The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) today (6 April 2020) confirmed the next steps in its regulatory approach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a strategic statement from SEPA Chief Executive, Terry A’Hearn and Chairman, Bob Downes, the agency outlines the philosophy it will follow to supporting the 33 sectors of the economy it regulates, in addition to the 13 critical national infrastructure sectors identified by Scottish Government. A separate ‘over-arching’ approach document outlines the agency’s approach to compliance, enforcement, monitoring, permitting and regulatory position statements in the immediate period.
The response, outlined on a new SEPA Coronavirus (COVID-19) website, aims to support the national focus on food security, the provision of clean water and the maintenance of critical infrastructure and support services by helping Scottish businesses adapt in this next period.
The site will also host temporary regulatory positions and guidance which will be published in the coming days in response to specific issues across sectors and regulated businesses.
Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, said:
“Scotland, as are many nations, is facing a public health emergency unprecedented in recent times. SEPA will play our role in working together with other regulators, public and private sector organisations and communities to help Scotland respond. With our statutory purpose focused on protecting and improving the environment and human health in ways that, as far as possible, create social and economic success, we will help Scottish businesses adapt to this next period.
“The Scottish Government has designated 13 critical national infrastructure sectors vital to the functioning of society. Many of these are sectors we regulate and we’ll help that national focus on food security, the provision of clean water and the maintenance of critical infrastructure and the support services on which we all rely.
“We know that all businesses we regulate are trying to operate in extraordinary circumstances. We know they are trying to look after the health of their own workforces. We know they may have supply-chain and other challenges.”
“So, where businesses are unable to fully meet their compliance obligations, they should prioritise conditions which directly protect the environment over those of an administrative nature. They should contact SEPA, work closely with us and document the choices and actions they take.
“The positions are a direct response to circumstances no-one wanted to see. We ask Scottish businesses to adapt responsibly and we expect the majority will. Our message is clear: if you try to do the right thing in this next period, you will find a helpful and supportive regulator. If you deliberately do the wrong thing, you’ll get the uncompromising regulator your behaviour deserves.”
Mr. A’Hearn added: “we will continue to use a variety of means of checking and assessing compliance, including phone calls, issuing written advice, remotely managed technologies such as drones, targeted site and field visits, and other forms of intelligence gathering.
“We will be proportionate in our approach to enforcement and monitoring by regulated businesses and where SEPA is not fully able to undertake its planned monitoring, we will maintain a field and laboratory standby position. This will enable us to respond to incidents with the highest environmental risk and impacts on the health and wellbeing of communities.”
The updates can be found in full on SEPA’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response hub.