Federal Council adopts dispatch on amendment of the Environmental Protection Act

In mid-December 2022, the Federal Council submitted the dispatch on the amendment of the Environmental Protection Act to parliament. Among other things, this is intended to tighten environmental criminal law in the case of organized crime.

The Federal Council is intensifying its activities to protect the environment. For example, it wants to push ahead with the remediation of polluted sites. Further amendments to the Environmental Protection Act (USG) concern the better coordination of noise protection and settlement development. He also wants environmental criminal law to be tightened in the case of organized crime. In December, it therefore submitted a message to parliament on the amendment of the USG.

Soils should be remediated as soon as possible

With regard to contaminated sites, the Federal Council wants to create incentives to ensure that public and private soils are remediated as quickly as possible. Children's playgrounds in particular can be contaminated by past fertilization of the soil and air pollution. The revision of the Environmental Protection Act would make the investigation and remediation of public children's playgrounds and green spaces mandatory. 60% of the costs of remediation would be covered by the Contaminated Sites Fund of the Ordinance on the Levy for the Remediation of Contaminated Sites (VASA). This fund has been fed by levies on landfilled waste since 2001. The investigation and remediation of private children's playgrounds and home gardens remains voluntary. In the case of private individuals, a financial contribution of 40% of the remediation costs from the VASA fund is envisaged.

Sites contaminated by former landfills or former industrial activities are generally to be investigated and remediated more quickly. The federal government wants to limit subsidies for investigations until 2032 and for remediation of contaminated sites until 2045. In return, the federal government will provide flat-rate compensation for administrative tasks performed by the cantons. And in the case of remediation of sites with unknown, no longer existing or insolvent polluters, it will now assume 60% of the cantons' costs, instead of 40% as before.

300-meter shooting ranges are polluted with heavy metals such as lead. In the future, each target will no longer be paid for as a lump sum. Instead, the federal government will generally assume 40% of these investigation and remediation costs.

Better coordination of noise protection and settlement development

With the amendment of the law, the planning and construction of housing should be better coordinated with noise protection. For building permits, the noise criteria would now already be listed in the federal law. This increases legal certainty. When planning additional residential space in already built-up areas, open spaces for recreation should be created and further measures for the protection of peace and quiet should be provided. With these adjustments, inward settlement development can be promoted and appropriate noise protection can be guaranteed.

Environmental criminal law to be updated

In the last decade, environmental crime has developed into a billion-dollar business and one of the largest areas of activity for organized crime. For this reason, the penal provisions of the USG are to be tightened. It is planned to increase the penalties for serious offenses. In addition, a new provision on the exchange of information is intended to promote cooperation between the competent law enforcement and environmental authorities.