Polluters like water or energy companies that befoul UK rivers and seas or spill waste will face unlimited penalties and tougher sanctions, according to expanded government legislation announced on Wednesday.
The government plans to scrap the current £250,000 limit on penalties and new laws will bring a wider range of offenses within the remit of environmental permitting regulations.
“We are scrapping the cap on civil penalties and significantly broadening their scope to target a much wider range of offenses – from breaches of storm overflow permits to the reckless disposal of hazardous waste,” Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said.
The legislation follows a consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which examined the pollution of UK rivers and seas with sewage and untreated wastewater. The government’s “Plan for Water” intends to strengthen regulation and prevent companies from accepting fines in lieu of paying the high costs of treating their sewage.
Environmental campaigners have previously accused water companies like Thames Water Plc of borrowing heavily to fund large dividends and executive bonuses instead of investing more heavily into the system’s often-antiquated infrastructure.
Photograph: A maintenance engineer works at a Thames Water incident site in London, UK, on Thursday, June 29, 2023. Photo credit: Jose Sarmento Matos/Bloomberg
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