The Pollution Prevention Control (Scotland) Regulations, which revoke the existing integrated pollution control regime, are intended to provide a yet further integrated environmental pollution regime for Scotland. They will implement the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), which must be transposed into UK law by 6 January 2013.
Most existing installations or mobile plant will require a permit under the new regulations from 7 January 2014. Activities not covered by the previous regime which are already underway before 7 January 2013 will require a permit by 7 July 2015. New installations will require a permit under the new regime from 7 January 2013.
Environmental law expert Gordon McCreath of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, pointed out that the new regulations would likely be "short-lived" due to the impending overhaul of Scotland's environmental permitting regime. However, they were still "highly significant" as they would bring new operations under integrated regulation and require more of those operators which were already regulated.
"There is a lot to talk about in the regulations for both those groups, including new 'bottom up' methods of setting the background environmental standard of Best Available Techniques and new requirements on setting Emission Limit Values," he said. "For the wider public, the most interesting point is another explicit right for environmental NGOs to be heard in legal processes surrounding permits under the regime, although only where they 'meet the requirements under the law'. We can expect to see the boundaries of this right being tested for controversial permit applications."
The IED, which was ratified in 2010, combines the previous integrated pollution prevention and control (IPCC) Directive with six Directives which deal with emissions from specific sectors such as large combustion plants and waste incineration. It tightens minimum emission limits in certain industrial sectors across the EU, particularly in relation to large combustion plants; and introduced minimum standards for environmental inspections at the relevant industrial installations.
Currently all combustion plants built after 1987 must comply with the emission limits in the Large Combustion Directive, which is one of the seven recast in the IED, in relation to sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxides and dust. The IED sets out minimum emissions limit values (ELV) which plants must comply with, and sets a limit on carbon dioxide emissions for the first time. Limits are based on best available techniques (BAT), which are the most cost-effective techniques available to achieve a high level of environmental protection.
New combustion plants will become subject to the rules from 7 January 2013 but, as a general rule, existing installations will have until 2016 to comply with the stricter limits. The IED also includes an option which will allow installations facing closure in 2016 to continue generating until 31 December 2023 where operational restrictions are complied with.
The Scottish Government consulted earlier this year on changes to the structure of environmental legislation which will create an integrated environmental permitting framework, to cover all regulated activities, not just those regulated under the IED. It has also proposed new powers for the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), including the ability to accept 'enforcement undertakings' from environmental offenders and the power to hand out fines in a wider range of cases without having to refer them to the procurator fiscal. The plans could see the 29 separate regimes currently operated by SEPA either on its own or together with other bodies replaced with a single structure, involving a common set of procedures, notices and other regulatory tools.