IICJ Paper Contaminated Land - Saving Sid Helen Mahy, Group Secretary & General Counsel, National Grid plc, UK

The 'gas industry' has been in existence now for almost 200 years. In common with many of the major industries of today, it started with the establishment of a small number of privately owned undertakings in the early 1800s which grew exponentially during the years of the industrial revolution. The focus of industry during this period was of course ambitious industrialisation and expansion, with little or no contemplation of the future environmental ramifications. Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) was introduced by the Conservative Government in 1995 partly to deal with the contaminated land legacy that has been bequeathed to us from industry operating during these years and implemented an improved system for the inspection, identification and remediation of contaminated land. The legislation focuses on the 'appropriate person' to clean up contaminated land and defines this as the person who 'caused or knowingly permitted' contaminating substances to be in on or under the land. The recent House of Lords' decision in R (on the application of National Grid Gas plc) v. Environment Agency1 is the first time that the courts have considered where liability will lie when pollution has been caused decades ago by private undertakings which were subsequently nationalised and then privatised. In their decision, the Lords have clarified the scope of the phrase 'appropriate person' in this context and explored the boundaries of the polluter pays principle. The Lords recognised that whilst there may well be policy arguments for and against liability in this situation falling on the privatised successor company, the role of the courts is to interpret the relevant statutory provisions enacted by Parliament. In this case the Lords decided that those provisions were abundantly clear.
Helen Mahy
Helen Mahy was appointed as Group Company Secretary following the merger of National Grid Group plc and Lattice Group plc, having been Company Secretary at Lattice Group plc since March 2002. She was additionally appointed as General Counsel from October 2003. Previously, she was Group General Counsel and Company Secretary at Babcock International Group PLC. Helen was appointed a Non-executive Director of Aga Foodservice Group plc in March 2003. She is a barrister, member of the Bar Council and an Associate of the Chartered Insurance Institute.
National Grid plc
National Grid (LSE: NG.; NYSE:NGG) is an international electricity and gas company and one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world. We play a vital role in delivering gas and electricity to many millions of people across Great Britain and northeastern US in an efficient, reliable and safe manner. We are committed to safeguarding our global environment for future generations and providing all our customers with the highest standards of service through investment in our networks and through our talented, diverse workforce.
United Kingdom More
Area of Law
Environment More
Business Sector
Energy More
Month Published
September 2007 More
Vol. 1, No. 1, Autumn 2007 More
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