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https://environmentagency.blog.gov.uk/2020/06/24/emma-howard-boyd-discusses-scrutiny-of-incinerator-projects/

Emma Howard Boyd discusses scrutiny of incinerator projects

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Waste

A group of people attend a public consultation

Energy from Waste and the Environment Agency’s role

The Environment Agency works to create better places for people and wildlife, and to support sustainable development. That’s what the organisation was set up to do, and it’s what the Board instruct the Executive to deliver with the EA’s excellent staff and partners.

As Chair of the Environment Agency, I’m conscious that the biggest threat to our objectives is the climate emergency. However, I am a firm believer that if the world approaches this challenge with enough ambition, we can reduce emissions (the EA has set itself the goal of being a net zero organisation by 2030), be better prepared for the locked-in impacts of climate change (like worsening storms and droughts), and unlock opportunities to create a cleaner and more resilient economy.

This may sound at odds with the Environment Agency’s regulatory responsibilities when an environmental permit to an installation that produces emissions is approved. We don’t shy away from this. Criticism is a vital part of the decision-making process, and scrutiny of how and why we make decisions is essential to democracy (although, as you would expect, I will not tolerate offensive behaviour towards staff).

New waste incinerators (also known as Energy from Waste plants) can be the focus of a lot of public concern and opposition, which is why we consult the local community and others carefully and seriously and take account of their views. Some people will follow the decision-making process at every stage of the way, but not everyone can.

Even after consultation, the decisions do not satisfy everyone. For example, a permit was recently approved for the Rivenhall Energy from Waste plant in Essex. This will have some of the toughest emissions standards anywhere in the country and you can read about that further here.

Here is a brief overview of what the EA’s role is in these decisions.

What the EA does

When a company wants to build and operate a new energy from waste plant, two key permissions are required – planning permission, and an environmental permit.

The Environment Agency’s main role is to decide whether to grant an environmental permit. Without one a company could build a plant but wouldn’t be allowed to operate it.

Whether or not to grant planning permission is normally decided by the local authority responsible (also known as the waste planning authority) or the National Infrastructure Commission (if its electrical output is greater than 50 megawatts). The local authority will ask for the Environment Agency’s views on the planning application in relation to flood risk and other local environmental factors, but that decision is not ours.

How does the Environment Agency assess whether to approve a permit?

Under the environmental permitting rules we assess new Energy from Waste plants under the following criteria:

  • Whether the impact on the environment from the installation will be acceptable or whether it could cause significant pollution.
  • Whether the installation will meet relevant environmental legislation (in particular the requirements of the European Industrial Emissions Directive which includes the need to use Best Available Techniques (BAT) and meet strict emissions limits).
  • Whether emissions from the installation could cause harm to human health.

We will not approve environmental permits if these criteria are not met. While we will always come down hard on businesses who break the rules, we want to work with compliant companies to help them meet the highest possible standards and influence an economic culture where companies compete to be clean and resilient.

Our job is to make sure firms are compliant with the rules as they are set by Government, our aim is to raise the standard above and beyond mere compliance.

Influencing that culture was one of the main reasons we chose as an organisation to aim for net zero by 2030. We not only do it because we think it is right, we want to help others understand how to make changes for the better as soon as possible.

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency

A new document explaining every stage of the environmental permitting process in relation to Energy from Waste plants will be available soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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9 comments

  1. Comment by Nick Unsworth posted on

    But that is not the whole story is it Emma? The EA refused a 35m Stack and granted a permit for a 58M stack stating this 'was the best height cost performance solution', but the higher stack did not get planning. So you reversed the permitting process allowing the applicant to determine the emission BASED ON THEIR STACK HEIGHT and NOT the Industrial Emissions Directive. It has not got the toughest standards just standards set for that stack height! Its a bit like saying your car has failed its MOT on noise ground but arguing it will be fine I'll drive slowly.600,000 TPA, 500,000TPA CO2, 189Mw generated and 49 to the grid is NOT energy from waste its incineration especially when compared to the Ipswich incinerator at Gt Blakenham
    You really need to dig a little deeper!

