Environmental Law Definition
Environmental Law is a specific, highly regulated practice. In Spain, it combines International, European Union, State, Regional, and local regulations which turn out in a very large set of applicable dispositions to be aware of.
An environmental lawyer deals with any legal matters arising from the impacts caused by activities, projects, programs, etc. on the environment, which necessarily has to be understood as the interaction of several connected elements. In this regard, Environmental Law itself can be easily divided into subsections corresponding to each of the natural elements that are affected by human activities, essentially, air, water, soil, waste & hazardous substances management, flora & fauna, and natural areas.
An environmental lawyer can be extremely important when a business operator intends to develop an industrial activity in which several environmental permits are usually required, involving long and complex procedures before different administrative authorities. Normally, these activities require continued legal environmental advice once they are commissioned to comply with periodical requirements by the Administration, new environmental regulations, and technical progress of the activities.
Also, our role is quite important in advising on due diligence processes within M&A transactions, since potential environmental risks can turn out serious, and their detection can lead to advise against a transaction or definitely influence on its price.
Moreover, due to the reform of the Spanish Criminal Code introducing corporate criminal liability, it has also become important for clients to have a compliance surveillance system to prevent environmental criminal offences. The legal advice on environmental undertakings can also be very important during the design, implementation, and monitoring of these compliance schemes for businesses with relevant environmental impacts.
Another usual task for an environmental lawyer is to defend clients against infringement procedures related to non-compliance with environmental regulations. In this regard, it is highly advisable that the environmental lawyer is not only familiar with administrative proceedings, but also with the judicial stage, since a high percentage of the decisions taken by the competent authorities are finally challenged before the courts.
As a conclusion, the environmental law practice implies a wide range of legal work and includes legal advice in all possible manners: preventive, defensive, and transactional.