Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule (US)

Comments are required on the US Federal Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule by October 16, 2014.

The Proposed Rule will establish state-level Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units.

Detail

The US Federal Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is proposing emission guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to address greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units.

Specifically, the USEPA is proposing state-specific rate-based goals for carbon dioxide emissions (per megawatt hour of electricity produced) from the power sector, as well as guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to achieve the state-specific goals.

This rule, as proposed, would continue progress already underway to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants in the United States. The plan aims to cut the emissions of the US power sector 30 per cent on 2005 levels over the next sixteen years.

The USEPA aims to have final rules in force by June 2015. States will have until 30 June 2016 to submit plans explaining how they will meet this target. States may plead for up to two years’ extra time.

The proposal covers emissions from 1,600 existing coal and gas-fired power stations across the US. Regulations limiting emissions from new power stations are already in the pipeline.

More Information

Information about the proposal is found here.

Italy persistent Drinking Water breaches (EU legal proceedings)

The European Commission is opening infringement proceedings against Italy for its failure to ensure that water intended for human consumption meets European standards. Water contamination from arsenic and fluoride is a long-standing problem in Italy, and for the Latium Region in particular.

Under the Drinking Water Directive, Member States have to monitor and test water used for human consumption using 48 microbiological, chemical and indicator parameters.

If high levels of arsenic or other pollutants are found, Member States may derogate from the thresholds established by the directive for a limited period of time, provided there is no potential danger to human health, and provided the supply for human consumption cannot be maintained by any other reasonable means. Italy has now run out of derogation time.

The limit value for arsenic and fluoride is still not respected in 37 water supply zones in Latium. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending (10 July 2014) a letter of formal notice to Italy, the first formal stage in infringement proceedings.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring semi-metal element which is tasteless and odourless, and can enter drinking water supplies from natural deposits in the earth. Elevated levels in water can cause serious health problems, including skin damage, circulatory problems, and an increased risk of cancer.

Further information on EU drinking water legislation is found here.

Pests Act 1954 (England)

Rabbits and Occupier’s Duties

Under Section 1 of the Pests Act 1954, the whole of England, apart from the City of London and Isles of Scilly, has been declared a rabbit clearance area. Under Section 1(2) of the 1954 Act, all occupiers of land in a rabbit clearance area have a continuing obligation to kill or take any wild rabbits living on, or resorting to, their land, unless they can establish that it is not reasonably practicable to do so.

If it is not practicable to destroy the rabbits, occupiers have an obligation to prevent the rabbits from causing damage elsewhere by, for example, fencing them in with rabbit-proof fencing.

The obligation to control rabbits is irrespective of the use being made of the occupier’s land or that of their neighbours.

Section 98 of the Agriculture Act 1947 gives powers to the Secretary of State to serve a notice on an occupier to take specified action against rabbits.

Natural England further information is here.

Waste Shipper Jailed (England)

Repeat waste crime offender Joe Benson was sentenced (June 2014) to 16 months in prison at Snaresbrook Crown Court for illegally exporting 46 tonnes of hazardous electrical waste to Nigeria, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and the Congo.

Broken cathode ray tube televisions and ozone depleting fridge freezers were found in four containers intercepted at ports by Environment Agency investigators.

This is the first time a custodial sentence is handed down for illegal waste exports.

Andrew Higham, who leads the Environment Agency’s National Environmental Crime Team, said:

These are not victimless crimes. The rules governing the exportation of waste electrical equipment are in place for good reason, to protect human life and the environment.

It is illegal to send hazardous waste to these countries. Mr Benson has seen fit to flaunt the rules for his own personal benefit. The Environment Agency has a specialist crime unit to track and prosecute criminals who export waste illegally.

Per the EA press release – Working electronics can be exported for resale and there is a legitimate market for used goods. But the law is clear – it is always illegal to send hazardous electronic waste from the UK to developing countries where it could be dumped and burnt to extract precious metals, posing serious risks to people’s health and damage to the environment. They can contain hazardous materials such as lead, phosphors and ozone depleting substances.

Proposal to Increase Waste Recycling Rates (EU)

COM/2014/0397 is a proposal (adopted European Commission 2 July 2014) to increase recycling rates in the existing Landfill Directive, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the Batteries and Accumulators Directive, the WEEE Directive and the End-of-Life Vehicles Directive.

Key elements:

* Recycling and preparing for re-use of municipal waste to be increased to 70 % by 2030;
* Recycling and preparing for re-use of packaging waste to be increased to 80 % by 2030, with material-specific targets set to gradually increase between 2020 and 2030 (to reach 90 % for paper by 2025 and 60% for plastics, 80% for wood, 90% of ferrous metal, aluminium and glass by the end of 2030);
* Phasing out landfilling by 2025 for recyclable (including plastics, paper, metals, glass and bio-waste) waste in non hazardous waste landfills – corresponding to a maximum landfilling rate of 25%;
* Measures aimed at reducing food waste generation by 30 % by 2025;
* Introducing an early warning system to anticipate and avoid possible compliance difficulties in Member States;
* Promoting the dissemination of best practices in all Member States, such as better use of economic instruments (e.g. landfill/incineration taxes, pay-as-you-throw schemes, incentives for municipalities) and improved separate collection;
* Improving traceability of hazardous waste;
* Increasing the cost-effectiveness of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes by defining minimum conditions for their operation;
* Simplifying reporting obligations and alleviating burdens faced by SMEs;
* Improving the reliability of key statistics through harmonised and streamlined calculation of targets;
* Improving the overall coherence of waste legislation by aligning definitions and removing obsolete legal requirements.

