Government issues consultation document giving industry until January 20 to respond to questions over implementation. Consultation reveals that Environment Agency has just two staff for enforcement activity.
Defra has given the cooling industry some pre-Christmas reading, with the issuing of its consultation document over the implementation of the F-Gas Regulation in the UK.
The consultation available here sets out Defra’s proposal to focus on compliance notices rather than criminal prosecution in most cases and asks the industry to comment on whether the level of enforcement is appropriate. If companies or individuals believe that the proposals are not sufficiently punitive, then they are urged to respond to the consultation.
Controversially, as currently proposed by the Regulation, the powers of entry to investigate alleged breaches of the regulation are less wide-ranging than previously. As proposed, enforcement authorities from the Environment Agency or local authorities would have to obtain a warrant before entering a premises and the inspectors could only visit between 8am and 6pm. However they would have the power to ‘examine records, take samples and seize equipment’.
The primary focus of enforcement, Defra says, will be issuing of ‘information notices’ then ‘enforcement notices’:
The consultation document says; “The breach of a requirement under the EU Regulation or the associated Commission Regulations, would not, in most cases, itself be a criminal offence. Instead, the enforcing authority is able to issue an enforcement notice (e.g. for not providing information within the requested time). Breach of a requirement under an enforcement notice would then be a criminal offence. Failure to comply with an information notice - a requirement to provide specified information to the enforcing authority - is also a ground for serving an enforcement notice.”
The consultation also reveals that the Environment Agency while expecting to undertake additional enforcement for the new F-Gas regulations, will not be expanding its workforce.
It says: “Another important uncertainty is the extent to which new enforcement activity will be additional to existing enforcement…At present the EA’s enforcement team is not expected to expand. Discussion with the EA suggests some additional activity is expected, although a step change in the rate of enforcement would not be possible….The EA employs 2 full time staff to carry out enforcement activity and this is not expected to change. The majority of their contact with companies is to check company certification and personnel qualifications. While the number of employees is not expected to change, discussion with the EA suggests they expect to spend more time on enforcement and compliance, following the widening of the scope of the EU Regulation.”
Respondents have until January 20 to set out their views on this and on the potential impact of the regulations.