In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Christopher Badger and Charles Morgan consider DEFRA’s local pollution control report, a consultation on the draft environmental strategy for London, and the impact of environmental regulation on competitiveness.
DEFRA local pollution control statistics report
DEFRA have published local pollution control statistics for England and Wales for the year 2015-2016. Local authorities across England and Wales are responsible for regulating a number of industrial processes whose emissions could have a detrimental effect upon the atmosphere. The report is intended to provide qualitative insight into the local authorities’ regulatory roles.
All 357 local authorities and port health authorities were asked to take part. Of those, only 21 did not submit a return. Those 21 local authorities accounted for nearly 900 Part B installations. Those authorities that did report accounted for 16,680 permitted part B installations.
Authorities carried out a total of 9,685 inspections on risk assessed installations in the year. Of these, 8,464 were full inspections, 799 were check inspections and 422 were extra inspections.
DEFRA and WAG’s guidance specifies the number and type of inspections that different risk installations should receive – for example, high-risk, standard fee installations should have 2 full inspections and 1 check inspection per year. The statistics identify that in total 48% of high risk installations received fewer inspections than required and 41% of authorities carried out fewer check inspections than required. One of the most frequent explanations given for failing to carry out the required number of inspections was a lack of available staff.
During 2015/2016, nine prosecutions were reported and six formal cautions were issued. Successful prosecutions resulted in fines totalling £201,205, with the largest fine being £110,600. This was an increase from 2014/2015’s figure of £61,130 for total fines.
Given the number of permitted installations, these figures appear to be extremely low, in spite the fact that this was an increase on the figures from the year before. It is conceivable that this low figure is directly linked at least in part to the fact that approximately half of authorities were unable to carry out sufficient inspections.
The full report can be found here
London environment strategy for consultation
On 11 August 2017, the Mayor of London published a consultation on a draft environmental strategy for London. Described as a plan to make London the “greenest city in the world”, the consultation focuses on several key areas in a detailed document that runs to 401 pages. Some of the proposals for key areas are:
Fossil fuels, including diesel, are to be phased out; the whole bus fleet will be zero emission by 2037 and the Ultra Low Emission Zone will be introduced by 2019;
Green infrastructure will be promoted through the planning system, protecting London’s Green Belt from further development and making London the first ‘National Park City’; new developments in London are to be zero carbon from 2019;
Climate change and energy
Increase clean energy generation with at least 100 megawatts more solar installed by 2030, using grants for community projects and pilot projects (including putting solar panels on TfL buildings) and tendering for the delivery of an energy supply company;
Set minimum recycling and food waste standards for London’s waste authorities to meet by 2020 and establishing stronger rules to cut pollution from managing and disposing of waste in London;
Oppose Heathrow expansion and cut noise from rail and underground through the use of technology and maintenance programmes, monitoring in particular the Night Tube and Night Overground.
The full consultation document can be found here
The impact of environmental regulation on competitiveness
Environmental regulation curbs the adverse effects which industrial activity would otherwise have on the natural environment. A recent article by Antoine Dechezleprêtre and Misato Sato of the London School of Economics comprehensively explores the reciprocal effects which environmental regulation has upon business, in particular its effect upon competition if otherwise similar enterprises in different jurisdictions are regulated in different ways or to different degrees. One predictable consequence is that companies migrate their worst-polluting operations to those places (countries or parts of countries) whose regulation in its reach or practical effect imposes the lowest economic burdens, the so-called “pollution havens”. This in turn diminishes the effectiveness of international control. On the other hand, environmental regulation drives technological improvement, which can then be exported and economically exploited.
The article seeks to evaluate the impact of regulation upon trade, industry, location, employment, productivity, innovation and competitiveness through examination of previous empirical studies. It concludes that the actual cost of regulatory compliance is small and its significance largely confined to a few sectors. On the other hand, its converse contribution to innovation does not outweigh even those costs. Choice of location is in fact largely driven by other factors altogether. It would thus, the article concludes, be a mistake for governments to pursue an environmental “race to the bottom” in the name of preservation of competition. Further research is called for into the utility of regulatory measures designed to protect competitiveness.
Antoine Dechezleprêtre, Misato Sato; The Impacts of Environmental Regulations on Competitiveness, Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Volume 11, Issue 2, 1 July 2017, Pages 183–206, https://doi.org/10.1093/reep/rex013
For a recent consideration of cost-benefit analysis in environmental regulation by Charles Morgan, see article here
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