The Environment Agency has published a new charging scheme for regulatory permits and services which it claims will ensure businesses cover the costs of services rather than the public.
And, the new costs will look to ensure “higher-risk or poor-performing businesses” will be charged more, said the Agency.
After launching a consultation in November 2017 on the changes, the EA confirmed yesterday (March 21) that those put forward will all become effective as of 1 April 2018. This excludes changes to the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) producer responsibility charges, which come into effect in the new compliance year of January 1 2019.
As a result of the consultation, charges for five regulatory regimes will change. This includes environmental permitting, control of major accident hazard as well as producer responsibility for WEEE. The other two changes relate to emissions and water resources.
A significant change for Environmental permitting is that the Environment Agency has introduced ‘supplementary charges’ that some customers will need to pay on top of the fixed application and annual subsistence charges.
These supplementary charges will only apply if the Environment Agency needs to do “extra or unusual” regulatory work. This could either be when determining a permit application or after a permit has been issued.
Charges for this extra work will either be a fixed cost or calculated on a time and materials basis. The Environment Agency charges £240 an hour for key technical work carried out by specialist nuclear regulation staff, and £125 an hour for other technical and support work.
Operators with a waste transfer or treatment permit will pay a fixed cost supplementary charge in the first year of operations. The Environment Agency also reviewed charges for their optional advice services. As a result, they will be changing or introducing charges for planning advice, marine licensing advice and definition of waste opinions. Previously this had been a free service.
Other increases include the hourly charge for COMAH works by the Environment Agency. This will now increase from £125, as it has been since 2011 to £161 an hour from next Sunday.
There was immediate concern from the recycling sector with one expert telling letsrecycle.com that the fee increases were “unnecessarily high and would be hard to pass on to customers. The Agency doesn’t seem to have listened to the consultation responses”, he said.
One immediate concern came from the composting and anaerobic digestion sector, with Charlie Trousdell, chair of the Organics Recycling Group of the Renewable Energy Association, expressing concern at the “substantial increase” in landspreading fees.
“It is unfortunate that the substantial increase in landspreading fees are being implemented in a few days’ time which does not give industry time to get an equivalent increase from their customers,” he explained.
Mr Trousdell added: “This will affect a range of wastes to land including digestate from AD plants that are not certified to PAS110. It remains to be seen what impact this will have. It is crucial that going forward and fee increases are announced annually, maybe the EA should be like other sectors and increase in line with RPI or similar index.”
He added that he hopes the increases will mean additional resources within the Agency which would put an end to the days of “waiting months” for the Agency to respond to applications.
Neil Davies, Environment Agency director of regulatory charges, explained that the changes make the process more financially sustainable.
He said: “Our work to regulate industry protects and enhances the environment. The changes that have been announced following the recent consultation will mean that businesses and not the public pay for the full services they use. This is more financially-sustainable, will lead to a better service to businesses and long-term improvements to the environment.
“We have been engaging with trade associations over the last year while we were developing these proposals. Their input into this process has been really valuable and the feedback has helped shape the new charging structure.”