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Essential Topics about Brazilian Environmental Legislation

The Brazilian environmental legislation is extensive, including usually more than one thousand legal papers, which must be accomplished for companies.  It is not rare that companies misunderstand the law interpretation and receive penalties from environmental authorities.

Furthermore, Brazil is a federation composed by states and municipalities. As environment is a common competence for the Federation, States and Municipalities, all these three instances may create their own legislation. As a result of so many legislations, there are a lot of contrasts among these laws. Thus, it is not possible to determine applicable law without a complex research that must consider all aspects of a business plan.

To illustrate, an industry in the city of Manaus (in Amazon region) have to maintain forests in 80% of its property area, despite another similar industry in Belo Horizonte (in Minas Gerais) that may not have this legal obligation.

Every company in Brazil must have an environmental authorization, but the complexity of this authorization varies based on the type and size of the business.

Specifically, authorizations may vary from a simple form filled by the company’s representative to a very complex and bureaucratic process that includes years of studies and approval by a council composed by a civil society.

Therefore, there are five issues that must be observed to determine the applicable law:

1 – Location: The place where the business is located influences in the size of the area that can be used and affects the type of activities to be performed in the place.

2 – Competence: The type and size of the business determines if an authorization is given from Municipality, State or Federation. As each one takes a completely different process, this issue impacts a lot in the authorization schedule.

3 – Protected areas: There are protected areas established by Municipality, State and Federal Government, and each area has its own regulation that interferes not only inside but also in its surroundings. There are several types of areas, and business activities that need to observe some special regulation when close to these areas.

4 – Biome: The biome where a business is inserted is very important to determine viability of an activity, because restrictions should be applied to protected biomes such as “Atlantic Forest”. In some cases, the allowance of deforestation depends on the stage of regeneration of local vegetation.

5 – Products and service registration: As some products and services interferes directly in the sanity of environment, there is an obligatory registration for some kinds of products and services. This registration is a way for environmental authorities to know the properties of these products and services, and to evaluate impacts they may cause. There is an extensive list of products and services that include soil correctives, pesticides, exotic fauna and flora, CFC, and many other items that needs a registration and an approval of government authority before use, manufacture, importation and exportation.

In summary, there is an extensive list of environmental legal requisites applicable to business in Brazil. In addition, to identify the exact applicable rule it is necessary to know not just some particular legal requisites, but the entire legal system. These legal requisites influence a lot on the investments, because they can establish different and strong obligations for each company.

To know the environmental requisites applicable to an activity is an important need and can provide strategic information to enhance decision-making for companies who want to establish business in Brazil.

Junio Magela Alexandre
Melo Campos Advogados

Published on June 3, 2016.

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