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New NEPA permit requirement will impact cost to do business

Published:Friday | April 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Chief executive officer of the National Environment and Planning Agency, Peter Knight

Local manufacturers with petroleum storage tanks of 3,000 litres or more will now have to obtain an annual permit from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), which they say will further increase their cost of doing business.

The new requirement, which takes effect today, falls under the Natural Resources Conservation (Permits and Licences) Amendment Regulations 2015, which, in effect, broadens the industries and activities that are now required to have an environmental permit and will see producers paying an application fee of $50,000 where no environmental impact assessment is required, and $75,000 in cases that require such an assessment.

However, this does not include the $40,000 cost of the actual permit and a similar amount for annual renewals.

The regulation applies to sites irrespective of when they were commissioned.

Though introduced last year, companies were given until today, April 1, to submit their applications, but producers and manufacturers with whom the Financial Gleaner spoke indicated that they were largely unaware of the stipulation.

President of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, Metry Seaga, told the Financial Gleaner that the association had not been informed of the changes.

"We haven't been sent anything officially from NEPA as yet, so we haven't had a chance to study it, but we will so do," Seaga said.

Newly installed president of the Jamaica Exporters' Association, Honey Bun Chief Executive Officer Michelle Chong, said she also unaware of the new requirements.

Caught off guard

Jamaica Agro-Processors Association (JAPA) President Andrew Gray, who is chief executive officer of the Westmoreland-based Gray's Pepper Products Limited, said he was caught off guard by the new measure.

The issue surfaced at JAPA's recent annual general meeting when the managing director of St Thomas-based Ashman Food Products, Ira Ashman, told the meeting that he was informed of the change by his petroleum provider.

Ashman told the Financial Gleaner that he expects the new requirement to significantly increase his operating costs.

He said that before the new NEPA requirements, processors were only required to meet the conditions as set out by the inspectors of the Ministry of Labour's workplace-safety programme.

"They would see to it that things are safe and we had the proper signs to say 'No smoking or naked light'," Ashman said.

With the new requirements, companies will now have to furnish NEPA with their articles of association, certificate of incorporation, proof of property ownership, engineers' drawings of the tanks' details and cross sections, site plan, location map, emergency response and leak plans, among others, according to information contained in a document sent to some petroleum clients.

"These are all additional costs," said Ashman.

"Right now, we are paying so many different taxes and fees ... and you have to pay this $40,000 for renewal. Then I have to find an engineer to come here to certify that the tanks are properly placed and protected. They are not going to come here and do it for free or cheap. These things cost money, so it's a hell of a requirement," he added.

NEPA said the guidelines speak to environmental permit being required for underground storage tanks exceeding a capacity of 5,000 litres, above-ground storage tanks exceeding 4,000 litres and liquefied petroleum gas tanks exceeding a capacity of 3,000 litres.

"All relevant stakeholders are required to submit an application for a permit(s) to NEPA/Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) on or before April 1, 2016, or cease operations," NEPA said.

"Stakeholders who comply will be allowed to continue the enterprise while a final decision is made on the application by the NRCA. Conversely, stakeholders who do not comply must cease operation, failing which NEPA/NRCA will be in a position to take legal action," it added in a statement yesterday.