EA OPRA System to Change: Many environmental permits are charged based on the Operator Risk Appraisal scheme which evaluates risk, performance and complexity and provides a grade. The system has been in operation for many years now but is to be overhauled.
The current A-F system of compliance scoring will be replaced by four descriptive bands: ‘exemplary’, ‘expected’, ‘improvement needed’ and ‘significant improvement needed’. Exemplary will be for sites that go beyond the minimum required for compliance and such sites can expect to receive “light-touch regulation” and lower subsistence fees. “Expected” will be the grade for sites that meet their basic compliance obligations.
Self-reporting will be encouraged and recognition of positive behaviour to address minor incidents will be made and will not automatically mean a site is moved down a band.
An informal consultation was launched by the EA on 28th April and closed on 26th May. All responses to this initial scoping phase will be used to inform the questions asked in the formal consultation in July 2017.
Updated Fire Guidance from WISH: Revised guidance on reducing the risk of fire at waste sites has been published by the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH). The guidance was released on 2 May and is informed by an extensive series of waste burn tests.
Whilst the WISH guidance is similar to the Environment Agency’s (EA) third update to its guidance on fire prevention plans (FPPs) there are differences such as a sliding scale for stack separation distances scale based on varying lengths of stacks at different sites as opposed to simple set separation distances.
New Guide to Assist with Waste Classification: The Environmental Services Association (ESA) and the Waste Industry Group on Waste Classification have launched an industry guide to help operators across the UK avoid common errors in classifying waste. Launched on 1st June by it is targeted at anyone making day-to-day decisions on waste classification, including waste producers, carriers, brokers, consultants and managers.
Negative Emissions Plant in Switzerland: The first plant to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and sell it has been launched in Switzerland. Built by Climeworks the direct air capture (DAC) plant was formally commissioned in the town of Hinwil near Zurich in Switzerland on 31st May.
The plant is located on an energy-from-waste plant and is powered by the waste heat generated. The plant will sell the captured CO2 to a nearby greenhouse complex. This will replace the use of bottled CO2 derived from fossil fuels to enhance vegetable production.
Titanium Dioxide – Suspected Carcinogen: According to EU experts, titanium dioxide (TiO2) should be treated as a potential carcinogen. Though rejecting a stricter classification, the European Chemicals Agency’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) concluded that the available evidence justifies classifying TiO2 as a suspected (or category 2) carcinogen by inhalation under the 2008 EU CLP Regulations.
TiO2 is used as a colouring agent, food additive and industrial mineral and the regulatory implications remain to be determined.
Distribution Network Operators – role should be redefined: In June, the Energy Networks Association announced its recommendation for redefining DNOs as distribution system operators (DSOs) under the Open Networks Project established with Ofgem, National Grid and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that commenced in January.
The role of a DNOs is to facilitate the delivery of electricity from centralised power generation sites to industrial, commercial and domestic users. However, the system needs to develop to adapt to growing uptake of intermittent renewables, de-centralised supplies, electricity storage and demand-side response.
The Energy Networks Association suggests that DSOs will operate and develop active distribution systems comprising networks, demand, generation and other flexible distributed energy resources (DER).
Oil Recyclers Take EA to Court: Part of the UK oil recycling industry is taking the Environment Agency (EA) to court over its failure to categorise re-refined waste oils as a recovered product. This will the second judicial review against the EA on waste oils in a decade.
Lubricating waste oil can be recycled in two ways: processed to produce a fuel oil known as processed fuel oil (PFO); or re-refined to produce recovered lubricating base oils and other secondary materials for re-sale.
A judicial review is now underway to challenge the regulator’s decision to classify re-refined lubricating oil as waste. The EU view is that re-refining is a better environmental outcome compared to PFO, positioning it higher up the waste hierarchy.
Section 3 of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) states that ‘regeneration of waste oils’ “means any recycling operation whereby base oils can be produced by refining waste oils, in particular by removing the contaminants, the oxidation products and the additives contained in such oils”.
Green Infrastructure Library Launched: A “Green Infrastructure Resource Library” was launched in May by the Green Infrastructure Partnership (GIP). The library hosts around 600 items, including guidance, reports, videos, case studies and conference proceedings.
It is part of an initiative in the UK and Europe to encourage the uptake of green roofs, plant trees to control flooding and build new green spaces to improve quality of life.
The GIP was established by DEFRA in 2011 following the publication of the Natural Environment White Paper.