Business urges to change the system of state environmental control
The effectiveness of the state environmental control system in Ukraine has remained questionable for many years, and this negatively impacts both the environment and business as noted by representatives of the EBA Committee on Industrial Ecology and Sustainable Development during a round table on the reform of state environmental control, organized at the initiative of the Verkhovna Rada Committee for Environmental Policy and Environmental Management together with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.
The environmental control reform is long overdue. The State Environmental Inspectorate should have a clearly defined procedure for conducting inspections that minimize unwarranted interference of inspectors in the production processes of companies. For this, it is important to establish a transparent dialogue and cooperation between business and government on raising awareness about environmental protection and the reduction of anthropogenic impact on nature. Besides, the participants of the roundtable clearly voiced the need to update the legal framework based on the balance of interests of all stakeholders. And I find that quite reassuring.
Thus, there are three draft laws registered at the Verkhovna Rada – draft laws No 3091, No 3091-1, and No 3417, which aim at changing the current environmental control system.. However, in the opinion of the business, none can be taken as a basis in the current version for submission to the Parliament.
Therefore, the European Business Association proposes to revise the draft law No.3091, as the one that regulates most issues regarding the environmental inspection, and elaborate the following 10 essential matters:
The first is to provide a clear division of functions and powers between regulatory authorities to avoid duplication of functions of different agencies, double regulation, and excessive burden on business, particularly, the area of state geological, land control, and the port activities.
The second is to establish a clear algorithm, terms of inspections, and re-inspections. For example, according to Directive 2010/75 / EU, an additional inspection takes place within 6 months in case the enterprise seriously violates the permit conditions. Currently, the current legislation of Ukraine does not set specific deadlines for additional inspections, which does not preclude various types of manipulation and abuse.
The third is to increase the qualification and motivation of the representatives of the controlling body, as well as the responsibility for their actions. As the representatives of the controlling body gain more authority, it is important to establish a clear mechanism that enables bringing them to disciplinary responsibility for making illegal decisions, including on unjustified inspections, as well as in case the results of inspections are canceled in court. Unfortunately, the current legislation does not regulate this in any way.
The fourth is to unauthorize the controlling body from suspending the activities of enterprises. The draft law provides the inspector with the right to suspend the activities of the entire enterprise or its separate sections. That can stop technological processes and lead to accidents, thus potentially cause inevitable damage not only to companies but also to the country. Besides, this right bears significant corruption risks. According to the business, this strict precautionary measure (suspension of the enterprise) should be applied only in exceptional cases and only by the court decision.
The fifth is to leave companies the right to appeal the decision of the controlling body. As of today, more than half of the state inspectors’ orders are revoked in court, and therefore the level of errors and abuses made by inspection authorities is quite high. In this case, the draft law should provide that the application of large fines or orders to eliminate violations of environmental legislation could not take effect until the completion of the administrative appeal procedure as it may significantly affect the work of enterprises.
The sixth is to prevent the restoration of the need for maritime companies to coordinate its transshipment technologies with the state environmental control authority. In 2019, to liberalize and simplify business activities in Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers abolished the need for such coordination as not provided by law.
The seventh is to prevent the state environmental control authority from acquiring the functions of the State Service for Maritime and River Transport of Ukraine. After all, this will lead to duplication of functions, which is unacceptable. Besides, the staff of environmental inspection does not have a sufficient level of expertise and qualifications for vessel inspections.
The eighth is to ban conducting inspections on weekends and holidays, as well as night inspections, with the participation of witnesses and in the absence of the head.
The ninth is to regulate the raid inspection concept more clearly as it is a new form of unscheduled measures of state environmental control. Besides, it is necessary to provide a specific list of activities to which this form of state control can be applied.
The tenth is to review the validity of the new fines. At present, the State Ecological Inspectorate has an exclusively controlling function and to collect fines from enterprises. However, it would be more logical to follow European practices which focus on creating conditions under which both the business and the population do not violate the law. In other words, it is important to first build a system for monitoring the quality of the natural environment, to promote the creation of waste management facilities, to simplify the procedure for obtaining permits in the field of environmental protection, and so on.
Business finally calls for the creation of an effective state body that would exercise impartial and high-quality state control. This will not only help improve the conditions for doing business in Ukraine but will also contribute to the effective protection of the environment in the country. The European Business Association draws the attention of the Verkhovna Rada and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to the above 10 proposals and hopes that the voice of business will be considered.
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