COVID-19 EA Regulatory Position Statements (England)

I posted before about the Environment Agency’s Regulatory Position Statements (RPS), and the fact that the Agency is publishing RPS for the COVID-19 crisis.

Yesterday 21st April, the EA has issued further COVID-19 RPS. Here

You will note there are now quite a few of them.

COVID-19 Environment Agency (England)

The Environment Agency (EA) issues Regulatory Position Statements (RPSs). These explain the situations and conditions when an environmental permit is not required.

The EA issued temporary RPSs last year in the run up to the Brexit Exit days.

The EA has now issued 3 temporary RPSs to deal with COVID-19 – here.

Two address waste issues, and one deals with water sampling.

The exceeding waste storage limits RPS is similar to the temporary Brexit RPS that was issued last year.

The full list of EA Regulatory Position Statements is – here.

Environment Bill (England & UK Brexit)

The Environment Bill returns to the Commons for Second Reading today. It is a slightly different Bill to 2019. Please reprise the posts I wrote in 2019, I summarise the changes (from those posts) below – I had got as far as Water – please find those posts in the Environment Bill category on this blog.

Targets (unchanged from 2019 Bill) – reprising because I didn’t set these out before – England only (targets are within the competencies of devolved legislatures)

– allow government to set long-term targets (of at least 15 years duration) in relation to the natural environment and people’s enjoyment of the natural environment via statutory instrument;

– require government to meet long-term targets, and to prepare remedial plans where long-term targets are not met;

– require government to set, by October 2022, at least one long-term target in each of the priority areas of air quality, water, biodiversity, and resource efficiency and waste reduction;

– require government to set and meet an air quality target for fine particulate matter in ambient air (PM2.5);

– require government to periodically review all environmental targets to assess whether meeting them would significantly improve the natural environment in England.

Note Clause 20 – Clause 20: Reports on international environmental protection legislation (this is unchanged from 2019 Bill, but I did not spell it out before) – this clause places an obligation on the Secretary of State to produce a report on significant developments in international environmental protection legislation, every two years, and lay it before Parliament. England only (competencies are within the competencies of devolved legislatures).

The scope and content of the report will be determined by the Secretary of State – see subsection (5). However, in a given reporting period it could cover: significant developments in the legislation of other countries that are mainly concerned with seeking to protect the natural environment from the effects of human activity or protecting people from the effects of human activity on the environment; legislation on the maintenance, restoration or enhancement of the natural environment; or legislative provisions around monitoring, assessing, considering and reporting and monitoring on these matters. The report will not extend to reviewing or considering the planning systems of other countries.

OEP (Office for Environmental Protection) – unchanged from 2019 Bill – see Blog posts on this – England only (establishing an OEP is within the competencies of devolved legislatures – Scotland indicated it would go this direction see its Environmental Strategy – see my post of yesterday).

Changes to UK REACH – unchanged from 2019 Bill

Waste, Air and Water appear unchanged from the 2019 Bill, and I have Blog posted before about these topics. Nonetheless, I will Blog again re Waste, because this is highly complex and a lot of new processes are announced. Please read the Explanatory Notes – here.

New Blog posts will be made about the rest of the Bill, please look out for those.

EU Law in UK 2021 (UK Brexit)

Exit day is 31st January (end of this month)

Implementation period completion day is 31st December (this is the end of the transition period)

The Chancellor speaking to the Financial Times, confirms there will be no dynamic alignment with EU Law after 2020.

I am not yet clear which laws will diverge, but please note the Brexit laws allow divergence, for example the Brexit Agriculture Bill provides for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to create their own marketing standards (Scotland will need to enact its own Brexit Agriculture Bill).

The EU Exit regulations (statutory instruments) we (Cardinal Environment) are consolidating into domestic law only deal with the pre-Brexit period to end Dec 2020.

It is the FT front page today (Saturday 18th January) and the lead on BBC online.

EU Law per se will not apply anyway. Note, there may be some long tail implementation left over from pre-Brexit that will be implemented.

We (Cardinal Environment) are already consolidating the EU Exit regulations into domestic law, and creating the Retained EU Law (EU Regulations, not Directives, that are adopted). Progress in this project can be seen by clicking the Brexit Consolidated Law List on the top right hand side of EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists homepages (both ENV and OHS).

