Monday, 19 January 2015

2015 ON THE HORIZON (Part II)



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Hazardous Substances

New Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations come into force in Great Britain on 1 June 2015, implementing the Seveso III Directive (see panel, above). The main COMAH duties will stay the same but there are some important changes particularly on how dangerous substances are classified and the information made available to the public. For the first time, lower-tier operators will have to provide public information about their site and its hazards. Both top-tier (now referred to as upper-tier) and lower-tier operators will need to provide public information electronically and keep it up to date. The Health and Safety Executive is due to publish new guidance in March. The land use planning requirements of Seveso III will be implemented through amended planning legislation by the communities and local government department and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

On 1 June 2015, the Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation (CLP) (2008/1272/EC) replaces the Dangerous Substances Directive (67/548/EC) and the Dangerous Preparations Directive (1999/45/EC). The new regulation introduces a system of chemical classification based on hazard classes, categories and statement codes (rather than risk phrases and categories of danger) and will alter the way waste is classified and assessed. As a result, environment regulators in the UK are updating the current guidance (WM2) on waste classification and assessment. A draft waste classification and assessment, technical guidance (WM3), has been produced. The closing date for comments is 3 February 2015 (lexisurl.com/iema48643).

The sunset date under REACH means substances may be placed on the market or used only if an authorisation has been granted. Authorisation is one of the REACH processes for managing the risks of substances of very high concern (SVHC) and promoting their replacement with safer ones. The first 2015 sunset date is 21 February and applies to four phthalates: bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP). Further sunset dates for 2015 are: 21 May – lead sulfochromate yellow (C.I. pigment yellow 34), lead chromate molybdate sulphate red (C.I. pigment red 104), diarsenic pentaoxide, diarsenic trioxide, and lead chromate; and 21 August 2015 – gamma-hexabromocyclododecane, 2,4 – dinitrotoluene (2,4-DNT), hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD), alpha-hexabromocyclododecane, beta-hexabromocyclododecane, and Tris(2-chloroethyl)phosphate (TCEP).

New EU rules to account for nanomaterials under REACH are expected later this year.

The European commission has been consulting (until 15 January) on criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors in the context of implementing the Plant Protection Product Regulation (1107/2009) and the Biocidal Products Regulation (528/2012).


Regulation And Inspection

Regulatory charges are set to rise from 1 April across the UK. Consultation by the Environment Agency on raising its charges for 2015/16 ended on 20 November. The proposals included: a 2% increase for installations and waste facilities covered by the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR); increasing the compliance band adjustment for waste facilities and installations that are in bands D, E and F for more than two years – for example, from 125% to 200% for band D sites; introducing a permit commencement charge to recover the additional costs the agency incurs in the

12 months immediately after the issue of a new permit – this would be an additional 40% of the annual charge for the permit and apply to EPR installations and waste facilities. The agency also proposed amending its Opra (operational risk appraisal) scheme, covering assessments of operator compliance and how Opra defines activities and the associated charging bands.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), meanwhile, says it intends to implement a new charging framework in 2016. However, from April 2015 water (Controlled Activity Regulations), pollution, prevention and control, and radioactive substances (nuclear) charges increase by 2.7% and waste charges by 7.7%. Consultation on plans by Natural Resources Wales to raise its charges for 2015/16 ended on 9 January. Under the proposals, installations and waste facilities covered by the Environmental Permitting Regulations will rise by 5% from April, while those for water quality will increase in line with the consumer price index.

Scotland will introduce a new regulatory framework in the spring. It will provide Sepa with a broader range of enforcement tools, including fixed monetary penalties, variable monetary penalties, enforcement undertakings and non-compliance penalties.

Regulations to extend the Environment Agency’s use of enforcement undertakings are due to come into force on 6 April. The regulations will amend the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 in relation to offences under regulation 38, such as knowingly contravening reg.12 (permitting) or failing to comply with reg.60 (providing information).

The Environment Agency is now consulting on changes to 12 sets of standard rules, which will apply later this year. The changes are required after amendments to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 as a result of the Industrial Emissions Directive (2010/75/EU). The rules govern, for example: clinical waste transfer stations and treatment; low-impact Part A installations; low-impact Part A installations for the production of biodiesel; treatment of waste to produce soil; composting in closed systems; composting in open systems; farm anaerobic digestion using farm wastes only; anaerobic digestion facilities, including the use of resultant biogas; and the treatment of incinerator bottom ash from Part A installations. The agency says the revised rules will be published in mid-2015 (lexisurl.com/iema48642).

Regulations to transpose art. 38 of the Offshore Safety Directive by extending the Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2009 to include offshore marine waters must be in place by 19 July 2015.

Defra’s year-long programme to simplify environment guidance, is due to end in March 2015. The environment department says the aim is to make guidance simpler, quicker and clearer for businesses and others to understand and comply with their obligations. At the same time, Defra and its regulators have been reviewing all the environmental information required by businesses to ensure it is really needed.

