Weaker post-Brexit environmental legislation looms
Environmental permitting could soon look very different. The majority of environmental legislation transferred from EU to UK law so far has happened with little or no prior consultation with stakeholders. The pace at which draft legislation has been processed has been called ‘relentless’, and some MPs admit they just haven’t had enough time to review things properly. Worse still, the changes being made are not just minor technical matters, they’re significant.
According to Business Green, a number of ‘effective, dissuasive, and proportionate’ penalties have been removed. Take the need to report on ambient air quality and polluting emissions, for instance, which has been completely taken out of the picture and not replaced.
Environmental law is complex, relying on the best scientific and specialist knowledge, independent advice and stakeholder inclusion, but these are being ‘stripped away’. On 25th February, for example, the House of Commons discussed the way chemicals would be regulated after Brexit. The legislation lays down how the government will keep the public and environment safe from dangerous chemicals if there’s a no deal Brexit, replacing the EU’s REACH chemicals system.
The debate saw MPs concerned the legislation will leave the UK with a lot less protection. Rather than involving expert committees, proper risk assessment into the socio-economic impact, insights from stakeholders from industry, NGOs, and unions, the Health and Safety Executive will run the system on its own, merely required to take into account independent knowledge, ‘from one or more suitably qualified or experienced persons’. And that does not bode well for the future.
Stiff environment penalties for illegal waste sites
Sidney Nicholls has been sent to jail for a year, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £30,000 in costs after being prosecuted by the Environment Agency at Worcester Crown Court. Nicholls ‘deliberately and over a prolonged period’ accepted waste on three sites without environmental permits, acted in breach of registered waste exemptions, put human health and the environment at risk, avoided costs, and failed to provide the necessary waste records.
Environment Agency officers visiting the sites found hazardous waste being illegally stored and treated, and there were no measures to stop liquids from polluting the nearby Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal and River Severn, potentially causing ‘significant harm’ to the environment, fish and invertebrates. The Agency visited the sites after members of the public complained about the smell, flies and rats from food waste. The sites were also found to present a serious fire risk.
Scotland’s dry cleaning sector steps up to the mark at last
Cleaning and Maintenance Magazine reports that Scottish dry cleaners are improving their environmental performance after years of failure. It’s all thanks to new fixed penalties levied by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, SEPA, which has already served £600 fixed fines on two dry cleaners that didn’t hand in their annual solvent emission data.
Dry cleaners use solvents, and permits are essential. The solvents harm human health and the environment, and each permit sets a formal solvent emission limit. Operators submit their data annually, which reveals whether they’ve complied with the limit. The problem was, fewer than 80% of operators were handing in their data, so SEPA took a different tack.
Now there’s a national team and one dedicated staff member on the case, and a lot more time and effort is being spent helping the sector comply. The number of operators submitting the right data has risen to around 95%. At the same time new legal powers let the Agency directly fine dry cleaners for non-compliance, and the threat of a fine seems to be having the right effect. In 2017 only seven dry cleaners didn’t hand their data in.
Help avoiding industrial pollution
Any kind of industrial leak or industrial pollution, any kind of non-conformance with the UK’s environmental laws, can lead to fines and even imprisonment. Ask Penstock Solutions for expert help in making sure you comply with all the right laws, rules and regulations and run a good, tight ship.
David Cole MSEE
David is a pioneer of the spill containment and water pollution prevention industry with 30 years experience. He was instrumental in the development of CIRIA736 with The Environment Agency and is passionate about preventing water pollution.