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Brussels, 22 June 2006

Examples of reducing administrative burdens on enterprises

This memo lists some examples of good practice to make life easier for enterprises when dealing with environmental legislative and administrative rules.

1. One-stop-shops:

In Italy the One-Stop-Shop for Productive Activities was a government effort to simplify relations between public administrations and enterprises. It aimed at:

  • giving entrepreneurs a single interlocutor for all procedures related to the opening, operation and closing of production facilities;
  • simplifying and shortening of procedures: after submitting a single application, the entrepreneur obtains a single permit, and
  • developing economic activities by providing information and advice concerning localisation, opportunities, financial and job-creation incentives.

From 1998 to date 5,274 One-Stop-Shops have been created in 65.1% of the Italian municipalities. They serve a total population of 45,184,334, that is, about 79.3% of the total. 511,890 procedures have been started, and their completion times are shorter than required by the law. For individual enterprises, the number of procedures fell from 11 to 5, procedure completion time from 16 weeks to 1, and charges from € 1,150 to € 340. The benefits for public limited companies were a reduction of procedures from 21 to 12, time from 22 weeks to 6, and charges from € 7,700 to € 3,516. As part of their portfolio the One stop shops deal with environmental laws including Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control, waste water treatment and discharge, permits to discharge into air, waste treatment, and the collection of data on the emissions from installations for compilation into registers.

“Permit pilot” (“Genehmigungslotse”): Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

The “permit pilot” (“Genehmigungslotse”) is a single contact point for permit-related questions at the Industrial Association of Schleswig Holstein and at the Ministry for Agriculture and the Environment respectively. In special cases, the permit pilots can be called upon to arbitrate in difficult situations during complex approval procedures. This provides a single focus for businesses and eases the administrative burden.

2. Strategic approaches to simplification: the Netherlands & the UK

In the Netherlands the Environment Ministry (VROM) has sought the simplification of the legal framework. Under the modernising initiative there are currently 70 projects, such as simplification of waste regulation obligations, harmonising obligations at national and provincial level and producing a one-stop-shop for registration. VROM has the overall objective of achieving a 30% reduction in administrative burdens by the end of 2007 (the overall government objective being a 25% reduction). Over the last three years it has achieved a 10% reduction and is expected to deliver its objectives for 2007.

In the UK (England and Wales) the Environment Agency’s approach to modern regulation aims to find the right balance that will drive environmental improvements and reward good performance. A recent example of outcomes delivered is that holders of 23,000 low-risk abstraction licences were released from the licensing regime (due to changes to the Water Act). These businesses – representing around 48% of the total stock of abstraction licences – will save approximately £1 million (€1.4 million) a year in total.

3. Reducing the number of permits required: the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, VROM has undertaken an initiative to bring together its permitting requirements into a single framework. This will reduce around 25 different types of permit to one, covering up to three layers of government. The types of permit include Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control permits to allow operation of, for example, chemicals manufacturing, oil refining and coal-fired power station, building permits and spatial planning permits that cover where different types of installation may be located. VROM will also produce a web-based application form and it will be also supported by a guide for users to help the applicant through the process. Many companies are already subject to general environmental rules. This amounts to about 300,000 companies, compared to 100,000 with individual permits. Under the proposed changes, only 40,000 will still require an individual permit. Currently the costs of regulation for the 100,000 establishments is €680 million and for the 300,000 with general rules €202 million. Extending the scope of the general rules to cover 50,000 additional installations is estimated to lead to a saving of €329 million for businesses.

4. Replacing permit requirements by notification and other procedures

The FMH project in Sweden refers to the simplification of permit schemes by replacing permit requirements with notification for some activities. Currently, the permit requirement applies to about 6,000 installations. The project proposes to replace the permit requirement by an obligation to notify for 1,350 of those installations. An obligation to notify applies to about 15,000-20,000 projects. About 100 of these would, according to the proposal, no longer have to be notified. However, as some projects that today require a permit would be under an obligation to notify, the total number requiring notification is going to be increased by about 1,250. The total cost reduction for the enterprises was estimated to be 95 million SEK/year (€ 10 million), i.e. from 605 to 510 million SEK/year (€ 64 million to € 54 million). Cost reduction for courts and other authorities was estimated at 30 million SEK/year (€ 3.2 million).

5. Accelerated permitting

In Germany substantial amendments were made to its permitting law through two Acts on accelerating approval procedures in 1996. These placed time limits on the application process and detailed elements required in that process. This example illustrates the benefits that can have small alterations to the permit application process.

