Environment Bill (UK)

I posted months ago about HMG proposal for a new Environment Bill. There has not been an Environment Bill since 1995.

Progress to date has been weak, and the aspects that were published so far related only to the Governance and Principles aspects.

Today, 23rd July, the DEFRA Secretary has published an updated Policy Statement (of intentions) – here.

Note : Environment is a policy area that is devolved to the regional nations, so the legislative proposals below would apply in England only. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would decide themselves whether and what to follow.

Note : this Statement identifies the Environment Bill will be introduced in the second Parliamentary Session (we are still in the First).

Air quality

(1) Legislation on key measures in the Clean Air Strategy – sharing responsibility for tackling air pollution (across local government structures and with relevant public bodies), plus enabling local government to tackle emissions from domestic burning.

(2) Powers for government to mandate recalls of vehicles and machinery, when they do not meet relevant legal emission standards.

Nature

(3) Nature policy to have a local community focus – a mandatory approach to biodiversity net gain requiring developers to ensure habitats for wildlife are enhanced, with a 10% increase in habitat value for wildlife compared with the pre-development baseline (national infrastructure projects excepted – we will continue to work to establish potential approaches to achieving biodiversity net gains for nationally significant infrastructure projects and marine development, which remain out of scope of biodiversity net gain in the Bill).

(4) Re net gain, planning and the future Environmental Land Management system (replacing agricultural land subsidies) – a new statutory requirement for Local Nature Recovery Strategies. The aim is for these strategies to help to map out important habitats and opportunities for the local environment to be improved, linking communities’ knowledge and priorities with national environmental objectives.

(5) A new duty on local authorities to consult with local communities to ensure that consultation takes place when a street tree is to be felled.

(6) Legislation on conservation covenants – voluntary agreements between a landowner and others (for example, a conservation charity) to help deliver positive local conservation.

Waste

(7) A series of measures that will fundamentally change the way government, businesses and individuals produce and consume products (this will be a big change).

(8) New legal powers to allow government to set resource-efficiency standards for products, driving a shift in the market towards products that are lasting, can be repaired and can be recycled. Plus clear labelling to enable citizens to make fully informed purchasing decisions.

(9) New powers to introduce Extended Producer Responsibility schemes – for packaging, producers will pay the full net cost of dealing with their packaging waste to incentivise recyclability in its design (this is in line with other countries). At the moment, producers currently only pay about 10% of these costs. This will be a fundamental change to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Producer Responsibility Law.

(10) Legislation to modernise the government’s powers to set producer responsibility obligations, extending them to prevention and redistribution of waste, in particular tackling food waste where there is no Legislation in England.

(11) A simplified approach to recycling across local authorities, making it simpler for the public to recycle. A consistent set of materials will need to be collected from all households and businesses in England, with clearer labelling on packaging.

(12) New powers to enable deposit return schemes, particularly dealing with plastic waste. Plus a new power to be able to introduce charges for specified single use plastic items. (Note, there is new EU Law in this area, I posted about recently).

(13) The Litter Strategy commits to review the mechanism by which councils and other land-managers can be held to account for maintaining their land to the standards set out in the Code of Practice. This includes the current section 91 Environment Protection Act process and other options, taking into account the impacts on local authority prioritisation and costs, the court system and the exchequer.

(14) A series of measures unspecified) to improve the management of waste, enabling better use of resources and to reduce the risk of economic, environmental and social harm.

Water

(15) Legislation to strengthen Ofwat’s powers to update water companies’ licences – in particular bringing the way in which water companies appeal Ofwat decisions in line with that for other utility regulators.

(16) New powers to direct water companies to work together on how they will meet current and future demand for water; making planning more robust, even in drought conditions and/or in areas of water stress, for example by working jointly to transfer between catchments when needed.

(17) A new power to enable future updates to a list of harmful chemicals which must be tackled to protect the aquatic environment.

EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st October 2019

On the evening of 14th May (two days ago), the UK Government said it would bring the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill to Parliament in the week beginning 3rd June 2019 (two weeks time).

The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is not published. The Bill is needed to implement the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement that is signed but not ratified by the UK.

This Institute for Government explainer sets out information about the Bill – here.

It is unlikely that Parliament will enact the Bill. There are a number of reasons for this, covered in the Institute for Government explainer and publicised almost daily in the media. I will issue a new Blog post if it is; and if it is, it will be a major change to the going forward arrangements.

The Exit day is the day the UK leaves the EU, unless Article 50 is revoked in which case there is no Exit day.

