The introduction of the Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 gave the Environment Agency the power to impose civil sanctions (a non -criminal penalty) for pollution offenses. In 2011 and 2015 the scope of offenses that could be dealt with in this manner were extended and the range of environmental offenses that now may be dealt with in this way include:
- Environmental permitting offenses including for example failing to comply a notice requiring information to be provided or to comply with record keeping obligations;
- Packaging waste;
- water abstraction;
- oil storage.
As a result of the recently introduced Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016[i], which came into force on 1 January 2017, the Environment Agency’s guidance ‘Enforcement and Sanctions: Offence Response Options (ORO)’ has been updated in line with this change in legislation. Whilst civil sanctions now cover a wider array of offenses it is still up to the Environment Agency whether this is the preferred enforcement route and if so upon what terms but this should not stop an offender making an “Enforcement Undertaking ” offer and to that end a template is provided at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/460813/784_14.pdf.
One of the advantage of Enforcement Undertakings is the benefit and value to communities and the environment that may have been impacted by the environmental offense committed. At the end of January, the Environment Agency announced that:
Charities will receive more than £1.5 million for projects benefitting wildlife and the environment as a result of enforcement action by the Environment Agency
For more information on these Enforcement Undertakings which range in value from £1,500 – £375,000 please go to https://www.gov.uk/government/news/environmental-charities-receive-over-15-million-from-businesses-which-broke-environmental-laws.
[i] These Regulations provide a consolidated system of environmental permitting in England and Wales. They replace the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 2010/675).