20th April, 2020
The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales set out temporary regulatory statements and decisions in response to COVID-19
To assist businesses to cope with the disruption caused by COVID-19, both the Environment Agency (‘”EA”) and Natural Resources Wales (“NRW”) have published temporary Regulatory Position Statements (“COVID-19 RPSs”) and Regulatory Decisions (“RD”) respectively.
These temporary measures are designed to help minimise risk to the environment and human health where, for reasons beyond operators’ control, compliance with certain regulatory requirements is not possible due to COVID-19.
Both the EA and NRW have implemented numerous COVID-19 RPSs and RDs in relation to monitoring and reporting, waste management and the water industry. Each COVID-19 RPS and RD specifically outlines when they apply and their compliance conditions. However, the EA has emphasised that businesses must still comply with all other environmental regulatory requirements.
In addition, both organisations make it clear that in order to use a COVID-19 RPS or a RD, there are specific conditions that must be complied with along with requirements concerning pollution and harm to human health. If those conditions and requirements are met, both the EA and NRW have stated that they will not normally take enforcement action against the business in question, however, there are some exceptions to this general rule in respect of NRW.
NRW appears to be taking a slightly stricter approach to that of the EA in that NRW may still make a record of non-compliance against the operator’s permit if a COVID-19 specific RD is upon by an operator. For example, where the use of the NRW RD relating to the temporary exceedance of waste storage limits at a permitted waste operation will be recorded as non-compliance with the conditions of the operator’s permit. However, any score will be suspended and will not impact on an operator’s compliance rating provided that all conditions laid out in the RD have been complied with.
It is clear that this temporary regulatory position is not a licence to relax standards and there are still many conditions which must be met in order to continue to comply with the regulations. It will certainly be interesting to see how these temporary measures play out in practice.
If you have any questions in relation to the temporary measures or are worried that you will be unable to comply with any conditions of your environmental permit during the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact our Planning, Environmental, Energy & Regulatory Team using the details below.
Planning, Environmental, Energy & Regulatory
Head of Team & Partner
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