Cold weather continues to affect the UK and in response to this the Environment Agency (England and Wales) has issued guidance on their approach to Environmental Permitting Regulations while the snow lies deep.
“The recent severe winter weather can present challenging conditions for site managers and operators of the sites we regulate. Extremely low temperatures will affect, for example, the operation of plant and equipment, monitoring arrangements and can disrupt supplies, access to land and the availability of key personnel.
We appreciate that in some circumstances this may lead to potential non-compliance with the requirements of the environmental permit, or may cause some unforeseen environmental impact. Where this is the case, we will work with them to minimize potential impacts on the environment, both now and in the longer term.
EPR regulation during cold weather.pdf
Quite reasonably, this recognises the effects of extreme weather conditions on plant performance, access and discharge, even on staffing levels etc. With a reminder that everything possible must be done to meet the required performance standards there is a welcome hint of flexibility.
However, as the guidance note requires those who may expect their plant performance to drift outside agreed limits to “contact their local Environment Agency office to explore the options available for minimising and managing the potential impacts.”
That assumes that local EA offices, and other regional and national offices, are adequately staffed with employees having the necessary skills and expertise, and with the authority to make decisions, and that they too have not fallen foul of the weather.