As reported on the Environment Agency's website:
A series of civil sanctions will give the Environment Agency the discretion to avoid the time consuming and costly process of having to take businesses that commit certain types of offences to court. These will include monetary penalties, the power to make business repair environmental damage and the power to stop businesses from continuing operations that are damaging the environment. Organisations will also be given a formal opportunity to restore voluntarily any damage they cause. The new powers will not replace the Environment Agency’s approach of using advice and guidance and are expected to be used sparingly. The Environment Agency will still take criminal cases against business and individuals that cause deliberate, reckless and grave environmental damage. Such activities also often undercut law abiding business.
The Environment Agency has already been allowed to usurp the planning process. If you get planning approval, they can effectively over-ride it by applying impossible strictures, and they can overturn it by retrospectively imposing non-viable conditions.
They shoot first and ask questions later, even going public with baseless accusations. Any retraction is grudging, delayed, and not publicized, and apologies rare as hen's teeth. Their behaviour and attitude is arbitrary, depending largely on the attitude of the individual agent. They are one of the single most important obstacles to economic development and to good environmental practice in the country.
They have an infinite budget (because the Government is bound to provide them with funds for any actions they take, however many and spurious). Their powers were already excessive, unaccompanied by responsibility or restraint. And now the Government proposes to further expand those powers, without the inconvenience of having to prove their case in court.
"You have been judged!"
In the established NuLab manner, language is perverted to portray this as a benefit to business:
more flexible powers will be used that make it easier and more cost effective for businesses to operate within environmental laws.
This will mean fairer and more effective environmental regulation.
So progressive is this development, in fact, that it is to be the model for the expansion of such powers to other regulatory organisations:
The Environment Agency today became one of the first organisations to be granted new civil powers to complement existing regulatory powers.
"One of the first"? So there are others to come?
The reason they are to be trusted with extra powers is because the Better Regulation Executive reckon that they have improved their performance. One would think that a purpose of the BRE would be to oppose extensions of arbitrary regulatory powers. If they can't do that, in fact if they are recommending extension of powers, what good are they? Proof that you can't improve regulation by creating regulators to regulate the regulators, or quangos to recommend on how to control the quangos. Another candidate for the bonfire of the quangos that the Tories have promised and probably won't deliver.
There is much more to make you want to scream or sob in the EA's announcement of this development. Read it and weep.