The government has today unveiled new legislation that will remove the £250,000 limit on penalties for those who pollute the environment.
Under the new legislation, the Environment Agency and Natural England will have the authority to impose unlimited fines on environmental polluters.
This change aims to give regulators a quicker and less expensive way to enforce regulations, instead of relying on lengthy and costly criminal prosecutions.
However, the most serious cases will still be pursued through criminal proceedings.
Regulators will have stronger enforcement powers and can impose higher penalties for violations under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.
Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey emphasised the importance of holding polluters accountable and stated that the removal of the cap on civil penalties will target a broader range of offences, including breaches of storm overflow permits and reckless disposal of hazardous waste.
The amendments to legislation will be subject to approval by both Houses of Parliament before they can come into effect.
Responding to the announcement, Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Philip Dunne, said: “Those responsible for polluting England’s precious waterways must be held to account. Pollution in rivers and seas devastate wildlife and can severely impact public health to recreational users.
“So I am pleased the Government is upping the ante today, both by enabling unlimited fines for the most egregious pollution events, and ensuring that the proceeds of these fines are ring-fenced into Water Restoration Funds which will be invested to help improve water quality.”
“While this announcement comes at a time when the finances of numerous water companies is under the spotlight, we received confirmation today from Ofwat that households bills cannot be affected from fines imposed on water companies.”