New Law on Environmental Crimes: polluting is illegal.

  •   June 1st, 2015
  •   Category: News
  •   Posted by: Ecodyger

After a long battle lasting decades , on May 19th the Italian Senate finally approved the bill on crimes against the environment , or if you prefer the Eco – crimes” (link).

Better later, than never

Starting from this bitter consideration , we can say that if this law had been in force before, it would probably have changed several judgments. We mention the ” Eternit case ” in Casale Monferrato as the most infamous .


It is interesting to know that it is a law born from a purely parliamentary and nongovernmental initiative .

Doubled the prescription and harsh penalties

With this approval many crimes against the environment will no longer be considered mere misdemeanors, but finally environmental crimes according to the penal Italian code. The limitation times have doubled preventing voluntary protraction of judgments and significant penalties, which now reach up to 20 years in prison .

The new eco crimes

According to the new measure, the following list is now considered a crime:

  • Environmental pollution
  • Environmental disaster
  • Prevention of controls
  • Failure of remediation
  • Radioactive material trafficking

1. Environmental pollution

It punishes those who cause ” a compromise or significant and measurable deterioration of water or air , or extended or significant portions of the soil or subsoil; an ecosystem, biodiversity, also agrarian, flora or fauna.”

The new article of the Criminal Code punishes this offense with imprisonment from 2 to 6 years and a fine ranging from 10,000 up to 100,000 euro .

There will also be significant aggravations with increased penalties if the offense of pollution have caused the injury or death of one or more persons.

The penalties increase progressively, depending on whether there was a simple injury, serious injury , very serious injury or death. If the harmful events derived from the crime are multiple and at the expense of more people, the punishment that should be inflicted for the most serious offense multiplies by three. The maximum limit for detention is 20 years.

2. Environmental disaster

Include: “the irreversible alteration of the balance of an ecosystem , the alteration of an ecosystem whose elimination is particularly costly and achievable only with exceptional measures , the aggression against the public safety by reason of the importance of the fact for the extent of the impairment or its harmful effects or to the number of persons injured or exposed to danger.”

In all these cases , the penalties range from 5 to 15 years in prison .

It ‘ s also provided an aggravating circumstance : when the environmental disaster is committed in a protected area or subject to restrictions or cause damage to fauna and flora or protected species.

Intentional crimes

The penalties will be reduced to a maximum of two-thirds in case the pollution and environmental disaster are not committed intentionally, according to the concept ” to blame and not out of malice .”

3. Avoiding controls

It will be punished with imprisonment from 6 months up to 3 years:

“Whoever , by denying access , providing obstacles or artificially changing the condition of the premises , prevents , impedes or evades the supervision and environmental, safety and hygiene controls , which compromises the results .”

4. Failure of remediation

Among the environmental crimes there’s the failure of remediation that may be a challenge for those who , forced by a judge or by any authority in the matter , does not comply with the action of reparation. In these cases, the jail risk goes from a period ranging from 1 to 4 years and up to 80,000 euro sanction .

In this specific case we wonder if there could not be higher penalties for this crime , considering that the clean-up operation would cost in many cases much more money the penalty. For many ( we fear ) will be better to pay the penalty rather than face the costs of remediation done according to law .

5. Trafficking and abandonment of radioactive material

Is guilty of this crime , ” anyone who abusively sells , purchases, receives , transports , imports, exports, holds , transfers, abandons or unlawfully disposes of highly radioactive material that, by holding such material , abandons or discards it unlawfully . “

In these cases , the law provides for fines from 10,000 to 50,000 euro and from 2 to 6 years in prison .

Associations against the environment

The law provides for specific aggravating if the offenses are committed as an association.


If convicted or plea bargain for crimes of environmental pollution , environmental disaster , traffic and abandonment of highly radioactive material , obstruction of control and criminal association, the judge must always order the seizure of the things that are the product or profit of the offense or that have served to commit it. No confiscation when the assets belong to third parties unrelated to the crime.

If the confiscation is not possible , the court orders the confiscation by equivalent. The assets and seized proceeds are made ​​available to the competent public administration, and bound to the use for the remediation of sites . No confiscation when the defendant has effectively provided for the safety of the area and , if necessary, their rehabilitation and recovery .

We can say that finally also Italy has identified, above all, precise definitions and harsh penalties for all eco-crimes listed above.