The “polluter pays” principle may be languishing in the U.S. under the business-friendly Bush administration, but it’s alive and well in Europe, where the European parliament voted this week to strengthen rules to make companies pay for the environmental problems they cause. Spurred on by the recent Prestige disaster, in which a tanker spilled tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil off the coast of Spain, the European parliament voted to establish common, bloc-wide rules on liability for preventing and repairing environmental damage. The new rules require companies to have insurance or other financial coverage against environmental problems ranging from ocean pollution to nuclear accidents. Paul Lannoye of the European Green Party called the vote “historic.”

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