NEWS

Government is presenting to Congress the short bill to strengthen the Environmental Superintendency.

On January 10, 2024, the Government presented to the Chamber of Deputies a bill that strengthens and improves the effectiveness of monitoring and compliance with environmental regulations under the responsibility of the Environmental Superintendent (SMA). In general terms, the initiative amends Law No. 20,417, which establishes the Ministry of the Environment, the Evaluation Service, and the Environmental Superintendent, with the aim of enhancing the monitoring and regulatory compliance functions of the SMA.

The main proposed modifications are as follows:

  • Modification of the procedure for filing complaints with the SMA and recognition of the municipalities' authority to oversee emission standards for stationary noise sources.
  • Establishment of a simplified penalty procedure for minor infractions, with the possibility for the offender to voluntarily admit to the charges filed by the SMA.
  • Inclusion of alternative compliance measures for minor regulatory deviations, such as warning letters, correction plans, or other instruments known as "early correction mechanisms," provided that there is no impact on the environment or the health of individuals, nor a significant risk of such impact.
  • Modifications to compliance incentive instruments: self-disclosure, compliance programs, and repair plans.
  • Strengthening the precautionary powers of the SMA by modifying its functions and attributions. Among these, the SMA may temporarily suspend the operating authorization of environmental instruments and take urgent and temporary measures if there is an imminent risk or serious impact on the environment or the health of individuals, either due to non-compliance with the obligations of such instruments, unforeseen environmental impacts, or due to evasion of the Environmental Impact Assessment System (SEIA).
  • Strengthening environmental oversight: (i) granting officials with delegated environmental oversight competency the status of ministers of faith; (ii) authorizing SMA officials to seize objects and documents essential to the success of the investigation, subject to prior authorization from the Environmental Court.
  • Modification of offenses and penalties::
    • Expansion of the list of environmental offenses within the competence of the SMA, including measures to restore legality, new urgent and temporary measures, regulations on liquid waste not necessarily industrial, and the repair plan.
    • Modification of the classification of offenses: environmental harm, evasion of the Environmental Impact Assessment System (SEIA), and violations within state-protected wilderness areas will be considered serious offenses.
    • Increase in the maximum fines and conditions for exemption or reduction of the fine amount.
  • Modification of other regulatory frameworks: (i) Law No. 19,300 on General Environmental Bases concerning the infraction of project fragmentation; and (ii) Law No. 20,600, which establishes Environmental Courts in relation to the obligation of supervisory officials to have authorization from the Environmental Court.
  • The transitory provision establishes that sanctioning procedures initiated prior to the law's entry into force will continue to be processed in accordance with their regulations until their completion

Should you require additional information on this matter, please contact Javier Naranjo (jnaranjo@jdf.cl), Martín Esser (messer@jdf.cl) or María Paz Valenzuela (mpvalenzuela@jdf.cl).

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