top of page

Government to Lift Limit on Fines Charged by Environmental Regulators for Polluting

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has declared that new regulations are going to increase the maximum amount of monetary fines that can be given for environmental offences.

The government has declared the implementation of fresh legislation that will take away the limitation of civil monetary penalties that environmental regulators can enforce on businesses that break ecological regulations. This could result in a substantial increase in the fines these companies have to pay.

Defra reported that, due to the large amount of public backing obtained via a consultation, the maximum variable monetary penalty that the Environment Agency and Natural England can issue would be increased from the previous limit of £250,000.

The authorities can levy much larger fines on polluting companies without initiating prolonged, expensive criminal proceedings. Additionally, the changes will expand the scope of infractions that can be punished with civil penalties.

The government emphasized that the most severe violations of environmental regulations will still be liable to face criminal charges.

Amidst the outcry from environmental organizations, Members of Parliament, and the general public for the government's inability to rectify the rising water contamination and illegal dumping, modifications are now imminent.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey asserted that "those who pollute must be held responsible". Expanding the scope of civil penalties, the government has decided to eliminate the limit and target a greater range of issues, such as violations of storm overflow permits and irresponsible disposal of hazardous waste. This is part of the widespread government initiatives to protect the environment, such as fighting against pollution, conserving delicate ecosystems, and promoting nature.

Alan Lovell, head of the Environment Agency, approved the new powers, saying they should act as "a significant deterrent".

The prosecutor noted that criminal proceedings have been the go-to method of prosecution. However, the new powers are designed to provide a more practical and straightforward way to enforce penalties. He further suggested that this would be a valuable deterrent and improve compliance in various sectors, thereby reducing pollution and protecting the environment.

Amendments to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 will be used to effect the new powers, which is the framework through which the majority of Environment Agency probes are conducted.

The Plan for Water, released at the start of the year, included the idea of reforms which have now been carried out.

Environmentalist organizations have long contended that the penalties imposed on water corporations for contamination episodes were too meagre to encourage more significant investment in the infrastructure and techniques to restrain contamination hazards.

Rebecca Pow, the Environment Minister, declared that "by lifting the limit on these sanctions, we are increasing the strength of our enforcement methods and broadening the scope of where regulators can apply them." She went on to add that this will provide a proportional response to operators who break their permits and damage our rivers, oceans, and valuable habitats.

While removing the limit on fines, the government declared that regulators must still obey the Sentencing Council's directions to ensure the penalty aligns with the amount of environmental harm and culpability. These regulations include protections to guarantee the operator's capacity to pay, the size of the operator, the extent of responsibility and damage, and other considerations, all considered when a fine is imposed.

According to Ruth Chambers, a senior fellow at the think tank Green Alliance, enforcing rules against polluters has been expected for some time, and it needs to be done more quickly and strongly.

Regulators must employ their increased capabilities without hesitation to combat the pollution wreaking havoc on our rivers and negatively impacting our communities," she stated. "Fines should be directed towards rectifying the situation and supporting enforcement organizations, instead of being funnelled into the Treasury's funds."

Environmental campaigners, who consistently call for harsher fines and better implementation, are expected to receive the news with favour.

Nonetheless, There is apprehension about the government's intention to repeal many EU-based ecological regulations, including reports this week of a potential weakening of nutrient neutrality regulations created to cut back the effect of new construction projects on water quality.


bottom of page