The arrangements for conducting trade with the EU and other matters regulated presently by EU law, after Exit day, will be as set out in ‘No Deal’ Notices and other instructions, and may be subject to change as these arrangements firm up, or new arrangements created. This Blog contains many posts drawing attention to these new arrangements (please check the different Blog categories). I update the posts online if there are updates. Or I issue new Blog posts.

Changes in the date of the Exit day must be agreed between the EU and the UK, and are not in the gift of one side unilaterally. By decision of the European Court, Article 50 may be revoked by the UK on its own.

[The Exit day may change, please keep following this Blog]

Water Abstraction Plan (UK)

UPDATE : the DEFRA Report to Parliament (see timeline below) is here

The UK Government has a Water Abstraction Plan. This was updated on 11th April 2019 – here.

I posted before about this.

Most businesses taking more than 20,000 litres of water a day directly from rivers or groundwater require an abstraction licence.

The Plan states that the current approach to managing abstraction has three main issues:

* some older licences allow abstraction that can damage the environment

[and indeed the decision in what became the Catfield Fen test case established this – see this useful Blog account of the issues and what happened – here]

* the current approach is not flexible enough to cope with the pressures of increasing demand for water and climate change in the long term, or to allow abstractors access to additional water when it is available

* the abstraction service is outdated and paper-based

The Plan document states – The Government published a range of approaches to address these issues in January 2016 following formal consultation. This plan explains how these will be implemented over the coming years. Our approach to addressing these issues has three main elements:

(1) making full use of existing regulatory powers and approaches to address unsustainable abstraction and move around 90% of surface water bodies and 77% of groundwater bodies to the required standards by 2021

(2) developing a stronger catchment focus – bringing together the Environment Agency, abstractors and catchment groups to develop local solutions to existing pressures and to prepare for the future. These local solutions will:

* protect the environment by changing licences to better reflect water availability in catchments and reduce the impact of abstraction

* improve access to water by introducing more flexible conditions that support water storage, water trading and efficient use

(3) supporting these reforms by modernising the abstraction service, making sure all significant abstraction is regulated and bringing regulations in line with other environmental permitting regimes

The Plan document states – We will report to parliament by May 2019 on progress made on abstraction reform.

The Plan document states – the Environment Agency will publish updated abstraction licensing strategies for 10 catchments by 2021.

The Plan document states – We are planning to move abstraction and impoundment regulations into the environmental permitting regulations. The move will provide a more modern and consistent legal framework for the day to day management of abstraction. We expect to consult on the detail of the move in early 2020.

The Plan document key milestones :

• January 2018 – start testing digital abstraction licences

• January 2018 to 31 December 2019 – application process for previously exempt abstractors open

• April 2018 – Environment Agency begins work in 4 priority catchments to test the approaches to improve access to water and begin to address local pressures

• By end of 2018 – Environment Agency to have revoked around 600 unused abstraction licences

• During 2019 – Defra reports to parliament demonstrating progress on abstraction reform

• By end 2019 – majority of licences available digitally and approach to submitting records online is improved

• Early 2020 – consult on moving water resources licensing to Environmental Permitting Regulations

• 2020 – Environment Agency publish 4 updated abstraction licensing strategies from initial catchments

• March 2020 – Environment Agency completes restoring sustainable abstraction programme

• 2021 – Environment Agency publish an additional 6 updated abstraction licensing strategies

• 2021 – 2,300 time limited licences reviewed by 2021

• 2021 – Environment Agency will report on progress against environmental targets

• 2021 – abstraction licences become environmental permits (subject to consultation)

• 31 December 2022 – all previously exempt abstractions will be permitted

• By 2027 – Environment Agency will have updated all abstraction licensing strategies

Following Catfield, and in accordance with this Plan, the Environment Agency has begun reviewing and withdrawing time limited abstraction licences in the Fens.

Brexit Law List (UK Brexit)

Civil servants across the UK Government have now laid all the Statutory Instruments (SIs) necessary under the EU Withdrawal Act.

Over 10,000 new pages of legislation are created.

We are updating the Brexit Law List as these are available in the public domain. It is a relief to know that the production of new instruments has now finished, and we await enactment of all instruments.

As I said in a Blog post yesterday or the day before, we will commence processing these Brexit Laws shortly into the EHS Legislation supplies in the Registers and Checklists, and before 12th April.

Given the size of the task, we expect this job to take at least 2019.

Please keep following the Blog posts for information. I have created a new Blog Category in the Archive – UK Law Deficiency Correction Process.

Road Haulage (NI Brexit)

UPDATE : the EU Council has now agreed its position on basic road connectivity – here.

There is uncertainty in the haulage industry about what will happen at EU borders if the UK leaves without a Brexit deal next month.

