Environmental Law News Update

February 22, 2017

In this Environmental News Update, Christopher Badger comments on a record payment for an enforcement undertaking agreed by the Environment Agency, the House of Lords Brexit report, and the UK’s role in the EU-ETS scheme.


House of Lord publishes Brexit report

On 14th February 2017 the European Union Committee of the House of Lords published a report entitled ‘Brexit: environment and climate change’. Much of the report confirms that which is already known:

  • the breadth and depth of EU environment and climate change law means that transposing that legislation into UK law will be immeasurably complex;
  • the current approach of the Government fails to make it clear how and to what extent CJEU judgments and other EU guidance will be transposed into domestic law;
  • environmental legislation and policy is vulnerable to short term domestic change following withdrawal from the EU.

The report makes a number of suggestions on the future of UK policy. These include the fact that the Government will need to carefully consider the means by which international agreements are enforced in the UK, will need to carefully consider the extent to which any free trade agreement with the EU will constrain future environmental policy in the UK and whether, in light of tariffs that may be imposed as a consequence of withdrawal, the approach of the UK to waste management is still feasible and fit for purpose.

Finally the report highlights the fact that as a result of withdrawal, there is a significant risk that the influence of the UK on environmental policy will be diminished. It recommends that the Government review alternative means by which the UK may be able to influence the EU’s environmental and climate change policies. The report also highlights that the Government will need to provide a very substantial increase in resources to ensure that UK and EU policy developments receive the necessary attention.

The report can be found here


EA agrees record £375,000 enforcement undertaking

Following the pollution of the river Tyne with raw sewage, Northumbrian Water Ltd has agreed to pay £375,000 as part of an enforcement undertaking. The money will be split between the Tyne Rivers Trust, Northumberland Rivers Trust, Wear Rivers Trust, Tees Rivers Trust and Groundwork.

The payment is the highest payment to date for an enforcement undertaking following a breach of the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

Further detail on the enforcement undertaking can be found here


UK may leave the EU-ETS scheme

British MEP Ian Duncan has stated that he was not clear how the UK could be involved in further negotiations about the EU ETS scheme after Brexit. He considered that it would be “very difficult” for the UK to be part of a system over which it could have no influence.

It was open to the UK to develop its own scheme on emissions trading, which could learn from the EU’s example.

The UK is the EU’s second-largest emitter and its utility companies are among the biggest buyers of carbon allowances under the EU ETS. Consequently, if the UK does leave the scheme, this is likely to have a significant effect and has the potential for significant repercussions for efforts to reduce emissions.

It is of note that the rules of the ETS are currently enforced by the CJEU. The Government has stated that the issue of the UK’s involvement in the EU ETS remains part of the Brexit discussions.


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