Talking Dirty – An Environmental Blog.
Date: 04/02/2014 | Blogs
So ‘Talking Dirty’ has returned….did you all think that I had run out of dirt due to the very dry January in the blog front? Well, thankfully, that is not so. I was merely using the month to collect as much dirt ad possible for the year ahead! So let’s get back into the talking dirty mode on a weekly basis! What does 2014 have in store for those of us involved in environmental matters?
- The hot topic on everyone’s lips in January was Electricity Market Reform (“EMR”) following the Energy Act 2013 being passed in December. Although those with concerns are mostly those in the renewables’ sector, EMR and the Act itself will have an impact on everyone involved in all forms of energy (clean and dirty!). The Act and the numerous guidance and explanatory publications which relate to it are lengthy and fairly complicated – suffice to say that big changes are afoot and several further pieces of secondary legislation will require to be introduced in due course to implement these changes. In the meantime, there are various ongoing debates about the future of different types of technology and whether they will continue to be financially viable under the revised incentive regime which the Act brings in and an increased focus on energy efficiency in all sectors in the hope of preventing ‘blackouts’ which some are still predicting for the near future.
- Since 1st January, businesses have been obligated to present their metal, plastic, glass, paper and, in urban localities, food waste for separate collection. The new requirements (imposed by the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012) will pose a challenge and, most probably a cost, for many businesses. This year will be important in determining how much of an impact the new obligations have both on the reduction of waste and on businesses in general. The maximum fine for non-compliance is £10,000 so it is likely to be significantly less expensive, for most, to have the necessary infrastructure for separate collection in place.
- If you enjoy the freedom of using as many plastic bags as possible when you do your weekly supermarket food shop, by the end of the year, you will have to pay for the privilege. The Scottish Government is introducing new legislation that will require all retailers (including non-food stores) to charge their customers a minimum of 5p for each carrier bag (whether plastic or not) from October 2014. There are many environmentalists who take the view that this is a drop in the ocean of the litter and waste problem in this country and that the legislation is merely a smoke screen by the Scottish Government to veil the real issues which are more complicated to deal with.
- The last few months of flooding across the UK (albeit that Scotland has, for a change, not been the worst affected area) has led to wide-spread questioning of the Government’s attitude towards the seriousness of the issue and how much funding is actually required to deal with it as well as usefulness of the guidance and information offered by the Environment Agency (in England and Wales) and SEPA (in Scotland). There are also diverse views about whether urban or rural areas should be given priority following a flooding event which severely impacts upon residents and business in both. Watch this space for updates!
- There is an ongoing ‘overhaul’ of the EU legislation relating to environmental impact assessments which has already led to some proposed changes in England and Wales. Whether changes to the regime in Scotland will be required/implemented is yet to be confirmed but many would argue that we could do with the process being streamlined.
- Recent cases (such as the liquidation of the Scottish Coal Company) have brought the potential enormity of the remediation of historic opencase coal sites to the attention of local authorities and the public alike. Insufficient restoration and remediation bonds which were put in place when the coal companies started mining may mean that local authorities (i.e. the public purse) or potentially the creditors of the company (depending on the outcome of the current cases) face clean-up costs amounting to millions when the companies ‘disappear’. The significant of the issue has led to a new consultation by the Scottish Government to try and prevent the same occurring in the future by ensuring that adequate financial guarantees are in place at the outset. However, that does not solve the legacy issues which are currently being faced and where the buck will stop in relation to those sites is, as yet, undecided.
As well as the specific issues touched on above, the bigger issues (such as the vote on independence for Scotland) will undoubtedly have an impact on how people do business in the environment and waste sectors in 2014 like any other sector. What will be interesting to see is what issues, decisions and changes have the most impact and I will look to discuss the most topical of those as we progress through the year.
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