LThe Environment Agency received over 100,000 reports about water, air, and land pollution in England last year. The public shared stories of rivers that were contaminated with human faeces and chemicals, fish being killed, factories emitting harmful fumes, nature reserve destruction, and noise pollution.
We now know the reason that nearly all of these reports were ignored. The shocking documents leaked by the agency reveal that it is the statutory protector for England’s natural environment and, therefore, of much of England’s safety and health. It had instructed its staff to ignore any high-profile, obvious incidents. Only 8,000 of the 116,000 possible pollution incidents were observed by its staff, and only a few companies were taken to court.
In effect, nobody in authority is questioning the pollution that plagues so much of this country. Britain is a country that causes disease, destroys nature and costs billions every year to clean up. What about the toxic waste you leave at the street’s bottom? Forget it. Is your local park or nature reserve being despoiled? Dont worry. What if the factory is illegally emitting formaldehyde. You can always look the other direction.
Although fighting pollution is not the strongest point of any government, protecting nature from destruction has been hard fought for. It is now being wilfully dismantled. The EA was founded in science-based independence and was quick to take on polluters to bring them to justice. Anyone found in violation of a river’s waters would be investigated and if necessary, warned. Problem was, the courts did not impose any fines so that people could ignore the law.
You can see what is happening right now by going back to 2011, shortly after David Cameron was elected. George Osborne (the chancellor) stated that he wanted to eliminate the outrageous social and environmental cost of business in his autumn statement. There were 174 regulations that he wanted to be scrapped, diluted, merged, liberalised, simplified and the prevailing coalition shame on you. Nick Clegg knew that he wanted to abolish controls on asbestos, invasive species, industrial air pollution, and noise pollution.
It was a war on the environment, public safety and public health. The forests would be destroyed, the badgers eliminated and the land was to be flogged. The climate crisis could not be solved at the expense or profit. The crisis was growing, and nature was in decline everywhere, but the government was ideologically obsessed by deregulation and actively trying to make it worse.
Osborne’s anti-red tape measures were not able to be implemented due to strong opposition, not only from his own backbenchers but also from EA staff. The government, however, was unable to overcome opposition and simply strangled or muzzled the major regulatory bodies, which together were charged with protecting the public.
This leaked document shows how much damage has been done. The EA has seen its budget cut, staff reduced, and its powers diminished over the past ten years. The agency now expects polluting businesses to self-regulate their actions and report them to the agency. Prosecutions are rare and the agency admits that they don’t have the money or the staff to do much more than scratch the surface. The agency warns that you get the environment that you pay for, words that are sure to be as famous as Owen Paterson’s disgraced environmental minister.
Last week, the environmental audit panel reported that a chemical combination of raw sewage and slurry was causing pollution in many English rivers. Watchdog group Unchecked UKBetween 2011 and 2016, the agency’s protection budget dropped by 62%, and staff numbers were reduced by almost a quarter. The number of pollution incidents recorded dropped 29%, prosecutions fell by 80% and water samples taken down by 28% by the EA. In England, almost half of the sites of special scientific significance have not been checked for many decades.
It is not just the EA or England. All other protection agencies, including Natural England and the Forestry Commission, Natural Resources Wales, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, have been shut down in America, following Donald Trump’s lead. The Food Standards Agency received funding. Half-offBetween 2009 and 2019, and that of Health and Safety Executive (which oversees workplace safety), by 53%. Proactive inspections of local authorities have been almost abandoned, and prosecutions are down.
The obsession with reducing red tape has led to disaster. Grenfell and other cladding scandals were caused by deregulation of the construction industry. Allowing water companies to use rivers to dump sewage will cost tens to billions. Although there have been small improvements in air pollution through public outrage or the courts, thousands of people die each year due to inadequate standards set by ministers.
It is only a matter of time until another major chemical incident occurs, like the one at Camelford in Cornwall in 1988, when water was contaminated. 20,000 people poisoned takes place. Proposed new rules are buried on a Website of the governmentThe proposals suggest that the new British chemicals regulator post-Brexit will have limited powers, and that Britain could become a dump ground and laboratory for toxic chemicals. These proposals will not be subjected to scrutiny Consultation open to the publicThey will not need a vote in parliament.
The new Office for Environmental Protection is rumored to be responsible for the massive regulatory failures of the last decade. The new Office for Environmental Protection will report to parliament and be theoretically autonomous from the government. The secretary of state will appoint its chair and other board members. However, it is not guaranteed that it will be adequately funded and will not assume all the functions of the EU institutions which previously protected the public.
Britain is already one the most unsafe places to live in Europe. With little to no official oversight, the government can implement harmful policies and companies are more than free to abuse the environment. We can expect a widespread epidemic of pollution with politically corrupt regulators who are unable to be seen, few inspections possible, and very few prosecutions.