NEPA Upgrades Its Regulatory Framework

Keeping pace with a changing environment, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has added 16 new categories of enterprises and development activities under the Natural Resources Conservation (Permits and Licences) Regulations.
The Permit and Licence Regulations came into effect in 1997 when some 24 categories were introduced. These regulations were developed under the Natural Resources Conservation Act of 1991, which is administered by NEPA.
Under the Regulations, a permit is required to undertake any new construction or development of a prescribed nature anywhere in the island or its territorial sea.
The Regulations were amended in January 2004 with the addition of a wide number of new categories requiring permits including aquaculture facilities; intensive fish farming; storage of scrap metal including derelict vehicles; transportation centres for more than ten vehicles; railways; tram cars; cable car operations; theme parks; golf courses; ship and boat yards.
The latest additions bring to 44 the number of categories under the Regulations.
A licence is also required to handle or dispose sewage waste or trade effluent.
Addressing a JIS Think Tank session on Wednesday, March 3, Frances Blair, Manager, applications secretariat explained that the main purpose of these regulations was to effectively manage development activities in Jamaica as they relate to the environment and public health.
They are a way of protecting our natural resources said Miss Blair who explained that cable and tram cars were included because there were proposals for the introduction of cable cars to traverse scenic areas as tourist attractions. Their review is in keeping with international environmental trends as well.
“Plus our environment is a dynamic one and the regulations need to be reassessed to reflect what is happening in the society,” she added.
Most of the new categories attract a processing fee of $25,000 while the fees for processing the original categories range from $15,000 to $25,000.
The licence fee for the discharge of trade and sewage effluent is $7,500, while the application fee for permit and licence is $2,000, which is non refundable.The permits and licences are renewable every five years.
Commenting on the level of fees, Miss Blair explained that they were a percentage of the administrative cost of processing the applications, which is a time-consuming process. This involves assessing the application to ensure compliance with the regulations; conducting technical research; site visits and monitoring of activities.
For example, when assessing an application for a gas station, NEPA ensures that the station has adequate leak detection systems and checks if it is discharging any oil or grease into the natural environment as well as investigate how the operators clean up the facilities on a daily basis.
NEPA has the right to suspend or revoke the permit of persons or entities in breach of any of the conditions of the permit.
Since 1997, anyone who carries out any of the prescribed activities without a permit is liable to a fine of up to $50,000 or conviction and imprisonment of up to two years.
Most entities comply with the conditions of their permits, Miss Blair informed.
Once a permit is issued, NEPA’s enforcement officers monitor activities to see if the entities are in compliance with permit conditions.
This monitoring has a multi-agency approach as well with the parish councils, public health inspectors and island constabulary assisting NEPA to ensure that stipulations are adhered to. These agencies go as a team during these monitoring activities.
The entity is also required to carry out self-monitoring activities and submit reports on a regular basis dependent on the type of activity.
There is a 90-day time line between an application and the issuance of the permit depending on the complexity of the application such as the case of a large hotel, which is close to the coast and has to conduct an environmental impact assessment.
Other categories of activities will be added in due course as the Agency seeks to include all the development activities and businesses that have an impact on our natural resources under the regulations, said Miss Blair.
Entities can view the regulations’ conditions on NEPA’s website at NEPA also holds regular meetings with parish councils and local planning authorities and community meetings island wide to sensitize business operators about the Regulations.
Persons may file complaints about environmental breaches at a hotline number 1-888-991-5005.

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