Environmental Authorisations (Scotland) Regulations 2018 draft - proposed amendments: consultation

This consultation sets out proposals for incorporating SEPA’s four main regulatory regimes into an integrated environmental authorisation framework as part of Scottish Government and SEPA’s joint Better Environmental Regulation Programme.

2. New Activities

2.1 Introduction

2.1.1 This consultation is seeking your views on the following new activities: a change in relation to the regulation of sewage sludge activities once they are in the 2018 Regulations, and the extension of environmental regulation to the activities of carbon capture, non-waste anaerobic digestion and certain generators by bringing them within the scope of the 2018 Regulations.

2.2 Sewage Sludge

2.2.1 Sewage sludge is the residual semi solid material that is produced as a waste during the treatment of wastewater (sewage). The use of sewage sludge to provide nutrients for agricultural crops is a long-established practice. Sludge can only be stored at the place where it is to be used. It must be stored securely, for a limited time and at defined distances away from the water environment.

2.2.2 The Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989 and the Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations 2011 address the current requirements placed upon the handling, storage, transportation and use of sewage sludge.

2.2.3 In light of a considerable number of complaints received by Scottish Ministers relating to the use of sewage sludge, a review of the legislation and guidance relevant to the storage and spreading of sludge to land was undertaken in 2015 by the Scottish Government.

2.2.4 Certain key recommendations arising from the review require legislative change and include:

  • incorporating requirements of the Safe Sludge Matrix into law
  • an operator’s permit including a ‘Fit and Proper Person’ test should be introduced for all operators who are involved in the handling, storage, transportation and spreading of sewage sludge
  • establishing one regulatory system for organic waste to land, including the agricultural and non-agricultural application of sludge
  • tighter regulatory powers for SEPA, by having it as the lead agency with a single point of contact for incidents and complaints relating specifically to sewage sludge, subject to cost recovery via charging.

2.2.5 We propose to give effect to these recommendations by bringing the regulation of sludge into the 2018 Regulations and incorporating a number of new technical requirements in proposed Schedule 18 which will:

  • make appropriate parts of the Safe Sludge Matrix mandatory
  • ensure the transport, storage and use of sewage sludge is subject to environmental authorisations and that all Authorised Persons can demonstrate they are a ‘Fit and Proper’ person
  • tighten soil protection values in line with best evidence and improve monitoring and sampling provisions
  • make it possible for SEPA to charge for authorisations to fund regulatory activity in this area.

2.2.6 Annex C contains additional details as to the specific proposed legislative changes.

2.2.7 A recent evaluation of the Sewage Sludge Directive by the European Commission concluded that whilst the Directive remained relevant, there was a need to review the list of contaminants which are regulated, notably organic compounds, pathogens, pharmaceuticals and microplastics which are present in sewage sludge. In line with the Scottish Government’s commitment to remain aligned, where possible, with EU law, we intend to await the results of this review and will consider further potential amendments to the 2018 regulations as appropriate as a consequence of any new EU legislation.

Question 1 Are there any other regulatory measures relating to the spreading of sewage sludge to land that you feel should be considered for inclusion in the Regulations?

2.3 Carbon Capture

2.3.1 The Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (the PPC regulations) provide the current regulatory regime for industrial emissions, and include carbon capture for geological storage as an activity requiring a permit, in line with the requirements of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED).

2.3.2 The definition of the carbon capture and storage activity in PPC regulations is:

“Capture of carbon dioxide streams from an installation for the purposes of geological storage pursuant to Directive 2009/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23rd April 2009 on the geological storage of carbon dioxide.”

2.3.3 This means that to regulate emissions from a carbon capture plant:

  • the carbon capture plant must be located at an installation carrying out another industrial activity regulated by the PPC regulations
  • the plant must capture carbon dioxide from a point source
  • the captured carbon dioxide is for the purpose of geological storage.

2.3.4 The role of carbon capture is evolving, and several types of carbon capture technologies are emerging. Current regulation captures only one specific activity and proposals for new plants are already coming forward which would not be captured under the PPC regulations. This means operations with the same environmental risk are treated differently. For example, an identical carbon capture plant where the captured carbon is utilised rather than going to geological storage would currently not be regulated in the same way as one where the carbon were going to geological storage.

