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Check your activities under new permits

Jeremy Eden

Many businesses in the waste and recycling sector will be subject to the Environmental Permitting (EP) Regulations, which were first introduced in 2007 with the aim of consolidating into a single regime a range of waste legislation that spanned 41 regulations.

Changes to the EP Regulations have recently been introduced under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010, which came into force on 6 April. These update the 2009 EP Regulations and, among other things, widen the scope of the regulations to cover water discharge consents, groundwater authorisations and radioactive waste authorisations.

The EP Regulations 2010, which apply in England and Wales only, relate to activities under the Pollution, Prevention and Control (PPC) regime and the waste management regime, and deal with the processes necessary to obtain, modify, transfer, surrender or revoke a permit. Under the new regulations, operators will be permitted to consolidate a number of waste and PPC permits into a single environmental permit. For the waste sector, operators can now also:

  • surrender or transfer a permit in full or in part
  • vary a permit to cover an increase in the area of the site that is covered by that permit
  • deal more readily with changes to a permit necessitated by variations to the activities covered
  • demonstrate operator competence through a range of schemes such as a Certificate of Technical Competence
  • consolidate several waste management licences and PPC permits into a single environmental permit.

One of Defra’s key aims for the EP Regulations has been to simplify the historically confusing and unco-ordinated system of consents, permits, authorisations and licences that previously related to the regulation of the sector. The introduction of the EP Regulations was intended to cut down on legislation and allow for greater flexibility in how an operator runs its business. So the recent changes should make it easier for operators to vary the conditions of an environmental permit and apply for a permit for multiple sites.

Furthermore, the application process for many permits should be simpler and faster, and the Environment Agency (EA) is presently looking to introduce an online registration and application service for certain permits, which should cut costs and make the process more efficient for everyone.

Under the 2010 Regulations, operators which previously held a water discharge consent, a groundwater authorisation or a radioactive waste authorisation will automatically, from 6 April 2010, have the relevant environmental permit instead. No application is necessary and the EA will not issue a new permit. The new permit will contain the same restrictions as the previous consent or authorisation.

This brings the number of classes of regulated facility that need to hold an environmental permit to seven: the other four are an installation where activities listed in Schedule 1 of the EP Regulations 2010 takes place; mobile plant used for a Schedule 1 activity or waste operation; a waste operation; and a mining waste operation.

Other changes introduced by the 2010 Regulations relate to waste management activities for which the relevant operator has registered an exemption with the EA or relevant local authority. The amendments to waste exemptions are significant, and operators with current registered exemptions will have to re-register under the new system during a transitional period.

Finally, under the 2010 Regulations, it is possible for an operator to request that a single authority takes responsibility for issuing a single environmental permit for a multi-activity site, in circumstances where previously both the EA and the local authority would have been involved. This should therefore streamline the permit system for a number of operators.

Jeremy Eden is head of the waste, renewables and energy team atEMW Picton Howell

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