Preventing environmental damage

Environmental damage

Environmental damage means vessel oil and chemical spills in maritime and coastal areas and inland waters and oil and chemical spills on land.

The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the preparation, coordination and implementation of matters concerning environmental risks and for preventing environmental risks from the perspective of environmental protection.

The Ministry of the Environment participates in the guidance, monitoring and development of post-oil spill recovery measures and prevention of chemical spills and recovery measures for these. If necessary, local governments are responsible for the recovery measures in their territories, assisted by different municipal authorities and institutes.

Fight against environmental damage

The responsibility for fighting against environmental damage on open see rests with the Border Guard and in coastal areas and inland waters and on land with the rescue departments.

The Finnish Environment Institute and Centres for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment provide experts assistance to fighting against damage led by the Border Guard and rescue departments and to post-spill recovery measures led by the municipalities.

Post-spill recovery

The Ministry of the Environment initiates and prepares a legislative project concerning post-spill recovery measures for oil and chemical spills and the organisation of waste management. The project is based on the obligation to move the provisions concerning post-oil spill recovery from the Rescue Act to a relevant act in the administrative branch of the Ministry of the Environment. The aim is to specify and clarify the legislation on post-spill recovery and its application to oil and chemical spills. The project is implemented in close cooperation with the Department for Rescue Services of the Ministry of the Interior, Border Guard and other relevant stakeholders. The government proposal is to be submitted to Parliament by the end of 2021.

Secondary liability for environmental damage

The purpose of the secondary liability systems for environmental damage is to prepare for the management of environmental risks, compensating for environmental damage and taking restoration measures in cases where the responsible party is insolvent, unknown or unavailable. The secondary liability systems applied in Finland are the environmental damage insurance that is mandatory to certain operators and the Oil Pollution Compensation Fund. Central government budget funds have been used as the last resort. The secondary liability systems also include the support system with a maximum amount of funding allocated in the State budget that is intended, in particular, for analysing the level of contamination and for clean-up of old contaminated sites. The municipalities also provide funding for soil and groundwater restoration in old contaminated sites.

The Ministry of the Environment has launched a legislative project to develop the secondary liability systems. The aim for the new system is that the operators would manage their environmental obligations as far as possible without financial intervention by the State. The government proposal for amending the secondary liability systems is to be submitted to Parliament in 2022.

Exceptional circumstances

Provisions on specific administrative enforcement are laid down in the Environmental Protection Act, section 182a that entered into force on 1 January 2019. The State supervisory authority may on its own initiative undertake measures to prevent or restrict environmental pollution that are not rescue operations referred to in section 32 of the Rescue Act.

The condition for this is that the activities causing the risk of environmental pollution cause or may cause serious danger or harm to health or the environment and the party responsible for the activity cannot be established without delay or the party concerned is actually incapable to act to the extent that the regular administrative enforcement procedure under section 175 of the Environmental Protection Act cannot be applied.

The costs arising from such measures will be collected from the party responsible for the activity. The aim is to ensure that, in the event of a serious environmental accident, unclear responsibilities or insolvency will not be an obstacle to taking the necessary measures to prevent and restrict pollution.

More information

Minna Valtavaara, Senior Specialist 
Ministry of the Environment, Ympäristönsuojeluosasto, Päästöt ja ympäristöriskit 0295250170  

Laura Siili-Hakkarainen, Senior Specialist, Legal Affairs 
Ministry of the Environment, Ympäristönsuojeluosasto, Päästöt ja ympäristöriskit 0295250411  

Mari-Linda Harju-Oksanen, erityisasijantuntija 
Ministry of the Environment, Ympäristönsuojeluosasto, Päästöt ja ympäristöriskit 0295250554