Emission controls may be relaxed

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The Ecclesfield Conservation Group is concerned that the Environment Agency may reduce the penalties they impose on companies that exceed their emissions limits.

The Group think this would increase concerns about the chemical and radioactive waste to be processed in their village and which would then flow through Sheffield via the River Don. To prevent this happening, they have been encouraging their members and others to add their views to the Government’s consultation at https://bit.ly/2pimtvc before it ends on the night of Monday 29th October 2018.

The Group say that even if the Agency thinks current penalties are too heavy, this is not the right time to reduce them.

One reason for this is the contentious issue of fracking, which is likely to come to a head, when INEOS move from mere exploratory drilling to fracking proper. In The Star’s report of 2nd October, 2017, INEOS pointed to Environment Agency regulation as an assurance of the safety of the fracking waste that is likely to be tankered to Ecclesfield for processing. The Group therefore consider any reduction in regulation as casting doubt on this assurance.

Another reason for concern is the likely removal of the role of EU institutions in monitoring and enforcing environmental law following brexit.

The Conservation Group think that this timing at least gives the impression that the Environment Agency, is not independent, but has been captured by an industry hoping to take advantage of release from EU constraints. If fracking and other firms are given this impression, then competition between firms could force them to embark in a race to cut corners, risk penalties, and pollute the environment.

The Conservation group therefore suggests that people say “No” to two proposals.

The first of these is proposal 7. which they say would mean that instead of adding up the “scores” which the Environment Agency impose when a site exceeds several of its emission limits, they would be consolidated so that only the largest score would be taken into account.

The second is proposal 8. which allows any penalty scores to be “suspended” “beyond six months”, while the “non-compliances” are addressed.

At Monday’s Conservation Group meeting, Jim Percival asked whether, if it is right for motorists to have points for multiple driving offenses totted-up, then why should the same not apply to polluters. Likewise if repeated offending normally results in suspended sentences being triggered and even added to, rather than just being re-suspended, why shouldn’t the same apply to repeated polluters.