    Reply
  2. Comment by Mike Appleton posted on

    Absolutely disgusting the way in which the local council, and government as a whole have handles the Rivenhall Incinerator proposal from start to where we are now. The facility will put back less in energy terms than the energy and emissions needed to get the raw materials on-site.
    And we’re supposed to be heading towards a cleaner environment!? Planning refused on larger chimney stack, so they’ve now allowed a lower height stack meaning dispersion of MP2.5 particles will be localised.
    The whole thing stinks of back handers and corruption.

    Reply
  3. Comment by Fiona McCarthy posted on

    Rivenhall incinerator- You refused a 35m Stack and granted a permit for a 58M stack stating this 'was the best height cost performance solution', but the higher stack did not get planning. So you reversed the permitting process allowing the applicant to determine the emission ! You are allowing the smaller stack to spew its omissions over local villages and schools, poisoning the children and the inhabitants of the surrounding areas not forgetting the wildlife and general environment. I highly doubt any of you live within the boundaries of the incinerator? How can you say you act in the interests of the local environment and it’s population? I know you’re not acting in my family’s interest, shame on you all.

    Reply
  4. Comment by Ian Mayor posted on

    You highlight the reversal on the decision once made on the stack height at Rivenhall. I don’t think anyone that has opposed this incinerator will be convinced you have acted in the best interest of the environment or for the health of local people. There is evidence out there that this is not best practice if you cared to look.

    Reply
  5. Comment by Adam posted on

    This is a misleading article. The Rivenhall incinerator was not granted planning Permian will not generate much power back into the grid. The environmental impact of this incinerator is going to be huge as will the hundreds of lorry’s driving to the plant with the waste to be burnt. Almost Every person in the local area is against this incinerator and the fight against it has been huge. How this has been granted permission is beyond me as it is not needed and much of the waste to be burnt will in fact be imported in. The fight is far from over.

    Reply
  6. Comment by Tom Denton posted on

    Same comment as my colleague. The EA refused a 35m Stack and granted a permit for a 58M stack stating this 'was the best height cost performance solution', but the higher stack did not get planning. So you reversed the permitting process allowing the applicant to determine the emission BASED ON THEIR STACK HEIGHT and NOT the Industrial Emissions Directive. It has not got the toughest standards just standards set for that stack height! Its a bit like saying your car has failed its MOT on noise ground but arguing it will be fine I'll drive slowly.600,000 TPA, 500,000TPA CO2, 189Mw generated and 49 to the grid is NOT energy from waste its incineration especially when compared to the Ipswich incinerator at Gt Blakenham You mudtbdi more research.

    Reply
  7. Comment by Clare Bramwell posted on

    That’s not the whole story is it? The EA refused a 35m Stack and granted a permit for a 58M stack stating this 'was the best height cost performance solution', but the higher stack did not get planning. So you reversed the permitting process allowing the applicant to determine the emission BASED ON THEIR STACK HEIGHT and NOT the Industrial Emissions Directive. It has not got the toughest standards just standards set for that stack height! Its a bit like saying your car has failed its MOT on noise ground but arguing it will be fine I'll drive slowly.600,000 TPA, 500,000TPA CO2, 189Mw generated and 49 to the grid is NOT energy from waste its incineration especially when compared to the Ipswich incinerator at Gt Blakenham You really need to dig a little deeper!

    Reply
  8. Comment by Claire Wilkins posted on

    Our job is to make sure firms are compliant with the rules as they are set by Government, our aim is to raise the standard above and beyond mere compliance.

    The above statement is completely untrue, when in fact the incinerator in Rivenhall was at first refused because it did not meet the governments requirements to have a 58 metre stack and a 35m stack was too low. The governments requirements now appear to have changed to suit the lower stack as that is all the applicant could get planning permission for. The technology hasn’t changed, just the goal posts, which have now been changed to suit the applicant and not the health community.

    The public consultation was also woefully lacking and having attended myself, some of the information I was given was blatantly wrong and staff did not have enough knowledge to answer basic questions.

    The government should be ashamed of themselves and I will certainly not be coti g for them again.

    Reply
  9. Comment by Lotte posted on

    This is a joke. How can you defend the approval of the incinerator given the history of having previously refused the 35m stack? Just today there is an article in the newspaper that the UK is failing to meet its Carbon emissions target. With your decision to grant this permit, you have made matters worse, rather than doing what your remit is: to help protect the environment! You should be ashamed of yourselves.
    There is no need for this incinerator when the focus should be on recycling and reusing more of our scarce resources.

    Reply

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