Environmental Law News Update

September 11, 2017

In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Charles Morgan and Laura Phillips consider the publication of the Environment Agency’s latest waste management statistics, a BBC Report into Thames Water and an update on the EU Withdrawal Bill.


Environment Agency publishes waste management statistics for 2016

The Environment Agency this week published waste management statistics for England in 2016. A graphical summary shows that a total of 203 million tonnes of waste was managed during the year. Since 2000 the annual volume going to landfill has roughly halved whilst available landfill capacity is flattening out at c. 10 times the current annual input.

Other graphical charts analyse waste management activities by:

  • site type (hazardous merchant, hazardous restricted, non-hazardous with stable non-reactive hazardous waste cell, non-hazardous and non-hazardous restricted, inert)
  • nature of inputs (hazardous, household/industrial and commercial, clinical, civic amenity site and non-biodegradable)
  • type of treatment (biological, composting, chemical, physico-chemical, physical and material recovery)
  • incineration inputs (sewage sludge, municipal and/or industrial and commercial, hazardous, co-incineration of non-hazardous waste, co-incineration of hazardous waste, clinical and animal by-product)
  • fate of hazardous waste deposits (recovery, treatment, landfill and incineration)
  • geographic region (South West, South East, London, East of England, West Midlands, East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, North West and North East)

The variety of correlations thus providing a very accessible overview of the national activity from which a wealth of subsidiary information can be derived. For example, only two of the nine regions engaged in significant incineration of sewage sludge (North West and London) and only about one-third of the national capacity for this method of waste management is currently used. By far the largest waste type for incineration in all regions was municipal and/or industrial and commercial, for which the national capacity of c. 11.6 million tonnes was about 85% exploited. Overall, 22% of waste by weight still goes to landfill.

The charts can be downloaded here


BBC goes under the surface of Thames Water

Between 2006 and 2017 Thames Water was controlled through a complex corporate structure by the Australian merchant bank Macquarie, which in March 2017 sold its remaining interest to a Canadian pension fund and a Kuwaiti sovereign wealth fund.

A BBC Radio 4 programme broadcast last week investigates the financial mechanisms by which Macquarie acquired and controlled the company and the oversight of its corporate structure and governance by OFWAT, its economic regulator. In the programme Thames Water’s new chief executive officer Steve Robertson also acknowledges operational management failures during the Macquarie era which led to the record fine of £20,000,000 imposed upon Thames Water last March following sustained pollution of reaches of the River Thames.

The broadcast can be heard here.


EU Withdrawal Bill – Update

The Environmental Policy Forum has warned the government that the EU Withdrawal Bill, with its proposed ‘Henry VIII’ clauses, including Clause 7, which would give ministers far reaching powers to amend ‘deficiencies’ (laws that implement European laws that will no longer apply) after Brexit using regulations to amend existing primary legislation, fails to adequately provide for parliamentary scrutiny over environmental law after Brexit. It has called for the establishment of an independent body to scrutinise government actions affecting the Environment and for parliamentary committees to examine the use of these clauses, see further detail here.

Meanwhile, UKELA has published a useful report on ‘Brexit, Henry VIII Clauses and Environmental Law’ which analyses Clause 7 and where and how it should be used. It finds that the majority of core environmental primary laws in England (seventeen out of twenty nine Acts of Parliament) will not require amendment. As to the twelve Acts that would require amendment, it concludes it will be necessary to amend six provisions, advisable to amend (for clarity) a further thirty, and that, at present, in order to preserve regulatory continuity, there is no need to remove references to EU law and policy in existing legislation and in particular, that no change is needed to amend definitions that make reference to EU legislation. The report is available here. The report does not address the issue of Parliamentary scrutiny of the use of these powers.


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