Enforcement action: The regulations that are no longer enforced

There are some regulations that the Environment Agency has stopped enforcing entirely – does this reflect a change in the regulator’s approach to enforcement or a lack of capacity to tackle serious environmental crimes?

That the number of prosecutions the Environment Agency (EA) is pursuing has fallen sharply in recent years is well-understood. At first glance, however, an analysis of the agency’s own data on prosecutions of companies appears to show it no longer enforces some regulations entirely. 

What is more, some relate to serious breaches, such as water pollution (see table). For instance, in 2001, the EA brought 161 prosecutions under section 85(1) of the Water Resources Act 1991. But by 2014 the number had fallen to zero and has stayed there ever since. 

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