New waste licensing rules to go ahead next April

The uncertainty about when the waste management licensing system created by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 will be implemented is to be ended shortly by the Department of the Environment (DoE). It is expected to announce that the new regime will come into force next April.

The April 1993 implementation date was established last summer. But within weeks the Government's announcement that it intended to set up an Environment Agency had thrown the plan into confusion.

At the time the Government was promising to introduce a Bill to establish the Agency later this year. That would have meant that the waste regulation authorities (WRAs), which are to be incorporated in the Agency, would have been faced with a major reorganisation at the same time as they were introducing the complex new licensing system. The Government therefore said that implementation of the licensing rules would be subject to the timetable for the Agency.

The Government has now announced that a Bill on the Agency will not be introduced for at least 12 months, clearing the way for implementation of the licensing system. The DoE has confirmed that it will go ahead as originally planned next April.

An official announcement of the timetable is due in August, when the DoE will consult on the licensing regulations and associated guidance. The consultation exercise may not be carried out all in one go because the issues are so complex.

The issues to be dealt with include not only the details of the licensing system but also certificates of completion - which will be issued to disposal operators once WRAs are satisfied that their sites no longer pose an environmental hazard (ENDS Report 208, pp 32-3 ) - and the new system of cost-recovery charges which will enable WRAs to recoup part of their licensing and monitoring costs from operators.

The consultation exercise will also have to set out the DoE's plans to implement section 74 of the 1990 Act, which provides that licences may be granted only to "fit and proper" persons. The main criteria are whether a prospective disposal site operator has been convicted of any relevant offences, whether he has made adequate financial provision to discharge his licence obligations, and whether the person managing the site is technically competent. The debate on financial guarantees (see below) and on the training and experience required to prove technical competence (ENDS Report 209, p 12 ) has been a lively one to date and looks set to continue in the same vein as decision time draws closer.

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