The Environmental Agency (EA) is a regulatory body with authority to bring criminal proceedings as part of enforcement action. An enforcement tool available to the Agency includes an Enforcement Undertaking. This is a legally binding agreement between an individual or corporate entity suspected of an environmental offence. It is a civil sanction that can be used as an alternative to prosecution in accordance with the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act of 2008, and Environmental Civil Sanctions (England) Order of 2010.
Regulation surrounding environmental permissions, exemptions, planning controls and pollution are extensive so can be inadvertently breached by even the most capable and compliant of operators. A prosecution entails interviews under caution, followed by lengthy court proceedings, often resulting in substantial fines. This not only creates significant down time for businesses, but can have a detrimental impact on reputation. Our Regulatory team can aid by providing early intervention when dealing with individuals or companies facing investigation, and will examine the opportunity of an Enforcement Undertaking where it benefits our client.
The Environmental Agency will consider the terms of an offer for an Undertaking by having regard to public interest factors, including any steps that have been demonstrated by the company, such as the restoration of harm caused by a breach, the satisfaction of methods to ensure future compliance, and also the involvement of a financial donation. Whilst criminal enforcement proceedings can be brought, an Enforcement Undertaking may be viewed as less damaging to the reputation of a business, notwithstanding that a register of Undertakings is still published by the Environmental Agency.
Should you require any advice in relation to any proposed or current enforcement action brought by the Environment Agency, then please speak to a member of our team so that we can consider the availability of this civil sanction, in order to avoid time consuming and criminal proceedings.
If you have any questions or require advice, then please contact a member of our Environmental Regulatory team at Milton Keynes (Mike Hayward) – 01908 202150 or Cambridge (Tim Ridyard) – 01223 411421.