Law & Compliance

Knowledge Hub: the LGA’s antisocial media

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Last week, I joined the Knowledge Hub, the successor to the Local Government Group’s LACORS website. I was also persuaded to join Twitter, and am now tweeting @garethsimkins.

LACORS – once the Local Government Coordinator of Regulatory Services, then more blandly LGReg – was a source of information and guidance on the various enforcement activities performed by councils. It was consulted regularly by ENDS, but fell victim to government funding cuts. It was absorbed as a ‘regulatory support unit’ within the Local Government Association last year and the LACORS site is no longer being updated.

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Could civil sanctions have an ‘unsavoury outcome’?

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The Environment Agency has used its new civil sanctions powers for righting environmental wrongs 27 times to date (ENDS Report, January 2012). Offenders may return to compliance and repair environmental damage in return for an end to action against them.

Sanctions have so far been applied almost entirely for packaging offences. But the environmental damage associated with failing to recover or recycle packaging is intangible, and the regulator has allowed offenders to make compensatory ‘voluntary donations’ to green causes.

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We can’t risk our hard-won environmental improvements

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Environmental Protection UK recently announced that it would stop being fully funded in March. Its chief executive James Grugeon explains how government funding cuts forced the difficult decision to make staff redundant but says he hopes to continue the organisation’s work on a voluntary basis

Last week, I spoke at what could be – but I hope is not – the last national conference organised by Environmental Protection UK (EPUK). The theme of Environment 2011 was ‘Adapting to change through localism’, which has a special, if unintentional, meaning for EPUK and our members.

We are the UK’s oldest environmental charity, established as the Coal Smoke Abatement Society in 1898 and responsible for ground-breaking legislation such as the original 1956 Clean Air Act. So we have been pretty adept at adapting to change as we played our part in developing sensible regulation put in place by successive governments of different political hues to protect our environment and promote healthier local communities.

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Scotland stalls on confiscation orders

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The courts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have confiscated huge sums of money from environmental criminals over recent years. Only this June, a Lancastrian scrap metal dealer was ordered to pay £275,000. The record fine stands at just below £1.2m, imposed in February 2008 against an illegal waste operator.

But in Scotland, barring fines not a single penny has been prised from the hands of those who profit from environmental damage. And Scottish fines are notoriously low, as the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) highlighted earlier this year. (more…)

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Was Total fined too little for the Buncefield disaster?

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The brouhaha over the level of fines imposed on Friday following the 2005 Buncefield oil depot disaster was not unexpected. This was despite the penalties being the largest ever imposed by a British court for an environmental offence.

St Albans crown court fined three companies a total of £5.38m for polluting groundwater, for health and safety law violations and for breaching the major hazards control (COMAH) regulations. The environmental component totalled £1.35m. Together with prosecution and investigation costs, the full bill imposed on the firms came to £9.43m. (more…)

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Agency delays civil sanctions

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This afternoon, ENDS heard from a senior source at the Environment Agency that the regulator will start using civil sanctions from December. This is some time after the previously expected date.

Civil sanctions give the regulator a wider range of powers to enforce the law, bypassing the courts. (more…)

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