The Environment Agency is consulting on significant changes to its regulatory charges from April 2015. If implemented, the new charges could have significant cost implications for current operators with a poor compliance record.
Additionally, the Agency is planning to introduce additional one-off costs for certain newly permitted installations and to introduce modest increases to its baseline charges. Permit holders and operators may wish to consider carefully what these proposed changes will mean for them when considering their budgets from 2015.
A special note should be made that the Agency signposts its intention to consider wider changes to how it might fund its work. In the role of both, the enforcer and a cash collector, the potential for conflict of interests to arise on the part of the Agency is at least a theoretical possibility
- Increased compliance charges for long-term poor performers
The Agency says that a “significant number” of operators remain in compliance bands D, E and F for over two years and that these “poor performers…are often bad neighbours”, whom the Agency has to direct additional income and resources towards to ensure their improvement. To fund these additional regulatory efforts, the Agency is proposing to introduce a second tier of compliance charge multipliers (or uplifts) for sites that have been in compliance bands D, E or F for more than two consecutive years. It is also proposed that the existing discretion to allow Band F sites a mid-year performance review will be removed.
- New 40% permit commencement charge
The Agency is proposing to apply a new permit commencement charge to all new Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) installation and waste facility permits. The proposed change will mean that new operators will be required in the first year not only to pay annual subsistence charge but also an additional payment equivalent to 40% of the annual subsistence charge. The additional one-off cost is thought to allow the Agency to fund additional scrutiny of newly permitted sites and prevent problems in the long term.
- Increased charges for particular EPR installation
From April 2015, it is proposed that there will be a 2% increase in base charges for three EPR schemes: (i) Installations; (ii) Waste Facilities; and (iii) Radioactive Substances Regulation (non nuclear).
- Additional changes
Other changes include some technical changes to the EPR scheme, amendments to the Opra scheme (including the ability to score sites for non-compliance with Regulation 60 information notices) and changes to abstraction charges.
A copy of the Consultation document can be found at https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/portal/ho/finance/2015/charges?pointId=3113335
Please note that the consultation ends on 20 November 2014 and responses will be published in March 2015.