IPPC paves way to single pollution control regime

A new Bill which paves the way to the creation of a single pollution control regime, implementing the requirements of the Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control (IPPC) Directive, was introduced into the House of Lords in November 1998.

The new Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Bill will give the Secretary of State the power to repeal Part 1 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and replace it with a coherent overall system which does away with three separate regimes of Integrated Pollution Control (IPC), Local Air Pollution Control (LAPC) and Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control (IPPC).

The UK must transpose the IPPC Directive into domestic legislation by 31 October 1999 from which time new industrial installations will have to meet its requirements. Existing installations will be phased in by industry sector over the period 2001-2007.

How to implement IPPC has been the subject of a series of consultation papers, the third of which was released over Christmas along with a full copy of the draft regulations.

On one of the more contentious issues – the split in regulatory control between local authorities and Environment Agency – the majority of respondents favoured the minimal disruption offered by a division of regulatory responsibility along existing IPC/LAPC lines.

Substantial changes

In October 1998, the Government endorsed this view, announcing that local authorities would retain regulatory responsibility for the bulk of the 1,500 IPPC installations they currently regulate under the LAPC regime as well as continuing to regulate emissions to air from the 11,500 non-Directive LAPC processes.

But because local authority expertise is in regulating emissions to air rather than in regulating discharges to water, the Government is now proposing that all PPC applications to be determined by local authorities must be referred to the EA who would then set minimum conditions relating to discharges to water. These provisions should also ensure that the EA’s responsibility for river basin management is preserved.

Other issues raised in the second consultation paper included the procedures for handling ‘substantial’ changes to IPPC authorisations, with local authorities and pressure groups coming out in favour of retaining the status quo and industry in favour of consultation on ‘negative’ substantial change only. The Government is now proposing to give the regulator the power to invoke the consultation provisions if he considers it appropriate. This will allow insubstantial or positive but contentious cases to continue to be subject to public consultation if necessary.

The new consultation also invites comment on criteria for setting sector-specific permit review periods, a widely welcomed departure from the existing four-year cycle. These include the expected rate of technological advance in a sector; the likelihood of operators in a sector undertaking improvements on their own initiative; the risk and level of environmental impacts associated with a sector; and indicative upgrading timetables contained in the Guidance Notes.

The Government has also been exploring ways in which to keep to a minimum the regulatory burden on IPPC installation with no capacity for causing significant pollution. It is proposing that regulators who are satisfied that the installation’s impact is ‘trivial’ would be able to issue an authorisation containing certain standard conditions requiring the operator to use BAT, report any changes and report any significant pollution incidents.

To reduce regulatory costs and allow for the quick determination of BAT, the Government is proposing that regulators will also be able to develop standard permit conditions for certain ‘homogeneous’ sectors.

The consultation exercise also covers implementation issues such as arrangements for the delivery of Environmental Quality Standards, control of noise, regulation of agriculture and food and drink installations, as well as site restoration and energy efficiency issues.

It proposes that where an EQS requires a stricter emissions limit than that based on BAT, then that limit shall apply. Noise control arrangements will be left relatively undisturbed, with local authorities regulating noise from industrial installations.

Where a need for site restoration has been identified but the regulator agrees to defer that remediation, the new consultation proposes regulators should have the power to require the provision of financial security. It also intends to make provision to deal with cases where contamination by an IPPC operation affects neighbouring land, including compensation.

Finally, in the case of energy efficiency, the Government expects that the Directive’s requirements will be met through site-specific permit conditions. It sees a role for ‘negotiated agreements’ whereby clearly defined groups of installations work together to deliver a level of energy efficiency at least equal to their individual commitments. IPPC might also form a starting point for an emissions trading scheme for CO2, given that the proposed regulations will offer a ready-made monitoring regime.

A further opportunity to comment will be issued in a consultation paper due to be published in the spring. The deadline for responses to Third Consultation Paper on the Implementation of the IPPC Directive, December 1998, is 28 February 1999. Copies are available from the DETR tel: 0171 890 3000 or the DETR website.

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