Rewriting the rules

DEFRA has released a guide which aims to explain the pollution rules for industries regulated by local authorities. Jason Rayfield reports

To say that the way in which industrial processes and their pollution levels have been regulated has changed radically in recent years would still be seen by some as somewhat of an understatement. The new regime, which encompasses Local Authority Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (LA-IPPC), Local Authority Pollution Prevention and Control (LAPPC), Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) and Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) has created a great deal of exasperation and uncertainty amongst industry, as it struggles to come to terms with its new regulatory obligations.

A new guide, which is available on-line aims to set out the rules for some 1000 A2 processes under the LA-IPPC integrated pollution control regime, as well as some 17,000 Part B processes under the LAPPC (the new name for LAPC) regime. The information is especially relevant for the A2 processes that have only this year come under the new Pollution Prevention and Control regime.

The manual acts as the principal guidance issued by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the operation of two new pollution control regulatory regimes introduced under the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999. Local Authorities are the regulators for the new regimes, known as Local Authority Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (LA-IPPC) which covers installations known as A2 Installations (referred to as A2 in the PPC Regulations, and Local Authority Pollution Prevention and Control (LAPPC), which covers installations known as Part B installations.

The guidance makes the important distinction between the above regimes and the parallel IPPC system, which it describes as “covering installations known as A1 installations, which are regulated by the Environment Agency”. Separate published guidance is available from the Agency which deals with IPPC.

Statutory guidance

The document will appeal to a wide range of stakeholders, as it explains in its introduction: “This guidance is intended to fulfil a number of functions. It constitutes statutory guidance issued by government to local authority regulators under regulation 37 of the PPC Regulations. As such, local authorities must have regard to it in carrying out their regulatory functions. It is intended to explain the main functions, procedures and terminology contained in the legislation and to serve as a manual which helps local authorities to be effective, efficient and consistent in discharging their new responsibilities. Environment Agency regulators need not have regard to the manual other than to the extent that it clarifies its relationship with local authorities under the Regulations.

“It is intended to provide firms operating, or planning to operate, A2 or Part B installations and mobile plant with a guide to the steps they will need to take in order to obtain and comply with the necessary permit.”

By way of an introduction, the manual sets out the current situation, stating: “All three systems require the operators of specified industrial and other installations to obtain a permit to operate. An application must be made and the regulator then decides whether to issue or refuse a permit. If a permit is issued, it will include conditions aimed at reducing and preventing pollution.

“Together, the three systems will gradually replace the pollution control regime set up under Part 1 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This will be completed by 2007. The IPPC and LA-IPPC systems are the means by which the government has implemented the EU IPPC Directive.

“The detailed legal requirements for installations covered by LA-IPPC and LAPPC are contained in the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations 2000. These are referred to as the PPC Regulations.”

The bulk of the guidance deals with the application and permitting process of LA-IPPC and LAPPC. The two regimes are summarised thus:

“The system of Local Authority Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (LA-IPPC) applies an integrated environmental approach to the regulation of certain industrial activities (A2 Installations). It involves determining the appropriate controls for industry to protect the environment through a single permitting process. This means that emissions to air, water (including discharges to sewer) and land, plus a range of other activities with an environmental impact, must be considered together. It also means that local authorities must set permit conditions so as to achieve a high level of protection for the environment as a whole.

“The installations regulated under LAPPC (Part B installations) are those whose air emissions have been regulated by local authorities under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which do not come under the scope of the IPPC Directive. These will remain subject to air-only regulation.”

Framework for regulation

It is important to note that the guidance refers to issues and procedures relating to the making of applications, writing and granting permits, and regulating approved installations under the PPC Regulations. The authors recommend that it: “Be used in conjunction with the series of notes on Best Available Techniques (BAT) and Best Available Techniques Not Entailing Excessive Cost (BATNEEC)”. The authors’ intention is that the guidance is aimed at providing a, “strong framework for consistent and transparent regulation of activities and installations”. Recommendations go on to state that, “the guidance should be read in conjunction with the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000, as amended from time to time.”

Existing guidance

While the guidance is intended to provide, “firms operating, or planning to operate, A2 or Part B installations and mobile plant with a guide to the steps they will need to take in order to obtain and comply with the necessary permit”, it points out that it, “does not replace existing guidance relating to local authority functions under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which continues to have effect until such time as the 1990 Act no longer applies.”

PPC Regulation, in common with other forms of regulation, is littered with definitions, which are neatly explained in the guidance document:

An activity is defined as, “an industrial activity forming part of an installation. Different types of activities are listed within Schedule 1 of the PPC Regulations. They are broadly broken down into industrial sectors, grouping similar activities into chapters within this schedule. Other ‘associated’ activities may also form part of an installation.”

An installation comprises, “not just any relevant unit carrying out Part A2 or Part B activities listed in Schedule 1 to the PPC Regulations, but also directly associated activities which have a technical connection with the schedule 1 activities and which could have an effect on pollution. Once the extent of an installation has been established, each activity listed in Schedule 1 or constituting an ‘associated activity’ with an effect on pollution shall be included in the permit”.

An operator is defined as, “the person who has control over the operation of an installation or who will have control if it is not operating yet”.

The guide goes on to offer further information on every aspect of policy and procedure for the permitting of A2 and B installations, and offers essential reading for industry and regulators alike.

In the current regulatory climate, the size and content of this latest publication re-emphasises the need for an accessible, up-to-date and easy-to-understand flow of information from government to industry. The legislation may take years to properly phase in, but it is the industries who act quickly and decisively who will gain the upper hand in the long term.

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