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Monday, April 22, 2024

Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency to become an Authority soon –

The Executive Director of Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Hon. Dr. Henry Kwabena Kokofu, Esq. has disclosed that plans are far advanced to turn the Agency into an Authority.

Speaking during the UK-Ghana Chamber of Commerce’s (UKGCC) webinar on “Navigating Environmental Regulations: Ensuring Compliance with EPA Guidelines in Ghana”, Dr. Kokofu remarked, “The Environmental Protection Law is being amended to change the EPA into an Authority.

“By courtesy of the President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Cabinet has approved, and it is with Parliament as we speak; it has gone through the first and second readings; it is at the third reading for consideration so within a month or so, Parliament will approve, and the President will assent to it.

That law will give more impetus to the EPA by way of authorisation; the EPA will have the powers to cause arrests; when the law becomes operational, the EPA will not rely on the police service to cause arrests-EPA itself will be deemed as a quasi-national security institution. Beyond causing arrests, the EPA will have prosecutorial powers. The EPA will become a force to be reckoned with and it will be placed and positioned to deal with global environmental issues alongside national environmental issues.”

The EPA: Activities and Functions

The EPA is Ghana’s leading public entity mandated to protect, co-manage, and improve the environment in the country. It is backed by the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1994 (Act 490) with Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 9L.I. 1652) as its enabling legislation.

The EPA’s mandate covers both built and natural environments, which encompasses the physical and the natural across terrestrial, aquatic, and atmospheric ecosystems.

According to Dr. Kokofu, the EPA undertakes numerous activities in the exercise of its mandate. These include conducting Environmental Impact Assessments to assess the potential environmental impact of proposed development projects.

The EPA also undertakes environmental monitoring of industrial and commercial activities to ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations; and issues environmental permits to regulate various projects across different sectors including energy, mining, agriculture, and others.

The EPA utilises a wide array of strategies to ensure compliance with environmental regulations. These include embarking on regular compliance and enforcement exercises, monitoring permit schedules, and undertaking organisational training.

“We’ve also introduced a rewards system that uses the “whistleblowing” concept to encourage citizens “to proffer information on environmental infractions or offenses” to the EPA for a reward, he added.

Which Businesses Register with the EPA?

Businesses whose activities have a potential impact on the environment must register with the EPA.

Dr. Kokofu specifically identified businesses in mining, manufacturing (food, beverages, rubber products, plastic products), petroleum, built environment (hospitality, hotels), carbon markets, construction and agriculture (forestry services, logging, commercial farming activities), and others as those that must register with the EPA.

Dr. Kokofu observed that while the EPA’s mandate is broad, “as part of our challenges, the EPA is unable to cover all the sectors”. He assured participants that this will be one of the issues the EPA will be addressing in the future.

He also urged business to submit quarterly reports to the EPA to enable them monitor activities, as well as submit consolidated annual reports at the end of each year, which comprise all the quarterly reports.

Dr. Kokofu concurred that the EPA needs to do more to simplify the registration process to ensure there is no time wastage and demystify the misconceptions surrounding the registration process.

“We welcome any suggestions that may help us to simplify the process”, he said.

EPA Sanctions

According to Dr. Kokofu, the EPA can apply administrative or legal sanctions to non-compliant businesses, depending on the activity and gravity of the offense or crime. Sanctions can include closing down facilities and revoking permits if the EPA has the cause to do so.

He emphasised, however, that the EPA is not a law unto itself.

“There are checks and balances to how far the EPA can go- to what extent the EPA can work within its mandate. If a proponent does not agree with a decision made by the EPA, the law allows that proponent to petition the sector minister for redress”.

Theophilus Tawiah, Managing Partner at WTS Nobisfields who moderated the webinar, suggested that the EPA introduce an online application process as well as a client service unit to make it easier for businesses to engage with the EPA.

The webinar also discussed a range of issues, such as the conditions under which permits may be issued, and how the EPA is working to improve air quality.

Source: gbcghanaonline.com

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