EU parliament backs soil protection bill
STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The European Parliament backed new rules to protect soil in the European Union on Wednesday, seeking to prevent its deterioration from industrial use and the effects of climate change.
The EU legislature, in its first reading of the draft laws, voted to have EU nations set up public inventories of sites where soil may be contaminated with dangerous substances and lay out ways to clean them up.
"Since soil is a rare substance, we do have to protect it," said Cristina Gutierrez-Cortines, the Spanish conservative lawmaker who helped steer the bill through the parliament.
The rules, which must still be approved by EU governments before they can become law, would require countries to identify priority places where soil needs protection from erosion, landslides, desertification and other threats.
Gutierrez-Cortines said the rules allowed for some flexibility for implementation in different EU states.
The European Commission warned last year that Europe's soil was rapidly deteriorating from industrial and agricultural use. It said about 3.5 million sites in the bloc could have contaminated soil.
Fuel leaking out of underground tanks at factories, inappropriate use of heavy machinery in farming, and the building of roads and other infrastructure have all contributed to soil degradation, it said.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Michael Winfrey)