Making sense of IPPC

In response to the difficulties surrounding IPPC applications, Leeds-based environmental consultancy, White Young Green, has set up a service to assist clients in collecting the required information and presenting it in the format required by the regulator.

The Integrated Pollution, Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive was implemented in the UK on 1 August 2000. Under the new regulatory system, between 6-7,000 installations will have to apply for a permit in the UK in sectors such as food and drink manufacturing, the chemical industry, waste management sites, the energy industry, metal production, minerals, paper and pulp, textiles, timber and intensive farming.

The publicity surrounding the IPPC directive has not been encouraging. It was recently reported that less than one third of the companies that have applied for an IPPC permit have actually received one, and in Scotland some companies within the paper and cement sectors are still waiting 12 months after their original application to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

IPPC compliance

As the applications procedure is being phased in sector by sector, with the ultimate deadline set for 2007, it is clear that many companies don’t really know exactly what compliance entails and completely underestimate the expense and commitment involved. The application is far reaching, covering environmental management systems, waste, noise, energy, air emissions, water use, waste minimisation, effluent disposal and accident prevention.

Herein lies part of the problem. Many companies required to apply for the IPPC permit do not possess the knowledge or expertise in-house to prepare adequate responses for some of the more detailed and technical requirements of IPPC. This adds to the application processing delay as many of the documents have to be returned due to incorrect or insufficient information.

Having submitted an application, determination can take anything from four to 12 months at the present time – and that is if a company is already operating efficiently. If not, then it could take much longer, with the regulator coming back to applicants requesting more information about various aspects.

The Environment Agency has recently commented that one-third of the applications awaiting a permit have been delayed due to poor quality submissions and insufficient client information. A similar number had not been processed due to delays in companies submitting appropriate site contamination reports.

One of the ways to avoid the delay or return of application documents is to bring in an expert. Leeds-based environmental consultancy, White Young Green, was quick to realise that it had consultants with the relevant expertise to assist companies to prepare their IPPC applications. Time was invested in order to gain a thorough understanding of the requirements of the Regulations and the numerous guidance documents issued to assist companies and their relevant Trade Associations.

Required information

Over the past two years, White Young Green has assisted companies in the food and drink, chemical, and metal treatment industries to submit applications. The role of the consultant has been to guide the company in the collection of the required information and to present it in the format required by the Regulator. In addition White Young Green has completed specialist studies including air monitoring and dispersion modelling, noise and odour assessment, water, energy and waste audits. In addition the company has prepared several site contamination assessments to the satisfaction of the Regulator. Implementation of a formalised Environmental Management System has also been undertaken to enable companies to continually improve their environmental performance and to manage their ongoing compliance.

Stephen Carruthers, director in the Leeds office, believes that the difficulty lies in the wide-ranging requirements of the permit application. He says:

“If you take the case of SEPA applicants, it has been reported that many companies are failing to get past the first hurdle because their applications do not adequately demonstrate how they intend to use ‘best available techniques’ (BAT) to control their releases. The preparation of site condition reports has also been found lacking. Our clients have recognised the value of appointing White Young Green to manage their IPPC applications, and we have received positive feedback from the Regulator on the quality of the applications.

“There are many aspects of compliance that require a high level of specialisation, not to mention available capital for implementation programmes.

“Any new facility needs a permit to operate immediately, and it is a criminal offence to operate a facility that is covered by the Regulations without a permit. If you extend an existing facility it will also need to comply prior to production (introduction commissioning).

“The EA has published a league table which highlighted the worst performing companies linked to shareholdings, so investment in companies that fail to comply could be affected too unless they improve.”

Continuous improvement

The EA will undertake regular visits following the award of the original permit with at least an annual inspection. Continuous improvement is fundamental to the IPPC implementation regime. Permits will be reviewed on a three-year basis and breach will bring prosecution, fines or even imprisonment with repeated breaches leading to closure.

The latest figures revealed that the number of applications had reached 438 in England and Wales and 78 north of the border by the end of August. Less than one third have been issued with permits – 155 by the EA and four by SEPA.

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