2.3.5 Environmental regulations need to support the deployment of carbon capture technology in-line with our national 2045 net-zero greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, as well as protect the environment and human health. Carbon capture technologies are evolving at pace with different contexts, scales, and environmental impacts. There are potential significant impacts on air and water quality, and from noise. Impacts on the environment could include emissions to air from amines, nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides from the capture plant itself or noise from use of compression equipment.

2.3.6 We propose to include “Any activity, if not related to any activity described in paragraph 46(13) of Part 4 of Schedule 20 for the capture of carbon dioxide from any other source” as an other emissions activity in proposed Schedule 26 such that this activity will require an authorisation in Scotland.

2.3.7 The types of activity that would require an authorisation are:

  • carbon capture removal technologies such as Direct Air Capture
  • carbon capture and utilisation plant
  • carbon capture plant for the purpose of storing carbon dioxide

2.3.8 This will provide a level playing field and ensure environmental risks are appropriately managed, with the aim of achieving proportionate and equitable regulation of carbon capture activities based on the level of risk to the environment. SEPA is currently consulting on the type of authorisation needed for different types of carbon capture plant.

Question 2 Do you agree that this carbon capture activity should be an environmental activity in the Regulations?

2.4 Non-Waste Anaerobic Digestion

2.4.1 The anaerobic digestion of waste is currently regulated according to capacity. The anaerobic digestion of materials that are not waste (e.g. energy crops) is not regulated in the same way, even though the potential environmental risk is similar. The size and number of non-waste anaerobic digestion plants have increased in recent years.

2.4.2 Anaerobic digestion processes biomass (plant and animal materials) into methane or biogas for heating and power. Management of materials in this manner can be a significant source of pollution to air and water from gaseous releases and liquid effluent. The impact of an anaerobic digestion plant on the environment will depend on the location, size, management of the process and infrastructure of the site, but there have been instances of anaerobic digestion plants causing significant impacts. Anaerobic digestion plants processing non-waste biomass present similar risks to the environment as those processing waste biomass.

2.4.3 We propose to add the anaerobic digestion of non-waste biomass as an other emissions activity in a new Schedule 26 so that this activity will require an authorisation in Scotland.

2.4.4 Anaerobic digestion is important to the circular economy and net zero, but requires management of associated environmental risks. Regulating this activity will provide a level playing field and ensure the appropriate management of the environmental risks with the aim of achieving proportionate and equitable regulation of anaerobic digestion activities based on risk to the environment.

Question 3 Do you agree non-waste anaerobic digestion should be an environmental activity in the Regulations?

2.5 Generators of Electricity Aggregating to 1 Megawatt Thermal Input (MWth) or More

2.5.1 We are proposing to apply controls to any combustion plants that generate electricity and aggregate to 1 MWth or more at the same location. This will include any generator which generates and then supplies electricity, either to the grid or for independent production for use at site of generation. Generators can be used in arrays to supply power and as back up to power supplied from the grid. Some may be operated intermittently to supply the grid to balance electricity supply and demand in real time. Additionally, standby generation is relied upon by island communities in Scotland to provide additional peak supply and contingency in the event of subsea cable faults.

2.5.2 The use of unabated generators can have a significant impact on air quality, and individual plants with a capacity of 1 MWth or more already need an environmental authorisation. Sites where there are smaller plants which aggregate to 1 MWth have an equivalent environmental impact and including this activity in the 2018 Regulations is in line with our commitments to improve air quality, and our net zero and decarbonisation goals. It will provide a level playing field and ensure environmental risks are appropriately managed, with the aim of achieving proportionate and equitable regulation of generation activities based on risk to the environment.

2.5.3 Controls of specified generators have been in place in England and Wales since 2018 and we are proposing that equivalent generators in Scotland be subject to similar controls, the details of which will be set out in SEPA guidance. The expectation is that the operation of these plants will meet modern emissions standards. For island communities, this may involve the upgrading of electrical distribution networks and/or facilitate the greater use of renewable/low carbon technologies to displace the current old fossil fuel power stations.

2.5.4 We propose to add combustion plants generating electricity on the same site with an aggregated total rated thermal input of 1 MWth as an other emissions activity in the proposed Schedule 26 so that this activity will require an authorisation in Scotland.

Question 4 Do you agree that any combustion plant on the same site that generate electricity and aggregate to 1 MWth or more should be an environmental activity in the Regulations?

Question 5 Should the scope be expanded to all combustion plants on the same site that aggregate to 1 MWth or more including those that generate heat (e.g. boilers)?

