Environment Agency launches consultation on unlimited fines for the worst polluters


The government’s Environment Agency has launched a consultation on changes to variable monetary penalties – financial penalties that can be imposed for certain environmental offences.

This follows the government announcing that it will lift the current limit of £250,000 that the Environment Agency can impose directly on operators, as well as expanding variable monetary penalties to cover more offences under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.

This offers regulators a quicker method of enforcement than lengthy and costly criminal prosecutions – although the most serious cases will continue to be taken through criminal proceedings.

The changes will ensure regulators have the right tools to drive compliance across a range of sectors, strengthening enforcement and holding all who hold environmental permits to greater account – from energy and water companies to waste operators and incinerators.

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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.

Environment Agency executive director John Leyland said the fines will act as an “extra tool” to hold polluters to account.

“They will act as a further deterrent – boosting compliance across a range of sectors and helping us provide stronger protection to the environment, communities and nature,” he added.

The consultation will run for eight weeks and will close on 8 October. The consultation seeks views on when penalties are used, how they are calculated and the appeals process.


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