Watchdog proposes changes to permit compliance rules to improve fairness

The Environment Agency has opened a consultation on its proposed changes to its regime for appraising compliance with permits governing pollutant emissions. The proposals include an end to unfair environmental impact scores where multiple, minor non-compliances occur.

The agency has proposed updates to its current means to assess, categorise and score permit compliance – its Compliance Classification Scheme (CCS) guidance. Three of five CCS principles remain unchanged while the Agency has put forward amendments to two. The agency regulates permits under the Environmental Permitting Regulations which will include water abstractions from April 2020.

In its consultation on assessing and scoring permit compliance, the agency has drawn up a means to consolidate non-compliance scores where permits contain conditions relating to Emission Limit Values that have several parts. This avoids the current position where multiple minor non-compliances can put a site into a low-compliance band which “may not be a true reflection of the impact or risk posed by the site, or of the regulatory effort needed.”

The agency has also proposed latitude to extend the period allowed for suspension of non-compliance scores in instances where the site operator is acting to address the non-compliance. Suspension is currently limited to six months but the agency has acknowledged that it may be inappropriate to suspend some scores where non-compliances are complicated and may take more time to resolve.