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Environmental issues for 2018: Key dates for environmental compliance

  • United Kingdom
  • Environment
  • Diversified industrials
  • Energy and infrastructure

13-09-2017

This briefing flags a number of upcoming environmental law changes which come into force in 2018. A wide range of businesses will be affected by some, if not all, of these changes, which impact issues from energy to chemicals compliance. Planning ahead is essential.

Energy

April 2018 sees the start of the final CRC compliance year. Participants in the scheme must buy their final allowances in Summer 2019. It seems likely that the CRC reporting requirements will be swept into the ESOS requirements, although this has not yet been confirmed. Business should also be mindful that the Government has always made clear the impact of the removal of the CRC scheme will be revenue neutral. Therefore from 1 April 2019 the Climate Change Levy will be increased to cover the “lost” CRC revenue. Former CRC participants will face an increased burden in 2019 as they will need to buy allowances for the final CRC year (assuming they did not buy early) and also will need to pay the increased CCL costs.

Also with effect from 1 April 2018 landlords must ensure that new lettings comply with the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property)(England and Wales) Regulations 2015 (commonly known as the “MEES Regulations”). Those with large real estate portfolios should already be planning for this change as considerable time and resources may be needed to get into compliance. Tenants must also be mindful of clauses in leases which may impose financial obligations on them to contribute to the costs of making energy improvements to their buildings.

Finally on the energy front, 31 December 2018 is the qualification date for phase 2 of the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (“ESOS”). Those entities already subject to ESOS will need to check whether they still meet the qualification criteria. Equally those entities that did not meet the qualification criteria back in December 2014 (the qualification date for phase 1) must assess whether they do now meet the criteria. This may be as a result of organic growth or acquisitions, for example. ESOS derives from an EU Directive and therefore businesses with European operations will need to consider equivalent local law requirements.

Electrical and electronic equipment

With effect from 15 August 2018 the WEEE Directive moves to open scope. At present whether a particular product falls within the scope of the WEEE Directive has depended on whether it falls within a particular category of equipment set out in the WEEE Directive itself. Going forward all electrical and electronic equipment will be in scope unless it can benefit from one of a limited number of exemptions. The timing of this change varies from state to state, so those with businesses across the EU will need to check the exact date for each jurisdiction. For example, the UK is not moving to open scope until 1 January 2019.

Equally those making or importing any electrical equipment who have to date considered themselves out of scope should review their position.

Those companies relying on ROHS exemptions should review them as some exemptions do expire during 2018.

Chemical compliance

1 May 2018 sees the final REACH registration deadline. Those businesses importing or manufacturing 1-100 tonnes of a substance which benefited from a pre-registration will now have a registration obligation. This final deadline will see the highest number of REACH registrations to date. Some companies who manufacture/import large volumes of substances, or who deal in particularly hazardous substances will have already made registrations and should be now be familiar with the process. However, for a large number of SMEs this will be a new experience. Registration itself, working within a SIEF and negotiating rights to access data can be a time consuming process. Those affected by this need to take immediate steps to comply. Many businesses are considering now the possible impact of Brexit as they plan their registration strategy.

The new EU Regulation on the restriction of the use of mercury comes into force on 1 January 2018. The legislation implements the international Minamata Convention and places restrictions on the use, trade in and manufacture of mercury and mercury compounds.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) has also confirmed that a focus for 2018-2019 will be a campaign on dangerous substances and how risk can be managed in the workplace.

Medium combustion plant directive

At present both large and small combustion plants are regulated at EU level, however medium combustion plants (thermal input between 1MW and 50MW) are not regulated. This will change –new plants (i.e. those put into operation after 20 December 2018) will be expected to meet new emission criteria from day 1 and will require an environmental permit. Existing plants (those in operation on this date) have an extended period to get into compliance depending on their size.

This is expected to impact around 17,000 plants in the UK.

Environmental permitting

In January 2018 the Environment Agency will publicly consult on its proposal for performance based regulation to replace its Operator Risk Appraisal (OPRA) scheme for sites regulated by the environmental permitting regime in England. Affected parties should review the consultation once published and consider responding.

Environmental management

Any organisation still using ISO 14001:2004 has until September 2018 to move to the 2015 standard. One of the key changes is that there is an explicit requirement for senior management to demonstrate leadership and commitment to the environmental management system.

Microbeads

From 1 January 2018 the manufacture of rinse off cosmetics and personal care products containing plastic microbeads is banned where there is clear and robust evidence of harm to the marine environment. The sale of these products will be banned from 30 June 2018.

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