It's a snip: the new EP regulations
The introduction of standard permits for waste operators under the new Environmental Permitting Regulations are designed to cut red tape, making regulation quicker and more cost-effective. Clare McCallan explainsThe Environmental Permitting Regulations (EP Regulations) come into force in England and Wales this month. They combine and replace Waste Management Licensing (WML) and Pollution Prevention Control (PPC) legislation with a single system covering both regulatory regimes.
By having a single system, the Environment Agency can reduce the amount of documentation and guidance that operators need to understand to comply with their permits. In addition, standard permits will be available for waste operators. The EA views this as a crucial step in cutting red tape and to improving the customer service that it provides to waste and process industry permit holders.
So, what happens to current WML and PPC permit holders? From 6 April, all current waste management licences and PPC permits will automatically become 'environmental permits'. The EA will not be sending out new permits, operators do not need to re-apply, and there is no change to the conditions in the permit. Current licence holders will automatically become the operator. All exempt waste registrations will become exemptions from environmental permitting.
Local authorities will continue to regulate Part B (releases to air) and A2 activities (lower risk multimedia releases) and the EA will regulate waste and larger, higher risk industrial activities. Defra has produced a manual to help local authorities on their regulatory role, which can be found on the Defra website at www.defra.gov.uk.
LAs hold a large number of current waste management licences for their depots and civic amenity sites, and these sites will be affected by the changes. The EA will be discussing these impacts with the Local Government Association.
So, what improvements will operators see? The EA is taking this opportunity to completely overhaul its permitting guidance, forms and documentation to make them shorter and easier to understand. There will be a shorter, more customer-friendly application form. In addition, there will be a one-stop-shop for applications at a new national permitting centre.
The EA will initially launch 27 standard permits for off-the-shelf waste activities. The permits refer to a set of rules published on the EA's website that have already been consulted on. Provided an operator can sign to say they meet these rules, the EA only needs to make location approvals in order to issue a permit. The main EA interaction with LAs will centre around planning status for sites.
Standard permits will be cheaper to buy and quicker to determine than the usual bespoke ones. The statutory determination time is three months for a standard permit compared with four months for a bespoke permit. Some of the new standard permits include: eight for household, commercial and industrial waste transfer stations; one for asbestos waste transfer stations; two for non-hazardous and hazardous household waste amenity sites; two for MRFs and one for WEEE. Other standard permits are being considered.
Later this year, it should be possible to apply and pay for EA environmental permits and exemptions online. Additionally, new schemes are being developed by industry to show technical competence. This will allow operators to choose the scheme most suited to them.
New permits issued by the EA will have more options as conditions are focused on outcomes rather than how to do it, and if operators can provide good records as evidence of protecting the land then expensive intrusive surveys will not be necessary before surrender of a permit. Also, partial transfer and surrender of permits will be possible.
Update for flexibility
The EA wishes to encourage holders of old waste management licences to update to new standard permits to get more flexible up-to-date rules and permits that are in the name of the operator rather than the licence holder.
In future, the aim is to encourage consolidation of permits at one site and develop a system for one operator holding all their standard permits under a single permit - multi-site consolidation. Future EU Directives could be implemented through the regulations and further existing regimes added. So they are all joined-up.
Overall, the new EP regulations are part of the EA's ongoing work to modernise regulation. Operators with good environmental performance will receive a lighter regulatory touch, freeing up resources to target the worst performers, so we achieve what's best for the environment.
l More information is available on the EA web site at: www.environment-agency.gov.uk/epr
Clare McCallan is waste regulation policy manager at the Environment Agency