilitation and upgrading programs of the enviroment.

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