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ENFORCING ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

William Wilson of Wyeside Consulting Ltd was the guest speaker on 14 February
2018 at the AGM of Environmental Protection UK, and gave a review of current
issues on enforcing environmental law, in advance of the UK government
consultation on what structures should replace enforcement by the European
Commission and Court of Justice of the European Union after the UK leaves the
EU.


He argued that Brexit constituted both a threat and an opportunity to effective
enforcement of environmental laws in the UK. There was a clear need to hold the
government to account, as evidenced in the ClientEarth air quality cases, and the
forthcoming consultation would be critically important. The opportunities for
differences in the UK approach included questioning the present heavy reliance
upon the criminal law, with all penalties going to a central Treasury instead of
benefitting the environment in any way.


There needed to be effective, affordable and accessible appeals and ombudsman
review of regulator decisions, and for the mass of lower level environmental
infringements, a far wider use of civil and administrative enforcement as
practiced in the USA: UK initiatives and legislation were not yet widely enough
deployed.


Enforcement should also reflect some of the aspects of environmental justice
practised in the USA. Specific policies were needed on recovering costs and
benefits of violations. There was no good reason why regulators in some
jurisdictions were able to use a significant share of avoided tax from successful
prosecution of illegal waste sites for their monitoring and enforcement, when
regulators in most of the UK were denied that opportunity.


The UK public also needed to challenge significant instances of non-enforcement
of environmental laws, such as the Volkswagen case of placing 1.2 million cars on
the UK market with ‘non functioning’ emissions controls without any discernible
public enforcement.


Environment Protection UK www.environmental-protection.org.uk is
a national charity that provides expert policy analysis and information on
air quality, land quality and noise and their effects on people and
communities in terms of a wide range of issues including public health,
planning, transport, energy and climate.


William Wilson was the author of ‘Making Environmental Laws Work – Law
and Policy in the UK and USA’ based on a year’s Harkness Fellowship and a
comparative study of approaches to enforcement in different US states, the
UK and the EU. He will be submitting evidence to the forthcoming
consultation on environmental enforcement expected in ‘early 2018’.

Law, brexitWilliam Wilson