Industry group criticises ‘environmental deregulation’

Despite fears expressed by the industry lobby, EIC, over the potential impact of "environmental deregulation" on air quality, the Government reports notable achievements by the UK in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. In this special LAWE air quality review we feature the NPL operated Heavy Metals Monitoring Network (page 28) and report on advances in monitoring equipment (page 29)

The Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), the industry lobby, has voiced concern over what it claims would be the “biggest ever environmental deregulation” which could be outcome of Government plans to review whether air pollution controls on thousands of polluting factories and industrial processes should be removed in the name of “better regulation”.

The proposal was made in papers submitted to DEFRA’s Industrial Pollution Liaison Committee which met on 13 July.

EIC claims that such a move would be the UK’s biggest ever exercise in deregulation of environmental standards, potentially leading to increased emissions of dioxins, particulates, ammonia, lead, cadmium and other dangerous pollutants.

Under the 1990 Environmental Protection Act2 air pollution from 17,000 factories is controlled by local authorities (a regime known as LAPPC). The Act put in place the concept of Best Available Techniques Not Entailing Excessive Cost (BATNEEC) so that pollution control standards would constantly improve over the years as technology developed.

The Government’s “Better Regulation Review” of whether these factories should be deregulated (provided controls are not required under EU law), covers as many as 5,000 processes in sectors including metal foundries, bulk cement and bitumen and tar processes. Pollutants from these factories include, for example, dioxins, dust (particulates), and lead.

Adrian Wilkes, Environmental Industries Commission Chairman, commented: “Defra’s proposal threatens to roll back a cornerstone of environmental protection in the UK and leave tens of thousands of people breathing higher levels of dangerous pollutants. It would be the biggest ever environmental deregulation initiative in this country, reversing a decade of tightening controls on industrial pollution.

“Ministers need to act urgently to stop Departments misinterpreting the sensible ‘Better Regulation’ agenda to cut red tape as an instruction to look for opportunities to de-regulate – cutting away at the framework of environmental protection that has been painstakingly built up to protect public health and improve our quality of life,” he added.

DEFRA has, in line with the Government’s Better Regulation Action Plan, launched by the Chancellor on 24 May, set itself a target of 25% reduction in red tape burdens of regulation. However, the EIC says that these initiatives are focused on reducing administrative burdens, not the actual public interest policy objective of tackling pollution and improving health and quality of life.

The lobby argues that the effectiveness of the LAPPC regime is already weakened by problems with enforcement which were the subject of a critical audit last year commissioned by DEFRA. In presenting the findings of the audit the Minister responsible, Lord Whitty, concluded, “The situation is clearly very patchy, which can neither be good for environmental protection nor for the efficient and effective use of resources”.

The EIC also says: “DEFRA’s new review also seems to ignore some recent research findings. A recent report for DEFRA’s Air Quality Export Forum concluded that “there is evidence that short and long-term exposure to particulate matter causes respiratory and cardiovascular illness and even death.” It also concludes we are not on track to meet EU legal limits for particulates in 2005 and 2010.

The commission also cites another (independent) study (“An Evaluation of the Air Quality Strategy” by AE Technology for Defra, published in December 2004, which, it says has shown that policies to reduce air pollution “have been extremely cost effective” with “extremely large benefits in reducing health and environmental impacts of air pollution”. Benefits were calculated to be as high as £68 billion (over 1990-2001) – compared to costs of just £5 billion.

Industry cuts CO2 emissions

The Government has recently announced more positive news on the environment that will not attract criticism from the business community. DEFRA figures show that British industry last year cut by 14.4 million tonnes the amount of carbon dioxide it releases into the atmosphere, more than double the target set by government.

Major manufacturers and companies who are big users of energy reduced their 2004 emissions of CO2, the main “greenhouse gas” responsible for climate change, by 8.9 million tonnes more than the minimum signed up to under Climate Change Agreements (CCAs).

The Government has also launched a consultation on its proposals on emissions trading for 2008-2012 covering the second phase of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). This phase coincides with the first Kyoto commitment period.

The consultation seeks views on the possible extension of the Scheme to cover more emissions from sectors including offshore flaring, foundries, glass, gypsum, rock wool, steelworks and petrochemicals. Comments are sought on allocation of carbon allowances, on the use of auctioning, benchmarks, the treatment of combined heat and power plants and new entrant and closure rules. It also asks for comments on issues related to the use of project credits and treatment of small installations.

The consultation is in two parts with comments due on Part A by 13 September and Part B by 27 September 2005.

Further information is available at and

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