Part 2 - Policy Overview
2.1 Environmental Regulation in the 21st Century
2.1.1 SEPA has a clear role to play in tackling the challenge facing Scotland to achieve social and economic success while living within planetary constraints. This is embodied in SEPA's statutory purpose to deliver environmental protection and improvement in ways that, as far as possible, also create health and wellbeing benefits and sustainable economic growth.
2.1.2 To deliver this purpose, SEPA is taking a new approach to regulating, an approach that helps to put Scotland on a path that creates prosperity within planetary limits. This approach is set out in SEPA's regulatory strategy "One Planet Prosperity - Our Regulatory Strategy".
2.1.3 The integrated authorisation framework has a key role to play in enabling SEPA to transform the way it approaches regulation by providing a framework that enables innovation and proportionate, joined up, outcome focussed regulation, that significantly simplifies the regulatory landscape and reduces regulatory burden.
2.1.4 To support this 21 st century approach to regulation we need a regulatory system that will help encourage businesses to move beyond compliance by identifying innovations that help them further reduce their environmental impact in ways that builds business benefits.
2.1.5 Beyond compliance does not mean additional regulatory burdens on businesses. It means working with those businesses that voluntarily want to go broader and further than mere compliance because they recognise that adopting this approach creates commercial benefits, such as reducing costs, opening up new markets and reducing supply-chain risks.
2.1.6 The most successful businesses in the 21st century will be those that are low carbon, low materials use, low water use and low waste. For these businesses, the environment will be an opportunity, not a problem.
2.1.7 Achieving this will require innovative technologies and approaches and it is intended that the integrated authorisation framework will be more supportive of innovation. We believe these changes will make it easier for an authorised person to test and implement innovative technologies without compromising environmental protection.
2.2 Current legislative and regulatory framework
2.2.1The current legislative landscape is unnecessarily complicated and not helpful in enabling SEPA to transform the way it regulates. The regulatory systems for the existing regimes that SEPA is responsible for have developed and evolved largely separately and adopt different approaches to achieve similar outcomes.
2.2.2 Each regime has a different history:
- The water regime benefits from being the most recent having been substantially reformed in 2005 and is the model for proportionate tiers of authorisation.
- The waste regime has evolved over decades and relies on at least eight different pieces of legislation.
- The radioactive substances regime has evolved over the last 50 years and whilst it has stood the test of time well, will benefit from being updated to reflect modern approaches and practices.
- The Pollution Prevention and Control regime has already adopted a more integrated approach across environmental media, but complex signposting and interaction is needed with the other regimes. It also only deals, on the whole, with the more significant polluting activities.
2.2.3 Figure 1 below shows the different tiers of authorisation currently used in each of the existing regimes, as well as the proposed future tiers.
2.2.4 In addition to the complexities around authorisations, there are unnecessary differences between the procedural requirements of the existing regimes. This includes fundamentals such as, who holds an authorisation, determination periods, how the suitability of a person to hold an authorisation is assessed and how the public and other interested parties are consulted and engaged in relation to applications.
2.2.5 While there has often been good reason for the differences in the existing regimes, it has resulted in a legislative framework and regulatory procedures that are inconsistent, and onerous to administer, both for SEPA and operators.
2.3 Overview of the proposed integrated authorisation framework
2.3.1 Chapter 1 of Part 3 of the RR(S)A 2014 enables the Scottish Ministers to make provision for, or in connection with, protecting and improving the environment, including provision for regulating environmental activities and provision for implementing European and international obligations relating to protecting and improving the environment.
2.3.2The Scottish Government and SEPA propose to radically simplify, streamline and integrate, as far as possible, the existing environmental authorisation regimes into an integrated authorisation framework (as illustrated by Figure 1 below).
Figure 1 - Current and Future Authorisation Tiers
2.3.3 However, there are some constraints in the Directives, which are not themselves integrated. The integrated authorisation framework has been developed to be as integrated as possible but there are circumstances and activities where specific directive requirements must be applied.
