In this second post, I explore the implementation on the UK Regulators’ Code with reference to the Environment Agency. For further background to the Code, you may wish to check my earlier post in this series – United Kingdom Regulators’ Code
Anyone within the environmental regulated community looking to engage with the Environment Agency in England should take note of The Regulators’ Code, which provides a framework for how regulators should engage with those they regulate.
The Environment Agency aims to provide its regulated customers with an efficient and professional service to meet the requirements of the Regulators’ Code.
The Environment Agency as an environmental regulator
The Environment Agency as an environmental regulator has been established to implement the regulations and environmental standards set by the UK Government.
They are responsible for regulating a wide range of business sectors and activities, including:
- industry – including chemicals, food and drink, metals, power generation, refineries and fuels, paper and textiles, cement and minerals
- water companies – including discharges from sewage treatment works and sewerage systems and the abstraction of surface and groundwater
- waste management – including waste storage, treatment, landfill and incineration
- energy intensive industries and other large consumers of energy
- the use, storage and disposal of radioactive substances
- agriculture – including water abstraction, discharges to surface and groundwater, spreading waste on land, disposal of pesticides and sheep dip and intensive farming (of pig and poultry units)
- producers of packaging, batteries, waste electrical and electronic equipment and vehicles
- angling, navigation on some waterways and works on rivers to manage flood risk
In carrying out their work, they have a number of key documents, such as their Corporate Plan, which sets out their priorities for 2014 to 2016 as well as the aims and performance measures for key business areas.
As part of their wider commitment to transparency, the Environment Agency’s Annual Report and Accounts demonstrate how important issues facing the environment during the year have been addressed and shows progress in meeting their corporate objectives.
Working with businesses and the regulated community
The Environment Agency carries out its activities to support the regulated community. It has set out in its document: Regulating for people, the environment and growth their approach to environmental regulation in the context of current and future challenges.
It describes their role as a fair and proportionate regulator that works to protect people and the environment, supporting business and sustainable economic growth while targeting illegal operators.
The UK Government requires the Environment Agency to recover the costs of our main regulatory services for the regulated community with the objective to make the level of regulatory effort proportionate to the environmental risk of the permitted activity and for this to be reflected in regulator fees and charges.
The Environment Agency provides advice that supports compliance that can be relied on & are continually improving the way their advice and guidance is written, making it easier for businesses to find what they need.
Regulator oversight and compliance
In terms of inspections and other compliance processes, the Environment Agency uses different ways to assess how well permit holders are complying with their permits. These can include:
- targeted site inspections and audits
- reviewing data from operator self-monitoring against permit limits
- assessment of the effectiveness of an operator’s environmental management system
- third-party assurance schemes
Holders of Environmental Permits will be aware that the Environment Agency has adopted a risk-based approach to our compliance assessment activities, using tools such as OPRA. These processes are designed to ensure that they apply more regulatory scrutiny to those whose activities pose a greater risk to the environment or human health. Less risky activities or operators who perform well will see receive less regulatory oversight.
Reporting the outcome of the Agency’s compliance activities to operators is an opportunity to provide feedback to Environmental Permit Holders & the presence of non-compliance with the requirements of a permit, can be highlighted on a risk rating in relation to the Compliance Classification Scheme.
Response to non-compliance
In relation to the scale of actions that can be taken with respect to non-compliance, it is important to read and understand the Environment Agency’s position on enforcement, sanctions and offence response options, which apply a firm but fair regulation is the principle of proportionality in securing compliance and targeting of enforcement action.
Complaints and appeals
The Environment Agency has a system to discuss their regulatory decisions and actions & to manage complaints about any area of their work or challenges to our regulatory actions through their complaints and appeals procedures.
Further details of “How the Environment Agency meets the Regulators’ Code” can be found at: http://bit.ly/1HNuopH & a copy of the current Regulators’ Code (April 2014) can be found at: http://bit.ly/Q5z5lR