Agency seeks responsibility for drafting regulations on EU law

The Environment Agency has proposed that it should assume responsibility for producing the first draft of regulations transposing EU Directives into UK law. Giving evidence to an inquiry into waste policy by the House of Lords European Union Committee, it said that such a role would ensure that a common approach was applied to permitting of waste facilities and methods of compliance.

A key issue for the inquiry is how effectively the Government and the Agency anticipate the practical implications of impending EU legislation.

Giving evidence to the Committee on 4 June, the Agency's head of environmental protection, Paul Leinster, said that it was drawing up a concordat with the Environment Department for working together on how EU environmental legislation is implemented.

Their joint work on the proposed environmental liability Directive could act as a future model, says the Agency. Here the Agency has taken part on selected working groups of the EU Council of Ministers and in similar UK groups, and has contributed to the production of the UK's draft regulatory impact assessment (RIA).

The Agency says that its staff should be involved with DEFRA "in the direct negotiation" of key Directives. The Government, with the support of the Agency and input from industry and environmental groups, should produce an agreed preliminary RIA and use it as the basis of all EU negotiations.

The Agency also wants to be able to offer advice on implementation directly to the Commission outside the process of Directive drafting, and to inform the pre-drafting process within the Commission. This could be done both by bilateral contact and through IMPEL, the network of European environmental regulators.

The Agency is also seeking responsibility for producing the first draft of regulations transposing Directives into UK or English and Welsh law. This would ensure that consistent processes of registration, permitting and compliance could be adopted, and that its recent investment in a computer system for registration and permitting delivers its full benefits.

"In the early stages we can have most influence. When these discussions are going on, issues such as enforcement and monitoring are not at the forefront of Department officials' minds," said Mr Leinster. "The Agency has a long-term interest in such legislation. They become our day job."

In some areas, a similar relationship is required with other Departments. "It is clear the same approach is needed with the DTI on producer responsibility," said Mr Leinster. While implementation of the Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment is going well, implementation of the Directive on end-of-life vehicles "is not proceeding anywhere near as smoothly and quickly as we'd like to see."

At EU level, the Agency believes there is a need to repeal or update redundant or outdated Directives. In particular, it wants adoption of a common definition of the term "recovery", which differs between the packaging and waste framework Directives. "It is becoming more clear what is waste, but it is still not clear when waste ceases to be waste," said the Agency's Steve Lee.

Contrary to claims frequently made by some business organisations, the Agency says it has "no evidence of significant 'gold-plating' of Directives nor uneven transposition across Member States." The effectiveness of enforcement of legislation may vary, and the Commission is seeking improvement in this area.

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