Question 6 For combustion plants on the same site that generate electricity and aggregate to 1 MWth or more, located in the highlands or on the islands are there plans in place to upgrade the plant or to replace it with renewable / low carbon technology / carbon capture usage and storage?

2.6 Emissions of Ammonia From Livestock Farms

2.6.1 Agricultural emissions related to air quality are dominated by ammonia (NH3). Agriculture accounted for 92% of total Scottish ammonia emissions in 2020, with Scottish emissions accounting for 12% of total UK ammonia emissions. Cattle represent the largest livestock source, with beef and dairy cattle responsible for approximately 33% of UK emissions each.

Figure 1. UK emissions split by livestock category, 2020
UK emissions 2020 split by livestock category. Dairy cattle 33%, other cattle 33%, sheep 7%, pigs 9%, poultry 17% and minor livestock 1%.
Figure 2. Scottish agricultural emissions split by sector, 2020
Scottish agricultural emissions 2020 data, split by sector. Cattle manure management 35%, manure applied to soils 31%, inorganic fertilizers 16%, grazing animal excreta 11% and other manure management 7%.

2.6.2 Unlike emissions of the other main air pollutants, which have declined significantly over the last 30 years, ammonia levels have decreased by only around 12% in this period. Even this modest reduction has started to reverse slightly since 2012. Sources such as large intensive pig and poultry units above certain capacities are classed as industrial installations and are regulated under the Industrial Emissions Directive and the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (the PPC Regulations). However, there are currently no regulatory mechanisms in place in the UK for other agricultural ammonia emission sources, which make up the bulk of emissions.

2.6.3 The Scottish Government would like to explore how ammonia emission from livestock farms, particularly dairy and intensive livestock might be better managed and reduced. This might be through a number of measures ranging from regulation to providing advice and information relating to good practice (including the Prevention of Environmental Pollution from Agricultural Activity (PEPFAA) code) or linking emission management to cross compliance rules in relation to future agricultural support.

2.6.4 Potential Mitigation Measures

2.6.5 The bullet points below describes the ammonia mitigation measures currently available. These measures bring a variety of cost-scales and it would be helpful to understand from the industry what the likely costs and impact of these measures might be.

  • Slurry storage – Covering slurry stores & lagoons prevents ammonia emission from the slurry. Covering stores can result in up to an 80% reduction in ammonia emissions. There are a variety of methods to do this – from straw or clay ball covers to bespoke tension covers.
  • Slurry bags – Enclosed flexible bags to store slurry in.
  • Slurry treatment – For example: anaerobic digestion; acidification; separation (screen); aeration system; minimise agitation.
  • Farmyard manure covers – Covering manure with heavy gauge black polythene sheeting.
  • Dairy and yard washing – Increased washing of fouled areas (collection yards, parlour, feeding passages, etc.).
  • Livestock housing – For example: new purpose-built slatted cattle shed; additional straw.
  • Diet and additives – Excess protein in cattle diets is excreted as undigested protein, this then produces ammonia. Feed additives specifically marketed to reduce ammonia emissions from cattle do exist but not currently approved for use in the UK.
  • Manure and slurry incorporation – Incorporating organic manure into soil quickly (as opposed to leaving it on the soil surface) after application reduces the amount of ammonia lost to the atmosphere, so increasing the amount of nitrogen available to plants for growth. Organic manure may be incorporated by harrowing or ploughing. Alternatively, slurry may be injected straight into the soil at application.
  • Genetic improvement – Breeding cattle with high nitrogen use efficiency can be achieved through use of artificial insemination (AI) programmes

2.6.6 No decisions have been taken on how ammonia emissions should be controlled or managed in future and the Scottish Government recognises that there are already good practice examples within the industry. Nevertheless, any changes in the way emissions are managed in future will have impacts on intensive livestock businesses both in terms of scale and farm type. To understand further what those impacts may be, particularly given current cost pressures with the industry and the transitional nature of agricultural policy as Scotland moves to new support measures from existing ones, the Scottish Government wishes to seek views on the options for controls.

Question 7 How should ammonia emissions from intensive livestock farms be controlled in future? This could include, a regulatory basis, the provision of advice, information and examples of good practice or other means.

Question 8 What considerations should be taken into account when considering future control or management of ammonia emissions from intensive livestock farms? Such considerations may include specific issues relating to farm type, size or other matters related to management of emissions such as costs.


Email: chemicals@gov.scot

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