A joint letter concerning public-funding to tackle waste crime was sent to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Lord de Mauley by CIWM, the Environmental Services Association, the Renewable Energy Association and the Resource Association in June last year.
Rogerson – “We have secured £5m of additional funding for the Environment Agency to tackle waste crime”
Emphasising the environmental and economic impact of waste crime, the four signatories called on the Minister to ensure that the budget for this important area of enforcement is not cut.
The letter stated “As you are well aware, our sector is at the heart of the government’s green growth agenda, turning waste into economic resources and growing at 3 percent – 4 percent a year.
“We recognise that public spending must fall, and that all the ‘non-protected’ areas of spending, including those that affect environmental issues, are likely to be affected (though we note in passing that Defra did receive some of the sharpest departmental budget cuts in the last Spending Review).
“However, we are convinced that one area which must not suffer spending reductions are the resources allocated to Defra, the Environment Agency and local government to tackle the problem of waste crime.”
In a letter of response, Rogerson has outlined new proposals around four key themes, which Defra says are the first steps in “bringing about real change that will tackle those who fail to follow the rules, protect and enhance the reputation of all legitimate businesses in the resource industry and ensure the Environment Agency operates as a firm but fair regulator.”
“We need to continue to do more to root out the illegal operators and the rogue traders that blight our communities and damage legitimate business,” Rogerson states. “We have secured £5m of additional funding for the Environment Agency to tackle waste crime. This provides a significant opportunity to close down illegal operations, audit sites to look for deliberate mis-description of waste and disrupt the illegal export of waste.”
The proposals, which aim to tackle waste crime and poor performance, are focussed around four key themes:
Speedy and tough enforcement action
- Increased Environment Agency interventions at poor performing sites with the objective that none remain poor performers for more than 18 months
- Improved co-ordinated activity by the Environment Agency and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure a complementary, and where appropriate, joined up approach to tackling non-compliance linked to tax evasion
- Government and the Environment Agency to review the sanctions and penalties available to aid effective enforcement for environmental offences
- Government and the Environment Agency to review whether it should be easier to suspend or revoke an environmental permit when significant non-compliance is found and whether opportunities to challenge this (by appeal or judicial review) should be more limited
Greater Intelligence sharing
- The Environment Agency to work with industry to review and where possible improve existing arrangements for reporting alleged illegal operations and the gathering and feedback of this intelligence
- Government and Environment Agency to review the potential for improving the collation and access to records of convictions for waste and associated offences to prevent, where possible, past offenders being issued with permits
- The Environment Agency to make full use of the Memorandum of Understanding on
- Information Exchange with HMRC to share information and develop a better understanding of key compliance risks
Making the polluter pay
- The Environment Agency to consult during 2014/15 on increased charges for poor performing sites to recover the cost of increased interventions
- The Environment Agency to monitor the impact of the new Sentencing Council’s guidelines on the fines being handed down by the courts in the cases it brings and make available its findings to Government to consider whether there needs to be further guidance
- Government and the Environment Agency to consider a new statutory mechanism to allow the Agency to re-charge waste sites for pollution clean-up costs in the same way that water polluters can be re-charged
Making better use of regulatory controls
Rogerson – “I want us to continue to work together to ensure that regulation is implemented in a robust, fair and proportionate way to protect communities, the environment and the legitimate resource management sector”
- The Environment Agency to apply greater scrutiny to newly permitted sites within their first year of operation. This will include more detailed and robust checks of the management system to ensure that it is fit for purpose and being fully implemented on site
- The Environment Agency to introduce revised procedures for assessing operator competence. These procedures will focus on a series of detailed checks including financial, technical and behavioural indicators during permit application, variation and transfer. This will ensure only those that can fulfil their permit obligations receive or retain a permit
- Government and the Environment Agency to review the case for strengthening the fit and proper person test of applicants for environmental permits, for example by requiring operators to provide better evidence of their technical competence
- The Environment Agency to integrate checks on site records, waste transfer notes and where appropriate hazardous waste consignment notes into its regular site inspections for targeted waste streams
- The Environment Agency to ensure that site management systems contain appropriate and specific minimum standards relating to the storage of combustible materials, reducing the impact of amenity issues and ensuring sustained good performance
- The Environment Agency to carry out a review of the regulation of waste carriers, brokers and dealers and prepare a report with recommendations on improvements to the regulation of these activities
- The Environment Agency will aim to publish a plan by April 2015 for fulfilling its duties in respect of carrying out appropriate inspection of waste activities that are exempt from the need for an environmental permit, quantify compliance problems and recommend enhancements to the regulation of these activities
- Government and the Environment Agency to work with industry and stakeholders to establish how best to notify landowners that actual or proposed waste activities are taking place and to share advice on the potential legal obligations that may arise from leasing land to waste operations
- The Environment Agency to provide a mechanism for greater scrutiny of Regulatory Position Statements and Enforcement Position Statements, including a more detailed assessment of the risks posed by activities allowed under these statements.
On the new proposals the Rogerson states: “While government and the Environment Agency will take the lead in further developing and implementing these proposals over the course of the next twelve months, I want us to continue to work together to ensure that regulation is implemented in a robust, fair and proportionate way to protect communities, the environment and the legitimate resource management sector.”
“We welcome the positive response from the Minister, which acknowledges the efforts of industry bodies including CIWM and ESA to highlight the cost and impact of waste crime and sets out how the additional £5m funding from government to support these efforts will be deployed,” says CIWM chief executive Steve Lee.
“The Minister’s letter places a welcome emphasis across a number of key areas, including a greater focus on poor performing sites and increased charges for those who pollute, tougher sanctions, and a review of the new sentencing guidelines to ensure they are making an impact.
“We are also pleased to see greater prominence given to technical competence check, as well as better intelligence sharing and more inspection of waste documentation.
“The letter acknowledges that the industry’s co-operation remains essential and CIWM will continue to drive this agenda to ensure that the environment, our communities, and legitimate businesses in the sector are not harmed by these illegal operators.”
A full copy of the Minister’s letter can be found here.