The Risk of Pollution
As an environmental organisation, advocating for the reduction of pollution is at the heart of what we do. We actively encourage all organisations whose activities have the potential to cause pollution to the environment, to take the necessary steps to reduce these risks.
We believe these risks should be reduced at source, by taking appropriate internal action and by ensuring compliance with legislation and permits enforced by the environmental regulators, the Environment Agency, and Natural England. However, we recognise that unfortunately mistakes can happen and even the most robust systems and processes can fail. This can lead to the pollution of rivers and cause damage to the fragile ecosystems that they support. In these circumstances, we encourage the organisations or individuals responsible for a pollution event to engage pro-actively with the environmental regulators, and environmental organisations, to mitigate the adverse effects of the pollution incident and take steps to reduce the risk of future pollution incidents. In England, environmental regulators have the powers to prosecute organisations responsible for pollution events. Successful prosecutions can result in court proceedings and significant fines for offenders.
Through their Enforcement and Sanctions Policy, environmental regulators have the opportunity to accept an ‘Enforcement Undertaking’ from an organisation or individual causing a pollution event, as an alternative to prosecution.
Enforcement Undertakings are considered to be a unique class of civil sanction. They empower organisations or individuals to take control of post-pollution incident measures and provide the opportunity for offenders to propose their own steps in making amends. If an Enforcement Undertaking offer is accepted by the environmental regulator, actioned within agreed timescales, and delivers the agreed outputs, then the regulator can no longer prosecute the original offence. The Enforcement Undertaking process allows offending organisations to provide funding to appropriate environmental charities to help mitigate the original pollution event. A successful Enforcement Undertaking offer can demonstrate that the offender is environmentally responsible and willing to make amends. It enables direct environmental interventions to be implemented, whilst also avoiding the need for:
- Court proceedings and costs
- A criminal conviction and associated repercussions (reputational damage, increased insurance costs, potential loss of licence to operate)
- Significant fines set through court proceedings.
Our stance on Enforcement Undertakings
We would prefer that pollution events didn’t happen in the first place. But if a pollution incident does occur, we strongly believe that under the right circumstances, Enforcement Undertakings can offer significantly better outcomes for the environment than the traditional alternative of court prosecutions.
The Enforcement Undertaking process allows funds to be mobilised to support direct ‘on the ground’ environmental interventions. These interventions can be designed to help mitigate the effects of the pollution incident and to address the needs of the communities affected by the pollution event. We support the wider, appropriate, use of Enforcement Undertakings.
We believe that there are two key aspects essential for an Enforcement Undertaking Offer to be accepted by the environmental regulator:
- The offer should be made promptly after the pollution event occurs.
- The offer should present interventions that have a clear, strong link to the nature of the pollution event and should create long lasting environmental benefits.
- Recurrent offences should not be eligible for mitigation via enforcement undertaking.
To ensure potential enforcement undertakings are targeted in the most efficient way we offer a brokering service between business and those who are best placed to deliver the environmental mitigation. The Rivers Trust will be the primary point of contact with clients wishing to use this service, which would encompass the following:
- Upon receiving a request from a potential client, The Rivers Trust will match the location of the pollution event with the local Trust or CaBA partner best placed to respond.
- The Rivers Trust will liaise with the local Trust/CaBA to develop a project concept which would be suitable for an Enforcement Undertaking Offer.
- Upon acceptance of the Enforcement Undertaking Offer, The Rivers Trust can coordinate with the local Trust or partner in order to facilitate implementation of the project and monitoring and reporting as required.
Contact us to discuss your Enforcement Undertakings needs