Asbestos ruling provides hope
Published: 29 Mar 2012
Thousands of families who lost loved ones after they were exposed to asbestos may be able to claim insurance because of a recent ruling by the UK Supreme Court. They have ruled that insurers who offered cover at the time that victims inhaled asbestos fibres, rather than when symptoms occurred, are liable to pay compensation.
In 2008, the High Court said that insurers at the time that workers inhaled the fibres were liable, but in 2010, the Court of Appeal said that in some cases they were liable when symptoms of mesothelioma, the cancer that develops as a result of exposure to asbestos, develop. This left many families of the victims of asbestos exposure confused, that is until the Supreme Court's ruling came following a challenge from the trade union Unite.
"This is a landmark ruling which will affect thousands of victims of asbestos", said Unite general secretary Len Mcluskey. "It is a disgrace that insurance companies went to such lengths to shirk their responsibilities."
Nick Starling, Director of General Insurance and Health at the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said, "The ABI and our members are committed to paying compensation as quickly as possible to people with mesothelioma who have been exposed to asbestos in the workplace."
"We have always opposed the attempt to change the basis on which mesothelioma claims should be paid, as argued by those who brought this litigation. Today's ruling by the Supreme Court has confirmed what most in the industry have always understood - that the insurer on cover when the claimant was exposed to asbestos should pay the claim, rather than the insurer on cover when the mesothelioma develops."
For more information, see the:
- Control of Asbestos Regulations SI 2012/632.
Blyth's biomass bother
Published: 27 Mar 2012
A formal application for a £250 million biomass power station in Northumberland has been submitted to the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), despite strong opposition from villagers. The 100 megawatt biomass station is planned for Battleship Wharf on the River Blyth.
The plant is designed to produce enough renewable energy to power 170,000 homes and cut carbon emissions by 300,000 tonnes a year. It will also create between 200 and 300 jobs through its construction, and will eventually create up to 50 permanent jobs.
Despite this, residents in the villages of North Blyth and Cambois have concerns that the plant is too big, too close to homes and will cause air pollution. Although similar concerns were raised during the pre-application consultation stages, the application was still submitted. However, because of the application process involved with such nationally significant infrastructure projects, residents will get a final chance to make their views known through public consultation.
Project manager Chris Lawson said, "Hundreds of people and more than 65 organisations have helped us to shape the plans for the North Blyth station, and we'd like to thank the community for its support so far. As a result of everyone's feedback, we've been able to develop a viable proposal."
Although campaigner Carol Crossland seems to disagree, "We are still against this and continue trying to fight it, although we are not so naive as to think that a lot of the time we will make any difference." She added, "I think it is a foregone conclusion that the IPC will accept the application, and we will then call another meeting to explain to people what they need to do to object."
For more information, see the:
CRC to be scrapped?
Published: 22 Mar 2012
The Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) could potentially be replaced by an "alternative environmental tax" if it can't be simplified, Chancellor George Osborne announced this week.
In comments made during the 2012 Budget, Mr Osborne criticised the CRC, introduced by the Labour Government in 2008, for being "cumbersome" and "bureaucratic" and suggested he wanted to lighten the burden on businesses. Under the mandatory CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, large public and private sector organisations such as supermarkets, water companies, banks and local authorities must report on their energy use and emissions. If they do not comply with the scheme they can be fined and face other penalties.
The Chancellor said, "The Carbon Reduction Commitment was established by the last Government. It is cumbersome, bureaucratic and imposes unnecessary costs on business so we will seek major savings in the administrative cost of the commitment for business. If those cannot be found I will bring forward proposals this Autumn to replace the revenues with an alternative environmental tax."
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will be bringing out full details of how they want to simplify the CRC soon, and a formal consultation will be launched to give businesses a chance to have their say.
For more information, see the:
- CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme Order SI 2010/768.
Draft Waste Regulations for Scotland
Published: 22 Mar 2012
Directive 2008/98/EC was transposed into Scottish law through the Waste Management Licensing (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2011/228 and the Waste (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2011/226, and established new protocols and targets for waste management across Member States. These Regulations further transpose Directive 2008/98/EC, and deal with the practical implementation of provisions such as the separate collection and management of waste and the promotion of the waste hierarchy.
Specific measures introduced by these Regulations include:
- a requirement to remove key recyclables (plastics and metals) from mixed waste prior to incineration (from 1 July 2012);
- a requirement for businesses to present dry recyclables (metals, plastics, paper, card and glass) and food waste of more than 50 kg/week for collection from end of 2013, with those producing less than 50kg/week exempt until end of 2015;
- a requirement on local authorities to provide householders with a collection service for dry recyclables (end of 2013) and food waste (end of 2015);
- a ban on materials collected separately for recycling going to landfill or incineration (end of 2013); and
- a ban on biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill, thus helping to substantially reduce harmful emissions of methane (end of 2020).
