Edie Environmental Legislation Summary

Recent changes to legislation which will impact on the environmental sector in the UK, Europe and internationally come under the spotlight in this Semple Fraser and Edie News monthly round-up of new law and policy. Among the developments this month we see more stringent requirements for oil exploration in UK waters enter into force, and revised air quality standards setting new limits on benzene and other pollutants in England. Transport fuel suppliers in England and Wales will have to reduce the amount of sulphur in liquid fuels under the new Sulphur Content of Liquid Fuels Regulations 2007; while in Northern Ireland asbestos rules are tightened with a lower control limit and revised measurement requirements, consistent with 1997 WHO guidelines.

UK Legislation

Offshore Extractive

The Offshore Petroleum Activities (Conservation of Habitats) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 enter into force on 18th February 2007, amending the original 2001 regulations that implement the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC and the Birds Directive 79/409/EEC in relation to oil and gas activities carried out on the UK continental shelf.

The 2001 Regulations require holders of a licence under the Petroleum Act 1998 relating to the UK continental shelf to obtain written consent from the Secretary of State before carrying out geological surveys on the continental shelf. The new Regulations extend the requirement for written consent to include UK waters. This means that prior written consent of the Secretary of State is needed by any person intending to carry out geological surveys in relation to oil and gas activities on the UK continental shelf or in UK waters.

The new Regulations also amend the 2001 Regulations to require persons intending to test equipment to be used in geological surveys relating to oil and gas activities to obtain prior written consent from the Secretary of State where the testing of such equipment takes place on the UK continental shelf or in UK waters. This consent is required irrespective of any provision in a licence granted under the Petroleum Act 1998. The Secretary of State, before granting consent, must consider whether an appropriate assessment is required pursuant to the 2001 Regulations.

The new Regulations also require the Secretary of State to consider whether an appropriate assessment is necessary before granting a licence under the Petroleum Act 1998.

The Regulations can be accessed at the following link:-

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/20070077.htm

English Legislation

Air Quality

The Air Quality Standards Regulations 2007 enter into force on 15th February 2007, implementing the Air Quality Framework Directive and various "daughter" Directives (i.e. Directive 96/62/EC on ambient air quality assessment and management, Directive 1999/30/EC relating to limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter and lead in ambient air, Directive 2000/69/EC relating to limit values for benzene and carbon monoxide in ambient air, Directive 2002/3/EC relating to ozone in ambient air, and Directive 2004/107/EC relating to arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air.)

The Regulations revoke and replace the Air Quality Limit Values Regulations 2003 and apply in England, although the provision on transboundary pollution applies throughout the UK, as does that revoking the 2003 Regulations.

The Regulations require certain air quality standards to be reached in relation to concentrations of various pollutants in ambient air. There are limits for 'Group A' pollutants, comprising benzene, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter (PM10) and sulphur dioxide. There are targets for 'Group B' pollutants, comprising the content of arsenic, benzo(a)pyrene, cadmium and nickel, and their compounds, within the PM10 fraction. There are also targets and long term objectives in terms of ozone. The Secretary of State, the Competent Authority in terms of the relevant Directives, must divide England into zones for the purpose of air quality management and assessment.

In order to achieve the standards set out in the Regulations, the Secretary of State is required to take certain measures. Regulation 7 sets out the measures ordinarily required. Where concentrations of benzene or nitrogen dioxide exceed the limit value plus the margin of tolerance specified, the Secretary of State must prepare and implement an improvement plan. He must also do so where concentrations of ozone exceed the target value, unless it is considered that the target value is unattainable through proportionate measures. Where concentrations of Group B pollutants exceed the relevant target value, or where concentrations of ozone exceed the long term objective, the Secretary of State must take the measures specified in Regulation 9, which relate to focussing measures on the particular pollutant that caused the exceedance.

Up to date information is to be made available to the public, including production of an annual report for ozone. Action and improvement plans and information relating to their implementation must be made available. The public is to be consulted in the preparation, modification and review of improvement plans.

There are provisions in the Regulations in relation to transboundary pollution from Group A pollutants and ozone.

The Regulations can be accessed at the following link:-

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/20070064.htm#29

Waste

The Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategies (Disapplication of Duties) (England) Regulations 2007 enter into force in England on 20th February 2007. The Regulations disapply, in respect of several categories of waste authorities which comply with specified conditions, the duties imposed by section 32(1) - (7) of the Waste and Emissions Trading Act 2003. This section required waste disposal and collection authorities in areas where the waste disposal authority is not also a waste collection authority to have a joint municipal waste management strategy.

