In this latest Environmental Law News Update, Christopher Badger comments on Budget coverage of environmental issues, recent environmental permitting cases, and the new regime for chemical regulation.
Budget silent on the Environment
Philip Hammond barely mentioned the environment in the Spring Budget. There was no mention of the solar industry, climate change or air pollution. Those lobbying for an increase in tax on diesel vehicles were also disappointed.
He did say that he had “heard … the calls by North Sea oil and gas producers and the Scottish government to provide further support for the transfer of late-life assets. As UK oil and gas production declines, it is essential that we maximise exploitation of remaining reserves and so we will publish a formal discussion paper in due course.”
There are to be no further cuts to departmental budgets beyond those set out in the 2015 Autumn Statement but no extra money to departments who face an uphill task to cope with inevitable policy changes during and after Brexit.
The Budget did propose to extend the scope of landfill tax to illegal waste disposals. Details of this proposal are expected to be set out in a consultation on waste crime due later in the spring. It should be noted that caselaw has already held that illegal deposits of waste are liable to landfill tax where the land in question has effectively been used as an illegal landfill site – see R v Morgan (Christopher Lynn)  EWCA Crim 1307 and specifically ss.39-41 Finance Act 1996. Consequently, the avoidance of landfill tax as a result of the illegal deposit was an avoided cost for the purposes of confiscation (and by analogy presumably Step 5 of the Definitive Guideline on Sentencing Environmental Offences).
Associated Waste Management prosecuted for odour breaches
Associated Waste Management have been fined a total of £125,000 for odour offences at two waste management sites in Leeds and Bradford. In addition the firm was ordered to pay £75,000 in costs.
49 separate odour complaints were received from residents living close to the Bradford site between March and July 2013. The EA had issued an enforcement notice requiring it to improve its odour management plan. It rejected the company’s first attempt, but approved a revised version in October.
75 odour assessments were carried out between June 2012 and October 2013 in Leeds, with the majority recording odours likely to cause offence to human senses.
UK Chemical Regulatory Regime will broadly follow REACH after Brexit
Dr Therese Coffey MP gave evidence to the Commons Environmental Audit Committee on Tuesday 7 March, during which she stated that it was likely that the UK’s chemical regulatory regime would broadly follow REACH after Brexit, with “seamless” approaches to assessment. Alignment with US standards was not on the cards due to the established trading relationship with European partners and a desire to preserve strong environmental standards.
She also stated that it was likely that EU environmental concepts, such as the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle, would be rolled over into UK law. However, she stated that the UK would prefer to take a “risk-based approach” to the precautionary principle.
Amusingly, the new regime for chemical regulation has already been dubbed ‘BREACH’.
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