"Green Government" pollaxed
Published: 20 Mar 2012
An opinion poll has this week revealed that just 2% of the UK public believe they live under the "greenest Government ever."
The pledge was made by Prime Minister David Cameron when taking office in 2010, but recent decisions on climate change, forests, badger culling, urban pollution and nature protection have undermined the claim. Despite Government mutterings that they are still "firmly committed" and wanted to be "judged on actions", environmental groups have highlighted an announcement made on Saturday that will allow gas-fired power stations to continue emitting carbon dioxide at their current rate until 2045.
The poll, commissioned by Greenpeace and the RSPB from YouGov, shows that 53% of the UK electorate believes the Government is about average on green issues, while 10% say it is greener than average. Only 3% of Conservative voters say it lives up to the "greenest ever" tag. The figure for Lib Dems is 0%. Back in 2006, the Prime Minister held a photo-opportunity with huskies on a glacier, when he described climate change as "one of the biggest threats facing the world" and called for "a much greater sense of urgency" in tackling it.
But Greenpeace's chief policy adviser Ruth Davis said the poll showed the British public, "Can't be duped by catchphrases or husky-hugging, however, it's not too late for David Cameron to turn this around and leave an environmental legacy he can be proud of. He can start by reining in his chancellor, who seems hell-bent on trashing the environment."
In December, Chancellor George Osborne told MPs he wanted to make sure that "gold plating of EU rules on things like habitats" were not putting "ridiculous costs" on firms. The Government is expected to publish new rules on planning this week, which will make it easier for developers to exploit green spaces and important ecological areas. However, the poll showed that only 4% of the electorate backs these planning moves - but 40% would like protection strengthened. RSPB chief executive Mike Clarke said the chancellor had got his economic sums wrong. "There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest protection of the environment is a barrier to economic growth, but plenty to suggest smart regulation is actually a stimulus to growth," he said. "Because of this lack of understanding, the Budget this week has the potential to be a "Black Wednesday" for the environment."
Mr Osborne is also being criticised by environment groups over an announcement made on Saturday to allow gas-fired power stations to emit the same amount of carbon dioxide as they do now until 2045, which he claims will "provide certainty to businesses that want to invest in gas." However, the Committee on Climate Change, one of the Government's statutory advisers, say that in order to meet long-term climate targets, the electricity generating sector should be virtually decarbonised by 2030.
In response to the poll results, a Government spokesman said, "We have delivered an ambitious programme of policies to protect and enhance our natural environment, including the first Natural Environment White Paper in 20 years and a Water White Paper to ensure a secure, affordable and sustainable future water supply. The Green Investment Bank, securing investment in low-carbon energy, and tree-planting are among our other successes."
Legislation shake-up as a result of Red Tape Challenge
Published: 20 Mar 2012
Following a review of environmental legislation as part of the Government's Red Tape Challenge, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman recommended that 53 regulations be repealed, 132 be improved and 70 regulations should remain as they are.
It is proposed that regulations on pollution, waste disposal, noise and wildlife will be simplified, merged or removed, in moves which Defra claims will save businesses £1 billion over five years. Ms Spelman said, "I want to be very clear that this is not about rolling back environmental safeguards, nor is it just about cutting regulation to stimulate growth. We've always said that we were going to keep the vitally important protection our environment needs. This was about getting better rules, not weaker ones."
The changes will have major implications for a wide range of businesses, including IT and consumer electronic manufacturers, recyclers, retailers, waste management companies and chemicals firms. Many of the changes are centred on rules governing chemicals and e-waste, such as REACH and WEEE, both of which were labelled as being too bureaucratic and will now be subject to extensive reforms designed to ease the administrative burden.
For example, a spokesman for Defra said that REACH required businesses to remove asbestos from any second-hand goods such as gas canisters even if Health and Safety advice recommended that it was safer to leave the goods as they were - a contradiction that will now be rectified.
Similarly, Defra said it wanted to reassess producer responsibility obligations regarding WEEE that impose high costs on small businesses, promising to consult with the Department for Business on proposals that will make it easier for firms to comply with the EU legislation.
The department also announced plans to replace the paper-based system of Waste Transfer Notes that requires firms to record how much waste they produce with a simpler electronic system that promises to save firms up to £5m a year.
But Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns at Friends of the Earth, said, "Ministers are spending valuable time and money tinkering with vital regulations with no evidence that it won't simply create extra confusion and costs for businesses - as well as play havoc with the environment. The Government claims this bureaucratic tidying-up exercise will save £1 billion, but there's not a shred of evidence to back up this claim - if they want to save cash they should scrap the red tape challenge instead."
A Defra spokesman insisted the estimated cost savings were based on thorough impact assessments that had been checked by the Government's regulatory policy committee. "It is wrong to suggest there is no evidence for these costs," he said.
For more information, see:
- http://cedr.ec/37, Red Tape Challenge – Environment Theme proposals.