Greenpeace discharge policy campaign raises key legal issues

The High Court is to rule shortly whether Greenpeace should be given leave to challenge the authorisation and enforcement practices of the National Rivers Authority (NRA) in respect of a controversial discharge from Albright & Wilson's chemical plant in Cumbria. If the case goes ahead, it could result in a crucial decision on the types of effluent sample which are admissible in prosecutions for pollution offences.

Greenpeace is playing for high stakes. The group says that the NRA's practices are "hopelessly inadequate." ICI, for example, has breached its discharge consents on 253 occasions since the NRA was formed, but has been prosecuted for fewer than 1% of these offences. Greenpeace also maintains that the consents issued to chemical companies are too permissive, failing to apply the "precautionary principle" to discharges of heavy metals, organochlo

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