The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency’s (Sepa) Consultation Hub has been awash with new consultation documents over the last few months, proposing changes that will fundamentally alter the way in which business and industry is regulated in Scotland.
Both the Scottish Government and Sepa have expressed a desire to introduce a more simplified, consistent and comprehensive approach to environmental regulation but is that achievable in fairly short order and with the existing resource constraints still in place?
We should have the answer by the end of 2018, following the planned implementation of all of the following legislative developments:
The Revised Compliance Assessment Scheme (CAS), set to be introduced in January 2018, is designed to bolster Sepa’s zero-tolerance attitude to non-compliance and drive all regulated businesses to be fully compliant with their environmental obligations. The current range of categories of compliance, which allow minor non-compliance to be considered good or broadly compliant, will be replaced by three categories: compliance; non-compliance and major non-compliance. The effect of that change is likely to mean that a significant proportion of operators/sites will find themselves ‘non-compliant’ on day one. That is something that operators and the regulator need to properly prepare for.
The Charging Scheme is set to be replaced from 1st April 2018 with a revised scheme designed to: (a) create a more direct link between annual charges and actual environmental performance and (b) increase the incentive for overall compliance by allowing the recovery of Sepa’s costs from those who are not compliant. Annual charges will be comprised of three separate elements, activity, environmental and compliance. The compliance factor, which will be introduced from 1 April 2019, will be a multiplier based entirely on compliance records (under the CAS), increasing the annual charge of those businesses and operators with poor levels of compliance during a given year. It will be imperative for Sepa to improve the consistency of its officers on the ground given that they will have the ability to directly impact upon the cost of running one site compared to another.
The Integrated Authorisation Framework is a major overhaul of the authorisation process, under which the agency will have a wider level of general discretion to determine the amount information required in relation to applications for authorisations, who is a fit and proper person and whether operators are meeting their new “general aims” relating to environmental impact. It has been widely consulted on throughout 2017.
Laura Tainsh is a partner at Davidson Chalmers