COM 2014 (397) is here.

COM 2014 (397) annexes are here.

Offshore Helicopter Safety (UK)

UK Parliament scrutiny body (Transport Committee) calls for a public inquiry (following a series of helicopter crashes).

The Transport Committee is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the UK Department for Transport and its Associate Public Bodies.

In August 2013, a helicopter crashed into the sea while on approach to Sumburgh Airport on Shetland. Four passengers were killed. That was the fifth helicopter accident since 2009 involving the transfer of oil and gas industry personnel to and from offshore installations in the North Sea.

Per the Transport Committee’s Second Report (30 June 2014) – “The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) investigation into the crash uncovered a number of deeply worrying events. Specifically, the AAIB found pre-flight briefing material did not fully represent the type of Emergency Breathing System (EBS) supplied to passengers. This caused problems for some survivors of the crash who told us they decided not to use the EBS based on the safety briefing. We call for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to ensure that helicopter operators, in collaboration with the offshore work force, review all safety briefing material to guarantee that it is up to date and fit for purpose. We also call for the AAIB to keep crash survivors better informed on the progress of their investigations and, along with the CAA, to meet survivors to take on board their ideas for improving safety.”

“The Sumburgh crash prompted the CAA to launch a wide-ranging review into offshore helicopter safety. In February 2014, the CAA published its review of offshore helicopter safety, which made strong recommendations on safety governance, airworthiness and equipment. We welcome that review and congratulate the CAA on quickly establishing the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group to implement the CAA’s findings. At the same time, we highlight areas which we believe require more work, particularly on the problems caused by the diverse customer requirements for helicopter pilots and on the impact of seating restrictions on workers and their livelihoods.”

The full report summary is here.

Background

Aviation regulation within the UK is evolving from a national model under the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to a pan-European model under the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). In the areas for which EASA is responsible, such as aircraft certification, continued airworthiness and aircrew regulation, the CAA serves as EASA’s local office to implement regulations. In areas for which EASA is not responsible, the CAA serves as the primary regulator. From 28 October 2014, Commission Regulation (EU) 965/2012 will apply to the UK. This EU regulation will supersede national regulations on safety requirements during offshore helicopter operations.

Infrastructure Bill 2014-2015 (UK)

This Bill (to be enacted as an Act and started in the House of Lords) is in 5 Parts with 5 Schedules. It applies mainly to England and Wales, but some elements also apply to Scotland.

Part 2 makes provision (England and Wales) for the control of invasive non-native species through species control agreements and orders, similar to the existing system in Scotland.

Part 3 makes provision about Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) (England and Wales) and certain certain cross-border oil and gas pipelines (Britain), under the Planning Act 2008 (the 2008 Act deals with matters that are not devolved as regards Wales and Scotland). Amendments relating to the deemed discharge of planning conditions apply in England only.

NB: section 22 of the Planning Act 2008 is to be amended to provide that highway development (roads) will be NSIP if a strategic highways company is or will be the highway authority (Part 1 deals with strategic highways companies).

Part 4 and Schedule 5 make provision about a community electricity right to buy a stake in a renewable electricity development in or adjacent to the community (Britain and internal waters and the Renewable Energy Zone, except the territorial sea next to Northern Ireland).

Invasive Species

My latest post on EU Invasive Species is here. In this post I outline the position on non-native invasive species in Scotland (and England and Wales).

At present, DEFRA’s and the Welsh Government’s network bodies must enter into voluntary agreements with landowners over gaining access to eradicate non-native invasive species. Around 5% do not give authority. In contrast to powers available under plant and animal health to combat pests and diseases, government bodies have no power (England and Wales) to compel landowners to act, nor do they have powers of surveillance nor powers to enter onto land to carry out work.

The proposal is to insert a new subsection 14(4A) into the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to provide for measures relating to species control agreements and species control orders to be contained in a new Schedule 9A.

Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP)

The Planning Act 2008 established the regime governing applications in respect of NSIP. Changes are proposed to enable the Examining authority (provided for by the Act) to be appointed earlier in the process, and to be comprised of two people (presently it can be one person, or three, four or five people).

Started in the House of Lords, however, the Bill does not include measures that have been widely speculated upon prior to its publication relating to hydraulic fracturing or fracking, and to zero carbon homes.

Bill progress (and explanatory notes) are here.

Shale Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing

The House of Commons Library Standard Note (updated 5 June 2014) Shale Gas and Fracking is here.