We are working to the deadline of 31st December 2020 for completion of this project.

In addition, EHS Legislation Registers & Checklists will see the home page choice of ENV or OHS have additional Post-Brexit choices, and the existing links relabelled Pre-Brexit.

The Post-Brexit links will direct to shadow Registers & Checklists that will run from the end of Q1 to hit the end Dec 2020 deadline, for switch over to Post-Brexit.

Post-Brexit shadow Registers & Checklists running in 2020 will have Brexit Consolidated Law loaded (accessibility will stay from the main Brexit Consolidated Law list), and will display a changed Register layout.

Post-Brexit EHS Legislation Registers layout – EU Law will be moved from the top to below Guidance. We will still supply up to date EU Law to UK customers, but this is where it will be found. Retained EU Law will be displayed at the top of the Register.

Stormont Re-Start (Northern Ireland)

Following acceptance by political parties in Northern Ireland of The New Decade, New Approach Deal, Stormont will re-start after three years.

This means restoration to full operation of all the institutions of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, including the Executive, the Assembly, the North South Ministerial Council, the British-Irish Council and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

The following commitments in The New Decade, New Approach Deal are relevant for our purposes –

(1) The Executive will create an Executive Sub-Committee on Brexit.

The sub-committee will be chaired by the First Minister and deputy First Minister (or their nominated Ministerial representatives). The sub-committee will have at least one representative from each party on the Executive. As a matter of urgency the sub-committee will consider Brexit-related issues and will initiate, as soon as is practicable, an assessment of the impact of Brexit on the institutions and North/South and East/West relationships. The work of the sub-committee will be scrutinised by an Assembly Committee.

(2) The Executive will establish a central Translation Hub in the Department of Finance within three months of an agreement, in order to provide language translation services for the 9 Executive Departments, Arm’s Length Bodies, Local Government and Public Bodies.

The Assembly’s Standing Orders will also be amended to allow any person to conduct their business before the Assembly or an Assembly Committee through Irish or Ulster Scots. A simultaneous translation system will be made available in the Assembly to ensure that a person without Irish or Ulster Scots is not placed at a disadvantage.

(3) Representatives from the Northern Ireland Executive will be invited to be part of the UK delegation in any meetings of the UK-EU Specialised Committees or the Joint Committee discussing Northern Ireland specific matters which are also being attended by the Irish Government as part of the European Union’s delegation.

A powerful Joint Committee is established under the (international treaty) EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement to oversee that Agreement (for orderly UK exit from the EU). This Joint Committee will have Specialised Committees.

(4) The UK government will legislate to guarantee unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market, and ensure that this legislation is in force for 1 January 2021. The UK government will engage in detail with a restored Executive on measures to protect and strengthen the UK internal market.

The Deal, alongside its two annexes, represents a possible outline of a Programme for Government. The parties agree to publish, within two weeks of the restoration of the institutions, the fuller details of an agreed Programme for Government. The parties recognise that the final Programme for Government will need to be agreed by the parties who form the Executive.

Within its first month of operation, the Executive will publish a legislative programme and indicative timescales which will complement the Programme for Government.

The following are relevant Deal commitments –

(1) The Executive will make its first priority to ensure the best possible Brexit outcome for citizens and the economy, reflecting the priorities set out in the letter of August 2016 from the First Minister and deputy First Minister to the Prime Minister.

(2) The Executive will invest urgently in wastewater infrastructure (the Living With Water Programme) which is at or nearing capacity in many places across Northern Ireland, including in Belfast.

(3) The Executive will tackle climate change with a new Energy Strategy to address the immediate and longer term impacts of climate change, and set targets and actions for transition to a zero carbon society.

The parties agree that, within 3 months, the new Executive will publish a comprehensive timetable for the development and delivery of this and other strategies necessary to achieve the outcomes in the Programme for Government.

(4) The Executive will introduce legislation and targets for reducing carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Change Accord.

Specifically, –

* the Executive will bring forward a Climate Change Act

* the Executive will establish an independent Environmental Protection Agency

* the Executive will create a plan to eliminate plastic pollution

* the RHI (Renewable Heat Initiative) will be closed down and replaced by a scheme that cuts carbon emissions.