6. Simplifying information requirements

In Denmark approximately 6,500 businesses are subject to permit procedures. Approximately 5,000 of these businesses are covered by the new simplified system while approximately 1,100 IPPC-companies will remain under more strict procedures. The new system reduces the amount of information that businesses will have to submit to apply for a permit.

7. Integrated environmental reporting initiatives

In Belgium (Flanders) the integrated environmental reporting initiative introduces a single form and reporting schedule for the reporting of environmental data to the Flemish authorities. Under the new scheme, companies have to submit their data by completing a single form and returning it to a central administrative focal point once a year. From 2006, it has also become possible to submit the data electronically via a single internet form. A dedicated website has been created and the data are publicly accessible.

In Belgium (Walloon) the REGINE initiative involves the use of information technology, one-stop-shops and communication between regional public authorities and companies with a view to collecting environmental data for reporting purposes. All required questionnaires have been reduced to one single environmental survey integrating all pertinent environment-related requirements for 300 companies. REGINE has allowed consolidation of overlapping regulations (e.g. ET and IPPC Directives, PRTR protocol), updating and anticipation of regulations (e.g. LCP Directive, E-PRTR Regulation) and solution of contradictory issues (e.g. series of PCBs, PAHs).

8. Electronic tools for waste shipments

In Austria the EUDIN initiative is intended to simplify the fully paper-based administrative procedure to notify authorities of waste shipments within, into and out of the EU. With EUDIN, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria have set up a system that facilitates a digital notification process. EUDIN will have the following benefits for industry: accelerates the notification procedure and helps save resources (paper, etc.); easy to introduce the database to other Member States who want to use it; take advantage of modern communication equipment and is therefore innovative; and will be beneficial for SMEs.

In Spain the Hercules project is a new Information System for the collection, treatment, storage and use of information related to hazardous waste, either paper or electronic documents, which incorporates the advanced electronic signature device. Among the main benefits of the initiatives are the improved accessibility to all the subjects involved with the information system on hazardous waste, the reduced amount of paper documents and simplification of data recording.

9. Risk-based regulation

In the UK OPRA aims to give incentives for improved environmental performance and provide a transparent means by which Operators can assess their own performance and see how they may be able to improve that performance to help ensure compliance with environmental legislation.

In Ireland authorities have developed a methodology for assessing the environmental risk arising from operations carried out at licensed facilities on the basis of five criteria: Complexity of the activities on site; the level and type of emissions; location of the activities; operator management standards (e.g. compliance with environmental management standards); and enforcement record of the facility. Within each of the five criteria, a list of factors that contribute to the risk has been developed. For each criterion, risk is assessed, and the scores are aggregated to arrive at an overall risk category for that facility.

10. Web-based compliance assistance tools

In Norway the aim of the initiative ‘regel hjelp’ (regulation help) is to provide greater accessibility and clarification of the legal framework. The web site was launched for ten industries in 2005, and will include 50 industries by the end of 2007. The initiative is part of Altinn, which is the trade and industry’s gateway to public services.

In Ireland EnviroCentre is a free and regularly updated environmental information portal from Enterprise Ireland, designed specifically for Irish industry to enhance environmental awareness, with particular emphasis on SMEs. It contains a wide range of information on environmental regulation in Ireland, provides guidance for different sectors, and information on events.

In the UK ‘NetRegs’ has been developed as a free to use website which aims to help SMEs in the UK to understand the complex environmental regulations that can affect them. The site provides guidance on how to comply with environmental law as well as advice on good environmental practice. NetRegs has required significant resources. About £25k (€33k) was spent on the very first pilot to test the concept and build a few pages for one sector.  Then the initial cost of the main project funded by Treasury (Finance Ministry) was £3.5m over 3 years (about €5 million). However about £1m (€1.5m) of this was for marketing and communications.  NetRegs has secured additional funding for 2006/07 to enhance the system to make information even more accessible to small businesses.

11. EMAS easy

This initiative is part of the ‘EMAS easy’ development/practical testing which is being rolled-out across a number of Member States. It aims to foster capacity building in Lithuania, especially for the promotion of EMAS to SMEs, and to create an effective engagement of these type of organisations in implementing EMAS. The application of a new innovative methodology for EMAS implementation will enable reduction of EMS documentation in companies and will make EMAS more attractive and more applicable for SMEs. In the process of EMS implementation, SMEs participating in the initiative have identified a number of cost saving measures. Some of these measures have been already implemented. Most of these measures fall in the following categories: (i) simple good house keeping measures for energy/ water/ other resource saving; and (ii) equipment modification/ replacement.
More detailed information is to be found in the European Innovation Scoreboard

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