The regulations come into force on 1 March, and make operators liable for preventing and remediating environmental damage to land, water, protected species or conservation sites. Enforcing authorities include the Environment Agency, local authorities and Natural England.
Separate regulations will be laid for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The government was put under pressure to implement the Directive by the European Commission, which warned the UK and eight other member states in June 2008 that it was referring the cases to the European Court of Justice. The Directive was due to be transposed into UK law by 30 April 2007.
DEFRA has twice consulted on transposing the Directive and has been criticised for its minimalist approach (ENDS Report 398, pp 51-52 ). The term ‘operator’ remains undefined in the regulations and the Directive. The regulations also sit awkwardly with existing legislation which already allows regulators to recover remediation costs from polluters.