Environmental Permitting: Monitoring Emissions and Reporting

Following on from her article last week, reminding businesses of their Statutory Environmental Compliance Obligations during COVID-19, Clare Fowell this week addresses two new COVID-19 Regulatory Position Statements.

The Environment Agency has produced two COVID-19 Regulatory Position Statements (COVID-19 RPSs) that are applicable to many environmental permit holders:

  • Monitoring emissions from installations, radioactive substances and waste activities: RPS C7
  • Reporting for installations, radioactive substances and waste permits: RPS C10

If a permit holder obtains written agreement from the Environment Agency and follows the conditions in the relevant COVID-19 RPS, then adjustments can be made to their monitoring and reporting requirements where they cannot be met because of COVID-19 restrictions. The permit holder must keep records for 2 years showing why the COVID-19 RPS was needed.

These COVID-19 RPSs apply until 30 June 2020 unless extended.

The Agency will not normally take enforcement action as long as the permit holder has complied with the conditions in the COVID-19 RPS, has not caused or is likely to cause environmental pollution or harm to human health, and has taken all reasonable steps to comply with the permit.

However, the permit holder must comply with all other requirements in the permit and must still notify the Environment Agency immediately if any monitoring shows that a permit limit has been breached.

RPS C7: Monitoring emissions from installations, radioactive substances and waste activities

The permit holder must demonstrate to the Environment Agency that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the monitoring conditions set out in their permit and explain why they cannot be met. They must then comply with the relevant conditions in the RPS as follows:

RPS C10: Reporting for installations, radioactive substances and waste permits

The Environment Agency expects permit holders to take reasonable steps to comply with their permit, including:

  • contingency planning to avoid or minimise business disruption because of COVID-19,
  • emergency response planning to minimise the impact and duration of not complying with a permit or licence because of COVID-19.

If a permit holder still cannot meet the reporting requirements in their permit (or others agreed with the Environment Agency in writing), then they may use this COVID-19 RPS.

The permit holder may delay sending the following types of data, reports and other records required by the permit:

  • routine monitoring of releases to air and water reports e.g. quarterly emissions monitoring,
  • routine environmental monitoring reports e.g. soils near nuclear sites,
  • improvement condition progress reports,
  • reports required by an improvement condition except reports about commissioning new activities,
  • reports of routine reviews, audits, tests and assessments.

The permit holder must keep a record of the data, reports and other information that has been delayed and agree with the Environment Agency as to how submissions will be made when this COVID-19 RPS expires. They must also comply with improvement conditions in the permit that require changes to be made to site infrastructure or management systems.

The permit holder must continue to submit notifications as required by their permit, for example, where there has been a breakdown or equipment failure which may cause significant pollution, or a breach of a limit specified in the permit.

Additional COVID-19 RPSs Released since the Last Bulletin

As of 4 May, the Environment Agency has published sixteen COVID-19 RPSs, thirteen were listed in Bulletin 1, with three additional ones published on 30 April:

What to Do

If it is likely that your business will not be able to meet the monitoring or reporting requirements for your Environmental Permit, then it is important to be proactive and agree a plan with the regulator.

If you would like more information or help on how to manage your environmental compliance obligations, please contact Clare Fowell at [email protected]