The Environment Agency (EA) is looking to relax and widen the scope of its standard rules permits under the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) so they apply to more anaerobic digestion (AD) plants, providing a simpler and more cost-effective permitting system.
But relaxing the rules for off-farm AD plants may not occur because of concerns with odour. Those unable to meet the old rules will still require bespoke permits.
A consultation, Standard Rules Consultation no. 6, aims to gather feedback from industry on the proposed changes.
“We want to introduce tools and systems and advice that helps in the most cost-effective way,” EA industry regulation senior adviser Howard Leberman told delegates at the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association national conference.
AD plants are regulated under the EPR in three ways: via exemptions, standard rules/permits or bespoke permits. The EA wants more businesses to apply for standard permits, which are cheaper and quicker to turn around than exemptions and bespoke permits.
The consultation covers the standard rules for anaerobic digesters, the associated combustion of biogas and the distance digesters should be from homes, businesses and sites of ecological importance.
EA research has found that current standard rules for the distance between AD biogas stacks and homes, workplaces or public buildings are no longer needed. But due to concerns with odour, the EA wants to retain the 250m distance between off-farm AD plants and homes and workplaces and the requirement for such plants to have a site-specific odour assessment. Standard rules, however, are deemed sufficient for on-farm AD plants.
Also proposed is a reduction in distance between AD biogas stacks and conservation sites, depending on the air quality.
The consultation opens on 4 January 2011 and will close on 31 January, with publication of revised standard rules in April.