Powers to Supervise and Enter Premises in the New Environmental Legislation and their Impact on Individual Constitutional Rights
"The Biosphere" Vol. 11-12
Tzvi Levinson, Adv.
The authorities charged with the enforcement of Environmental Legislation are acting as guardians of the public well-being, health and safety. In order to enable these authorities to carry their tasks on the better side, the Legislator gave them powers of supervision that often compromise interests and constitutional rights of individuals. Balanced against each other are the individual's property rights, rights to privacy and freedom of occupation, on the one hand, and the public interests in health, property and the environment, on the other hand. Supervision activities can take different forms: Obtaining an account of activities from an individual; Monitoring and surveying premises from without; and Entering premises. The more probing an intervention in an individual's life and the longer its duration, so much graver is the infringement of individual constitutional rights. The Legislator made monitoring, as well as the accumulating of evidence alleging commission of offenses, easier for authorities by placing an onus on individuals to report on certain aspects of their activities. The purpose of this burden is not to reach the infamous "Midnight Dumper" but rather the directors and RCOs of an organization to encourage them to tighten their control over the organization's conduct and compliance with environmental requirements. Complementary to the above is the authority's power to enter premises. This is done not only for monitoring and surveillance purposes but also as a condition for the approval of plans and construction of facilities. The power to enter premises includes also powers to take possession of documents and sample substances. Exercising this power does not demand the owner of the premises' consent, nor is it required that the Authority obtain a Court Order warranting the entry. The individual's constitutional rights are curbed in Environmental Legislation: A person's right to freedom of occupation is limited to the extent that that occupation is the source of serious environmental hazards.