The Regulations revoke the Joint Municipal Waste Management Strategies (Disapplication of Duties) (England) Regulations 2004.

The Regulations can be accessed at the following link:-

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/20070063.htm

Environmental Offences

The Environmental Offences (Fixed Penalties) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2007 enter into force on 6th April 2007, revoking and remaking the Regulations of the same name dated 2006.

The Regulations, applicable to England only, provide for the ranges of penalties capable of being specified by a local authority. They also specify the minimum amount which a local authority may, if it chooses to, accept as full payment of the fixed penalty. This is done by reference to specific penalty amounts specified by Statute.

A course of training approved by the Secretary of State and provided by a recognised training provider must be successfully completed by any person wishing to become an authorised officer of a parish council for the purposes of giving a fixed penalty notice.

The Regulations can be accessed at the following link:-

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/20070175.htm

English and Welsh Legislation

Fuels

The Sulphur Content of Liquid Fuels (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 enter into force on 16th February 2007, implementing, in England and Wales, provisions concerning heavy fuel oil (except marine fuels) in Directive 1999/32/EC on reduction in the sulphur content of certain liquid fuels. The Regulations provide that no person is to use any heavy fuel oil with a sulphur content in excess of 1% by mass. They also provide that no person is to use gas oil with a sulphur content in excess of 0.2% by mass, and, on or after 1st January 2008, with a sulphur content in excess of 0.1% by mass.

The Secretary of State must take all necessary measures to ensure that sampling of heavy fuel oil and gas oil is exercised, and that the use of such fuels is compliant with the restrictions set out in the Regulations. Contravention of the restriction will be an offence.

The Regulations revoke the Sulphur Content of Liquid Fuels (England and Wales) Regulations 2000. Schedule 1 provides for local authorities to exempt an operator of a combustion plant from the restriction on use of heavy fuel oil set out in regulation 4.

The Regulations can be accessed at the following link:-

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/20070079.htm

Scottish Legislation

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

The Environmental Impact Assessment (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2006 enter into force on 1st February 2007, belatedly implementing amendments made by Article 3 of Directive 2003/35/EC on public participation and access to justice to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 85/337/EEC. These changes to EIA procedures ought to have been transposed by 25 June 2005.

The Regulations make amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment (Scotland) Regulations 1999, the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, the Environmental Impact Assessment (Fish Farming in Marine Waters) Regulations, the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) (Scotland) Regulations 1999 and the Environmental Impact Assessment (Agriculture) (Scotland) Regulations 2006.

Article 3 of the 2003 Directive requires that any further information provided by an applicant or appellant which becomes available after the initial gathering of information has taken place must also be publicised. The Regulations amend the various instruments to effect this change. They also alter the definition of consultation bodies to include bodies designated by statute as having specific environmental responsibilities and which are considered likely to have an interest in the application.

Environmental NGOs have been given additional rights in terms of access to justice. The Scottish Ministers have certain duties in terms of projects in other EEA States that are likely to have significant effects on the environment in Scotland.

The Regulations are available at the following link:-

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/ssi2006/20060614.htm

Northern Irish Legislation

Asbestos

The Control of Asbestos Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007 enter into force on 1st March 2007, replacing the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003. Legislation relating to licensing and prohibitions in respect of asbestos is also revoked and re-enacted with some changes. The new Regulations implement the Marketing and Use Directive (76/769/EEC) in relation to asbestos.

The existing licensing requirements are re-enacted by the Regulations, and made subject to a maximum duration of 3 years. The existing provisions on prohibitions is also re-enacted with expired derogations removed, and provision made for exemptions.

Existing provisions in relation to the control of asbestos at work were also replaced by the Regulations and some substantive changes were made. A new, and lower, control limit of application to all types of asbestos is specified, along with a recommended method of measurement of asbestos levels, consistent with 1997 WHO guidelines. The duties in relation to asbestos are applied to all work with asbestos with the exception of licensing, notification, accident and emergency arrangements and health surveillance in respect of sporadic and low intensity exposure. The Regulations are disapplied in respect of ships other than naval ships. The list of topics on which employees must be trained in extended, and there are provisions in relation to respiratory equipment.

The Regulations can be accessed at the following link:-

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/sr/sr2007/20070031.htm

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