The government has announced that the penalty for water companies that pollute the environment could rise from £250,000 to £250 million.
Announced by Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena, the decision has been made following 62 serious pollution incidents from water companies in 2021 – an increase of 18 from the previous year.
The Environment Agency is currently tasked with slapping fines on businesses that breach pollution laws – giving a Variable Monetary Penalty (VMP), which can be imposed without the consultation of a court to quicken the process.
However, VMPs are currently capped at £250,000 no matter the severity of the offence.
Upping the cap to £250 million will see the Environment Agency given great power to enforce penalties on polluting firms – as the government looks to quash business pollution.
The Environment Secretary said: “Bigger financial penalties will act as a greater deterrent and push water companies to do more and faster, when it comes to investing in infrastructure and improving the quality of our water.
“This 1,000-fold increase sends a clear signal that we want clean rivers and coastlines, and that the duty falls to the water companies to deliver – the polluter must pay.”
“Criminal prosecutions can be lengthy and costly, so we welcome today’s proposals which will make it easier for us to hold water companies to account for environmental crimes,” added Sir James Bevan, Environment Agency Chief Executive.