The Administrative Chamber of the High Court of Justice of the Region of Murcia has ordered the competent body of the Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia to initiate proceedings for environmental liability for discharges into the Mar Menor against eight companies or entrepreneurs engaged in agriculture, “with the adoption, where appropriate, of provisional measures and/or final resolution as appropriate”. The requirement or official request of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to the Autonomous Community occurs in the context of the processing of criminal proceedings, Preliminary Proceedings 2750/2017, of the Court of Instruction number 2 of Murcia, in which “certain natural and legal persons are being investigated for discharges, either surface or underground, into the Mar Menor, by activities related to agriculture, for the contribution of excessive nutrients and discharges of rejection of water extracted from the aquifers”. To focus the debate, the Chamber clarifies that “regardless of the outcome of the criminal proceedings and the environmental liability proceedings, the natural resource affected is clearly identified, i.e., it is the Mar Menor”. Therefore, the court understands that “the demand for environmental liability is not made for damage to the public water domain, but to the Mar Menor, and is independent of the sanctioning procedures that the Confederación Hidrográfica del Segura initiates, where appropriate, in relation to the competence legally attributed to it, that is, the management of that public domain”.
“The damage allegedly caused, the magistrates insist, has been to a natural resource protected by various figures of protection, such as the Mar Menor, and for the recovery of which different administrations must be involved”. However, they emphasise, “in the case we are analysing, the issue focuses on environmental liability for discharges into the Mar Menor, and therefore the competence to demand it is that of the Autonomous Community, without prejudice to the coordination that should exist between the different Administrations, and between the different bodies and agencies of each of the Administrations”. The resolution highlights as a notorious fact “the serious state of deterioration of the Mar Menor” and points out that this is referred to in the Preamble of Law 3/2020, of 27 July, on the recovery and protection of the Mar Menor, which highlights the powers of the Autonomous Community in terms of environmental protection of the lagoon.