2.3.4 This consultation sets out the benefits of the integrated authorisation framework and the detail of the policy proposals. It also sets out the details of any modifications required to the integrated authorisation framework and the main differences in the regime specific parts. The table in paragraph 1.5.1 will help you identify what parts of the consultation are important for you.
The benefits of an integrated authorisation framework
2.3.5 The framework is designed to standardise, simplify and streamline the process for complying with environmental legislation in Scotland, while also improving transparency and engagement in decision making. The framework is an essential component of the tools SEPA needs to be a 21 st century regulator.
2.3.6 For Scotland's environment and communities, the integrated authorisation framework will:
- Enable SEPA to focus on the environmental risks that matter most;
- Support SEPA's work to bring all regulated businesses into compliance quickly, easily and cost effectively;
- Support SEPA's ambitions to help as many businesses as possible to go beyond compliance;
- Ensure that people are properly informed and engaged in decision making, particularly communities directly impacted by regulated activities;
- Improve flexibility for SEPA to undertake enforcement that secures compliance, prevents harm and requires restoration of the environment;
- Gives SEPA discretion to revoke authorisations if the holder of the authorisation has ceased to be a fit and proper person, has ceased to be in control of the regulated activity or has repeatedly failed to secure compliance with regulatory requirements or harmed the environment; and
- Ensure that most regulated activities have a named authorised person, increasing accountability and ensuring that corporate responsibility is taken for compliance and the prevention of harm.
2.3.7 These benefits will enable SEPA to maximise the effectiveness of its regulatory activities to ensure Scotland's environment and communities are protected from environmental harm.
2.3.8 For Scotland's regulated businesses, the integrated authorisation framework will:
- Provide a simple, consistency, transparent and integrated system that is easier to use and understand;
- Make it quicker, easier and more cost effective to comply with environmental legislation;
- Provide clarity for regulated businesses about the type of authorisation they need, why and what is required of them to comply;
- Provide a robust, and risk-based approach that adopts a level of control proportionate to the risks posed by regulated activities;
- Enable the introduction of simpler, integrated authorisations (e.g. single site and corporate authorisations) replacing regime specific authorisations;
- Support innovation so that businesses can realise the financial and reputational benefits of going beyond compliance;
- Provide a more 'level playing field' for business by ensuring that disreputable operators or criminals are unable to obtain authorisations; and
- Unlock new opportunities to streamline administrative processes and increase efficiency.
2.3.9 These benefits will enable SEPA to help businesses secure compliance and go beyond compliance as well as maximise the efficiency and transparency of its processes to ensure Scotland's businesses are regulated effectively with minimised administrative burden.
2.3.10 Those currently regulated under more than one regime are likely to see the biggest benefits as a result of integrating regulatory requirements. Those that are currently only regulated under the older waste or radioactive substances regimes will also benefit from the simplification and modernisation of these regimes. Those currently regulated under PPC will benefit from simplification and SEPA's ability to take a more proportionate approach by using other types of authorisation than permits, where appropriate. Those that are currently only regulated under the water regime may not see direct benefits but these changes deliver wider benefits across all activities. A small number of activities in the registration tier may also see a small reduction in flexibility.
2.3.11 For SEPA, the integrated authorisation framework will:
- Enable it to work in a more integrated and transparent way across different sites, operators and sectors;
- Enable it to support innovation and help businesses realise the benefits of going beyond compliance;
- Secure more effective environmental regulation by focussing on practical environmental protection rather than administrative processes;
- Allow it to apply a level of authorisation that is appropriate to the risk of an activity;
- Simplify legislation and processes that will in turn enable service improvement and long term costs savings through greater operational efficiency; and
- Ensure it has the right enforcement tools to allow it to intervene where necessary, including on a preventative basis, to protect the environment.
2.3.12 These benefits will enable SEPA to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of its regulatory activities and to focus efforts on protecting Scotland's environment and communities from environmental harm, while facilitating innovation and supporting sustainable economic growth.
Question 1 - Do you agree with the benefits set out above?
Question 2 - Are there any other comments you would like to
Question 3 - How could SEPA better support the uptake of new technologies?