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  • by Karma Loveday

Environment Agency consults on unlimited pollution fines policy

The Environment Agency has issued a statutory consultation on the amendments to its Enforcement and Sanctions Policy that will give life to the Government’s recent decision to lift the cap on civil pollution fines.

The consultation deals with changes to variable monetary penalties, scrapping the current £250,000 maximum limit and significantly broadening their scope to cover a wider range of environmental offences under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016. Specifically, it covers when penalties are used, how they are calculated and the appeals process. The closing date for responses in 8 October.

The changes will enable the Agency to take enforcement action more quickly and cheaply than going through the courts, though that remains an option for the most serious cases.

Defra and the EA commented that “there are clear provisions in the Sentencing Council guidelines that will ensure the level of penalties levied are proportionate to the degree of environmental harm and culpability.

These include safeguards to ensure the operator’s ability to pay, the size of the operators, and the degree of responsibility and harm, amongst others – all of which are taken into account when imposing a penalty. The penalties will only be applied where it is shown beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has occurred.”

All future environmental fines and penalties from water companies will be put into a new Water Restoration Fund, which will be re-invested back into the environment by supporting local groups and community-led schemes.


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