Please also note the statements made by the Irish Government which also summarises the Brexit supports available to border regions.

The Deal document is here.

Drinking Water Directive (EU)

Provisional agreement on revision of the EU Drinking Water Directive was reached on 19th December.

The proposal updates to the latest changes to WHO safety standards.

Further details are here.

UK – if the revised EU Directive is published before 31st December, which it is likely to be, then it will apply in the UK (but local law would have to be updated).

Environment Bill (published) – Part 5 (England & UK part)

The Bill is here. 130 Clauses in 8 Parts, and 20 Schedules.

The Explanatory Memorandum is here.

The Environment Bill (“the Bill”) is comprised of two thematic halves.

(1) A legal framework for environmental governance once the UK leaves the EU.

This was earlier published in part as the draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill on 19 December 2018, fulfilling a legal obligation set out in section 16 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The measures published at that time related only to environmental principles and governance, and placing the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing.

I posted three Blog posts so far about the first thematic half – one on UK REACH, one on Parts 1&2, and one on the OEP.

(2) Provision for specific improvement of the environment, including measures on waste and resource efficiency, air quality and environmental recall, water, nature and biodiversity, and conservation covenants.

SPECIFIC IMPROVEMENT of the ENVIRONMENT

Part 5 – Water – includes –

– improving water resources planning, which facilitates collaborative regional planning and considers the needs of all sectors of water users, including the environment;

[in the context of water scarcity in certain locations, although not specifically mentioned, we may need to see the construction of further reservoirs]

– placing on a statutory footing drainage and wastewater planning to assess risks to sewerage networks and network capacity;

– modernising water regulation by reforming elements of the abstraction licensing regime to link it more tightly to the government’s objectives for the water environment;

– enabling updates to be made to the valuation calculations relevant to the apportionment of internal drainage board (IDB) charges in secondary legislation, allowing for the creation of new or expansion of existing IDBs where there is a local desire to do so;

enabling updates to the lists of priority substances that pose a threat to water bodies in line with the latest scientific knowledge, when there are no longer powers under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972.

Clause 79 sets out these powers. Note the consent requirements re the devolved administrations –

– Clause 79 Subsection (4) establishes that the Secretary of State can only exercise the powers in this section to make provision that could be made by the Welsh Ministers or Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs under their own powers in clauses 80 and 81 respectively with their consent.

– Clause 79 Subsection (5) establishes that the Secretary of State cannot exercise the powers in this section to make provisions which would fall within the Scottish Parliament’s devolved competency, given effect by powers under an Act of that Parliament, with the exception of parts of the cross border river basin districts lying in Scotland, where the Secretary of State could exercise the powers to make provisions but only with Scottish Ministers’ consent.

– Clause 79 Subsection (6) establishes the consultation requirements attached to the exercise of the powers. Subsection (6)(b) requires the Secretary of State to consult with Welsh Ministers when making regulations applying to an England and Wales cross-border River Basin District (RBD) that lies in England, and when the Welsh Ministers’ consent is not required under subsection (4). This would mean consultation is only required if the provision being made is only for the English part and does not apply to the part in Wales. Subsection (5)(c) places the same consultation requirements on the Secretary of State in relation to the cross-border RBDs shared with Scotland.

Note –

– Clause 80 confers a regulation, broadly comparable to that in clause 79, on the Welsh Ministers in relation to Wales. Subsection (4) requires consultation with the Natural Resources Body for Wales, other interested persons or bodies, and with the Secretary of State when exercising the power in relation to the Welsh part of a cross-border RBD.

– Clause 81 confers the same power on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in relation to Northern Ireland.

—————

As a Bill, this document would need to pass both Houses of Parliament to enter the statute books. You note, I pegged this as England.

However, some Clauses are intended to have effect outside England – see page 194 of the Explanatory Memorandum which has a table. And see earlier re environmental quality standards and substance lists.

If the Bill enters the statute books, the provisions then need to be commenced, some may be commenced immediately, such as those that are needed directly for EU Exit, but there could be a substantive delay in the commencement of other Part, such as Part 5.

I will issue further Blog posts, please look out for them.

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.

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.