Back in November, the UK Government issued guidance to UK hauliers stating that they “might need ECMT permits to transport goods in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA)” if there is no deal by 29 March.

The European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permits can be used in a list of 43 countries which have signed up to the international arrangement.

The deadline for 2019 applications expired on 18 January 2019 and on Saturday night, many hauliers were informed on whether or not they were successful. I posted earlier about the deadline.

ECMT permits were over-subscribed and allocated on a points-based system, with higher scores awarded to firms who make a larger number of journeys into EU member states.

It would appear the Department for Transport (DfT) did not take into account journeys to the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland operators, whereas English, Scottish or Welsh hauliers were credited with their journeys to the Republic of Ireland.

Just over 1,200 permits were available for the UK as a whole and it is likely only 60-70 were made available to Northern Ireland firms.

In its guidance issued last year, the Government said it expected that Northern Ireland hauliers “will not need an ECMT permit” to drive to or through the Republic of Ireland.

It stated it would not require Republic of Ireland hauliers to have ECMT permits to operate in Northern Ireland.

It added that the UK was seeking a reciprocal agreement from the Irish government to allow Northern Ireland hauliers to travel across the Irish border without a permit.

I posted earlier that the European Commission (in its Contingency Plan) has proposed legislation that would allow UK hauliers basic rights (on a reciprocal basis) to conduct operations to, from and through the EU for a limited period of nine months after exit, if there is no deal.

“The Commission’s proposal will need to be agreed by the Council and European Parliament, and is being considered by both institutions urgently.” (UK Transport Minister, by statement last week)

The minister said he laid legislation before Parliament last week to provide for that access. [this will be included in the Brexit Law List, added to Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers and Law Checklists]

REACH and Pesticides (UK Brexit)

UPDATE (31 Jan 2019) : the Pesticides area is now elaborated with new guidance – here.

I posted before about HSE having the role of registering Chemicals (in the event of no deal), because there would no longer be access to ECHA. HSE has now elaborated its online presence a bit more, with guidance and instructions. This online presence also gives access (left hand side) to Pesticides instructions.

Here

In addition, a draft REACH Brexit statutory instrument was published. This is loaded into the Brexit Law List, accessed from subscribers’ Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists systems.

This draft instrument identifies the new domestic law will be a UK amended version of the EU REACH Regulation.

It is a complex draft instrument, it confirms the safety data sheets would be continued, with some changes, and confirms the downstream user obligations would also continue, again with some changes. The document is here.

In due course, we (Cardinal Environment) will produce a consolidated version of this new domestic law.

Please see this Chemical Watch analysis of the draft instrument, here.

In the event there is a deal, or a FTA, the law could change again. I will update this post, and/or issue a new port.

Brexit Update (EU, UK, Ireland)

Yesterday was a series of votes in the UK Parliament on the matter. Monday, the day before, was an announcement from the UK, and today there are announcements from the EU.

UK

(1) New European Temporary Leave to Remain. This will apply to EU and EEA nationals arriving in the UK after 29 March 2019. Persons wishing to stay longer than three months must apply and be granted European Temporary Leave to Remain which will last three years (and is non-renewable). Persons wishing to stay or to arrive after 1st Jan 2021 must do so under the new UK skills-based immigration system (the legislation is before Parliament).

The European Temporary Leave to Remain applies is there is no deal. If there is a deal that has the transitional arrangements set out in the current deal (that is not yet ratified) then registration under EU rules will apply after 29 March 2019. There is no announcement to elaborate that system, yet.

(2) Yesterday’s votes in Parliament do not ratify the deal (Withdrawal Agreement and Future Partnership Declaration). A further vote will take place on 14th February. It is not certain if that vote will ratify the deal. I will Blog post again.

(3) there is also an announcement re healthcare as respects UK nationals living in the EU/EEA area and Switzerland, here. See here for the position vis a vis Ireland.

(4) I updated (on the Blog post itself) re the expedited customs procedures that are planned for imports from the EU/EEA. I posted about these recently. Note as presently planned, these will not apply to the international border on the island of Ireland.

(5) Further Brexit regulations are in draft form and enacted – see the Brexit Law List in subscribers’ Cardinal Environment EHS Legislation Registers and Checklists.

EU

(1) the EU has a contingency plan and measures already published, and these are the Factsheets and Q&A here.

(2) today, the EU has published further measures, these deal with social security coordination, amongst other matters. And earlier the EU had issued measures to deal with Fisheries. The Press Release for today’s publication is here, and it has useful links from it.

Ireland

An omnibus bill of contingency measures is now published, here. Amongst other matters, this includes Healthcare.