Defra is this year due to review the mandatory reporting of greenhouse-gas emissions by quoted companies under the Companies Act 2006 (Strategic Report and Directors’ Report) Regulations 2013, which came into force in October 2013. When they were introduced, the environment department stated that ministers would assess in 2015 the costs and benefits on businesses of mandatory disclosure before deciding whether to expand the obligation to report to large unquoted companies. The government’s commitment to reduce regulatory “burdens” makes this unlikely.


Waste And Resources

From 1 January, businesses have had to separate glass, metal paper and plastic, after an amendment to the Waste Framework Directive, which seeks to improve the quality of recyclate. The Waste (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 revised those set in 2011 on the separate collection of waste. From this year, authorities must, where it is technically, environmentally and economically practicable, ensure waste passes through a recovery operation process to facilitate or improve recovery of material. Regulations 18 and 20 of the Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 transpose the separation element of the directive into Northern Ireland law and obligate district councils and private waste collectors to also separately collect at least glass, metal, paper and plastic from 1 January 2015.

Transposition of the amended Batteries and Accumulators and Waste Batteries and Accumulators Directive (2013/56/EU) must be complete by 1 July 2015. A consultation on the draft regulations by the government and the Scottish and Welsh governments ended on 5 November. The amended Directive removes the exemption for button cells with mercury content of less than 2% by weight from 1 October 2015.

The standard and lower rates of landfill tax will increase to £82.60 per tonne and £2.60 per tonne respectively from 1 April 2015. The lower rate applies only to wastes listed in the Landfill Tax (Qualifying Material) Order 2011 (as amended) and the higher rate to all other waste that is taxable for landfill tax purposes and is chargeable at the standard rate. The government is introducing a loss-on-ignition testing regime on fines produced from the processing of waste at mechanical treatment plants from 1 April 2015. Only qualifying fines below a 10% threshold will be considered eligible for the lower rate, though there will be a 12-month transitional period where the threshold will be 15%.

In Scotland, Landfill Tax Act 2014 is due to come into force on 1 April 2015. Scotland’s finance minister has confirmed that the Scottish landfill tax rates will be the same as elsewhere in the UK. However, under the 2014 Act Scottish ministers have additional flexibility and can set extra tax bands and make specific exemptions. Indeed, the Holyrood government says its ministers intend to use powers in the legislation to enhance provision to those communities who live near a landfill site through the communities fund. Guidance on the Scottish landfill tax regime will be added in phases to Revenue Scotland’s website, alongside tax calculators to assist in the calculation of the taxes. The government says this material will be available well before 1 April 2015.

The new commission proposed in December 2014 the withdrawal of plans to revise EU waste targets, which formed part of the previous administration’s circular economy package (p.8). The EU parliament voted on whether to approve the proposals as the environmentalist went to press. The commission has promised to bring forward more ambitious plans in 2015.


Water And Flood Management

A consultation on proposals by Defra and the Welsh government to integrate flood defence consents into the environmental permitting regime (EPR) in England and Wales ends on 17 February (lexisurl.com/iema51971). The consultation focuses on the changes to the existing regulations, and proposed exemptions and exclusions from these. New legislation will apply from October 2015. At the same time, the Environment Agency is consulting until 3 March on changes to 13 sets of standard rules under the EPR governing watercourse activities, which are linked to the plans to integrate flood defence consents into the regime (lexisurl.com/iema51972).

The first flood risk management plans are due in December 2015. These come after consultations by the Environment Agency on draft plans for a number of river basin districts. These set out how the agency, councils, drainage authorities, highway managers and water companies will work together to manage flood risk. From 1 January 2015, business contributions to flood and coastal erosion risk management projects have been deductible for corporation tax and income tax purposes.

Consultation on reform of the water abstraction system in England and Wales concluded in March 2014. The environment department says key decisions on which to base new legislation will be made in 2015.


Major Accidents And The Environment

In 1976 an industrial plant in Seveso, Italy, released a vapour cloud containing a dioxin, devastating land and vegetation and causing homes to be evacuated and people to be poisoned. The accident led to the adoption of the Seveso I Directive in 1982. The most recent version, Seveso III, was published in 2012 and will be implemented in the UK by way of the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 2015, which come into force on 1 June 2015.

The regulations are applicable to establishments that handle large quantities of hazardous substances and require businesses to “take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents involving dangerous substances” and “limit the consequences to people and the environment of any major accidents which do occur”.

Although it is nine years since the explosion and fire at the Buncefield oil storage depot, the implications are still felt by operators of bulk storage tanks as the recommendations from the investigations are translated into industry guidance. Although there has been a necessary focus on safety and health, demonstrating that the risk from a COMAH establishment to the environment has been reduced to a “tolerable” level has remained a challenge. The Chemical and Downstream Oil Industries Forum (CDOIF) developed guidance in 2013 to help assess the risk posed to environmental receptors from major accident hazard sites. The guidance defined tolerability as a willingness to live with a risk so as to secure certain benefits and in confidence that the risk is properly controlled.

Sources: Environ, The Environmentalist, IEMA.



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