Dutch businesses rarely sanctioned for environmental violations: report
The inspection of companies for environmental violations is falling seriously short, research platform Investico concluded in a study for Trouw and Een Vandaag. In large parts of the Netherlands, the environmental services responsible rarely perform inspections. They hardly ever impose fines for violations. And if a penalty is issued, it is often unclear whether it gets paid, according to the researchers.
Investico researched the performance of the 29 environmental services in the Netherlands. They are a cooperation of municipal and provincial authorities and responsible for enforcing compliance with environmental rules and -guidelines at around 280,000 companies.
Violations include things like hazardous substances being stored incorrectly, waste being accepted without the correct papers, or the emission of harmful substances. In total, the environmental services carried out some 55,000 inspections in 2019. At least one violation was found in 17,000 of these inspections. But only 362 fines or sanctions were issued. That is one in every fifty violations sanctioned, according to the researchers.
Two-thirds of the environmental services said that they do not know to what extent these fines are actually collected. Those who do know said that almost a third of companies never pay their fines.
The researchers found that the services' methods for inspections vary widely. For example, companies in Drenthe are only inspected once every 12 years, while those in the Veluwe-IJssel region have checks every 2.5 years. By law, environmentally harmful companies should be inspected at least once very six years. Only about 30 percent of environmental services do so.
The noted violations also vary. Environmental service De Vallei in Gelderland reported a violation in one in six inspections in 2019, while Brabant-Noord saw violations in two out of three inspections.
The umbrella organization for the environmental services, Milieudienst NL, refused to respond to the low number of sanctions, according to Investico. The organization attributed the regional differences to the short existence of some services and the priorities of provinces and municipalities.