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Big fines and prison sentences for the worst polluters should be imposed on bosses
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Big fines and prison sentences for the worst polluters should be imposed on bosses

The Environment Agency stated that the nation’s worst corporate polluters should be subject to fines and have their bosses imprisoned.

Sir James Bevan, chief executive, has presented his vision for post-Brexit regulation. He argues for higher standards and harsher punishments for rule-breakers, as well as industries bearing more of the regulatory cost burden.

He also said that regulation is important in levelling up. Poorer and more diverse groups were more likely to be affected by a low quality environment, which can have a negative impact on their wellbeing and life expectancy.

He made a speech Tuesday to the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum.

His comments came amid anger about environmental problems such as the condition of England’s rivers. The parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee stated that they were suffering from a chemical cocktail consisting of sewage and agricultural waste.

Sir James Bevan, Environment Agency chief (PA).

(PA Archive)

Southern Water was hit with a record-breaking 90 million fine last summer for 6,791 unpermitted sewer discharges. Meanwhile, the Environment Agency (Ofwat) launched a major investigation of sewage treatment facilities.

Sir James said that EU environmental regulations, much of which were written by the UK in large part, had done a lot to improve areas like water quality, airquality, and waste. What worked should be preserved.

He said that some of the EU legislation was outdated, not designed for the UK, and quite prescriptive.

The new approach must set higher standards, address climate emergency, and clearly define what goals must be achieved when. For example, healthy water quality in all English rivers by 2030.

The new model would see regulators speak softly, at the least initially, and assume that farmers or businesses have good intentions until it is proven otherwise, he stated.

However, not all operators have good intentions so the future model that I would like to see would also be a bigger stick.

It would force regulated industries to pay the entire cost of regulation. They don’t currently. A lot of it gets subsidised by taxpayers.

They would be responsible for all costs associated with repairing any environmental damage they cause. They don’t currently do that.

Good regulation is a great way to level up

Sir James Bevan, Environment Agency

According to the agency’s plans, the punishment for the largest and most serious polluters would be harsher.

Sir James stated: In cases where there is extremely harmful or reckless pollution, and we have seen far too many of that in recent years, that would include fines that would put a major dent on companies bottom lines and sentences which would put their bosses behind bars.

This would effectively concentrate the minds and actions of boards and chief executives, and act as a powerful deterrent.

He said that good regulation requires the right funding. He stated that there is a strong case for increasing government grants and charging businesses for regulated businesses. However, he did not intend to lobby for more money.

He said that even a small amount of money can make all the difference. For example, the Environment Agency’s new powers of 30 million to combat waste crime in 2018, which helped it shut down hundreds illegal sites and stop waste exports.

He said, “We know that poorer and less diverse communities experience a lower environment, whether it is via water, flood or access to nature. They have a lower standard of living and a lower chance of dying.”

Good regulation is a great way to level up.

He continued: “Regardless of how we think or speak, we should all remember the purpose behind all this: to leave the environment in better shape than we found.

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