From 4 January 2011, the Environment Agency ("EA") has begun to implement enforcement powers granted last year under the Environment Civil Sanctions (England) Order. These powers (or "civil sanctions") differ from the existing criminal sanctions available to the EA because they can be imposed directly by the EA without recourse to the courts.

Click here to read the Order.

The civil sanctions

There are six civil sanctions available in relation to specified offences which are set out in Schedule 5 of the Order:

  • Compliance Notice – requiring actions to be taken to comply with the law or to return to a state of compliance.  
  • Restoration Notice – requiring steps to be taken within a specific time scale to restore harm caused by non-compliance with rules.  
  • Fixed Monetary Penalty  
  • Enforcement Undertaking – an offer form through which an entity that wants to repair any environmental damage may set out how it proposes to do so. If the proposal is accepted by the EA it becomes a legally binding agreement. Sample forms are available on the EA website.  
  • Variable Monetary Penalty  
  • Stop Notice – requiring an entity to immediately stop an activity which is causing serious harm or represents a high risk of causing serious harm.

The civil sanctions are not available for all the activities that the EA regulates. It is expected that they will be used mainly in the hazardous waste, water resources and packaging waste sectors and they can be applied only to offences committed after 6 April 2010 in England and after 15 July 2010 in Wales.

In order to ensure consistent application of the civil sanctions the EA proposes to introduce a national panel to supervise their use and to increase staff training.

Follow this link for further guidance.