This quarterly environmental law update provides a summary of news stories published in the period October – December 2021.
FAFT UPDATE THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT COMBATTING MONEY LUNDERING and TERRORIST FinANCING
The Financial Action Task Force (FAFT), updated their website in October 2021. ‘International Standards on Combating Money Laundering and The Financing of Terrorism & Proliferation’ Recommendations. In this update, FAFT clarified the types of offences considered to fall within the definition of ‘environmental crime’, namely: criminal harvesting, extraction or trafficking of protected species of wild fauna and flora, precious metals and stones, other natural resources, or waste. While environmental crimes were already classified as category offenses, this means that countries have always been required by FAFT to criminalize money laundering for such crimes. October PlenaryFAFT discovered that there were significant differences between environmental crimes, which could have an impact on how they are investigated. FAFT’s October update is intended to complement its June 2021 environmental crime report, as discussed in our Q2 update Here.
DEFRA PROVIDES AN ADDITIONAL £7.2M TO PROJECTS TACKLING ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE
On October 1, 2021, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, (Defra), became operational. Announcement it will provide a total of £7.2m in funding to 17 conservation projects focussed on protecting endangered species, such as tigers in Nepal, orangutans in Indonesia and pangolins in the Philippines. The funding was awarded following Round 7 of the Government’s ‘Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund’ – a UK government competitive grants scheme aimed at eradicating illegal wildlife trade. Applicants for Round 8 funding, aimed at projects in sub–Saharan Africa, East and South East Asia and Latin America, had until 22 November to apply.
ENVIRONMENTAGENCY REPORTS ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERIENCE OF REGULATED BRANDS
The Environment Agency published its October 2021 report. Annual report on the environmental performance of regulated businesses in England throughout 2020 and the regulatory role taken by the Environment Agency. The report stated that although permit compliance was high (97%), there were still issues of long-term non-compliance, especially among waste activities (which was also recently the subject of an). EA survey). Concerns expressed in the Environment Agency’s earlier Report on water companies’ performance (referred to in our Q3 update) were also repeated. While enforcement action was down in previous years, it was not insignificant. 27% of all enforcement actions resulted in prosecutions. 39% of all other actions resulted in enforcement warnings and 31% in enforcement undertakings. Six cautions were issued by the EA, who found them less effective than other power. Positive news was that they acknowledged some progress, such as the implementation EA2025.
From 31 October to 12 November 2021 the annual United Nations’ climate change conference took place in Glasgow. This conference, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), was seen as the most important conference since COP21 (which produced the 2015 Paris Agreement) because it was the moment countries revisited climate pledges made under the Paris Agreement.
One of the outcomes from COP26 was The Glasgow Climate Pact, which was, among other things, agreed to:
- Work towards further cuts to CO2 emissions in an attempt to keep temperature rises within 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement;
- “Phase down” the use of coal and “phase out” inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, which are used to artificially reduce the price of oil, coal or natural gas; and
- To reduce the effects of climate change and to offset the costs associated moving to clean energy, increase funding for poorer countries.
Leaders from over 100 countries with 85% of the world’s forests agreed to stop deforestation by 2030, whilst an agreement to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 was also reached. The delegates agreed that they would review their climate pledges by 2022.
ENVIRONMENT Act 2021
The Environment Act 2021 received royal assent on the 9th of November 2021. A number of its provisions will be in force on the 17th November 2021. Many of its other substantive provisions are set to come into effect on 9 January 2022.
The Act also includes the following changes:
- The creation of an independent body. Office for Environmental Protection (OEP)., to take over the role of the European Commission as the environmental watchdog in the UK. The OEP is responsible for reviewing and reporting on the government’s progress in meeting environmental goals and targets; monitoring and reporting on the implementation of environmental law; advising the government on proposed changes to environmental law and related matters; and inspecting alleged failures to comply with environmental law by the government or other public bodies, enforcing compliance where required;
- Requires government to set a legally binding target for species abundance by 2030.
- It makes it illegal for large UK businesses to use key forest commodities from land that has been illegally occupied. This will be in addition to the UK Timber Regulations, which already criminalize illegally harvested timber being placed on the UK market. Relevant businesses must report annually on the due diligence they have conducted on their supply chain.
MAJOR INVESTIGATION INTO SEWAGE TEATMENT WORKS
It was established on 18th November 2021 Announcement The Environment Agency and Ofwat initiated a thorough investigation into more than 2,000 sewage treatment plants. After being notified by a number companies that their treatment plants may have been releasing sewage into the environment, the Environment Agency launched an investigation. The investigation is designed to assess how wide-spread the problem is and it is clear that the Environment Agency and Ofwat are taking this issue very seriously, with “any company caught breaching their legal permits facing enforcement action, including fines or prosecutions”.
NORTHUMBRIAN WATER ORDERED TO PAY OVER £680,000 FOR DISCHARGING SEWAGE EFFLUENT INTO A WATERCOURSE
Northumbrian Water pleaded guilty in October 2021 to releasing sewage effluent that was discharged onto a County Durham watercourse. The company reported the incident to Environment Agency the next day and worked on clearing the obstruction and performing remedial improvements. Investigations which followed found that from the point of the incident, the watercourse’s ecology and habitat had been damaged for 2km and the water quality had been impacted for 4km. Northumbrian Water was sentenced at a hearing on 6 Oct. Fined £540,000 and ordered to pay costs of more than £142,000.
ENFORCEMENT UNDERTAKING SEES SANDERSON ENVIRONMENTAL LTD PAY £30,000 TO THE LAND TRUST
It was established on 27 October 2021 reported Following an investigation that began in 2017, Environment Agency accepted an Enforcement Undertaking form Sanderson Environmental Ltd. This was after they had violated their environmental permit and imported and spread untreated sewage waste sludge without notifying them. Under the terms of the undertaking, Sanderson Environmental Ltd paid costs of £8,137.36 and donated £30,000 to the Land Trust, a charity working to improve former coalfield sites in Yorkshire. The two owners of the land, Sutcliffe Farmers Ltd and Senviro Ltd, were issued with variable monetary penalties (VMPs) of £7,521.54 and £2,507.7 respectively, for breaches of the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2015. They were also ordered to pay costs of £8,137.63.
DEFRA CONSULTS ON THE ENVIRONMENT ACT’S DUE DILIGENCE PROVISIONS
As mentioned above, the Environment Act 2021 required that relevant businesses conduct due diligence on key forest commodities. These provisions can only be implemented if secondary legislation is passed. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs launched a new website in December 2021. Consultation Seeking the views of interested parties on this issue. The deadline for responses to this issue is 11 March 2022.
SEVERN TRENT WATER LTD FINED £1.5M FOR ILLEGAL SEWAGE DISCHARGES
Severn Trent Water became available on 7/12/2021 Fined £1.5m and ordered to pay costs of £58,365 after it admitted to discharging sewage illegally and breaching limits set for Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and ammoniacal nitrogen. The incidents took place between February 2018 and August 2018. They resulted to approximately 360,000 litres raw sewage being illegally released from one of the treatment plants into a nearby creek. This is not the first time Severn Trent have been before the courts in recent years for relevant offences; the company was fined £800,000 last summer after more than 3 million litres of raw sewage was allowed to enter a Shropshire stream between November 2014 and May 2016.