A new campaign launches today – called Unchecked. The premise is that Regulation (yes with a capital R) is a Good Thing – for people, communities, the environment, the climate, society. And while Regulations (ie the rule book) are vital, actually enforcing them, as opposed to just having them on paper, is also equally vital.
I don’t think many people could argue that we live in deregulatory times.
The new Government – the one created without a mandate, fronted by a Clown, with Dominic Cummings in charge, that one – illustrates the point perfectly.
It includes all manner of people, whose avowed intent is to rid the country of troublesome regulations. These include politicians like Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab, Liz Truss and others, the authors of ‘Britannia Unchained” – unchained, bascally, from pesky regulations. These are combined with a whole raft of Special Advisors drafted in from Hard-Right Think-Tank World – you know, the Tax Payers Alliance, the IEA, and so on. All of those groups who want to a low tax low/no regulation country.
Not that this is anything new. Dredging the muddy waters of my declining memory, I recalled having written something in 2011, about Libertarian Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing. This was back in the days of the Grasslands Trust – here it is for the ancient historians among you. Even back before 2010 the Blair/Brown Governments were keen on “better regulation”, which sometimes meant poor regulation, poorly enforced.
How we look back to those far-off days, in misty-eyed nostalgia!
Nowadays it’s a small miracle when some enforcement action is taken. Take the Environment Agency for example. Former Undertones front-man turned river campaigner Feargal Sharkey (@Feargal_Sharkey) is constantly on their backs for failing to act against polluters.We need more Feargal’s.
Occasionally someone gets a slapped wrist – this one appeared on the Government website today (despite the court case having happened nearly two weeks ago – why the delay?). It’s yet another example of pollution associated with Anaerobic Digestion – producing supposedly renewable energy from crops. In this case several 300+ tonne sealed bags of silage had burst, leaking horrendously polluted liquid into a water course. Or rather two separate sets of toxic bags polluting two separate water courses fifteen miles apart. At the second location, 8 out of the 14, 300+ tonne bags had failed.
The company (or rather an earlier iteration of the company) had already been prosecuted for similar offences three years previously – and received a fine of £10,000. I expect they solemnly promised not to do it again.
The company concerned was fined £12500 for each offence – that’s a 12% increase from 1st conviction to second one (taking into account inflation). Court costs etc brought the total costs to a shade under £46,000. While the EA officer said he hoped the fine would act as a deterrent, I have my doubts.
Pretoria Energy Company Holdings Ltd manages around 15000 acres of East Anglian farmland, producing 360,000 tonnes of crops for Anaerobic Digestion. The crops supply the largest AD plant in the country. They’ve just arranged a £120M refinancing package, with the Allied Irish Bank. The thing about growing crops for AD is that it benefits from a double subsidy – the basic farm payment, and a subsidy for producing renewable energy. The subsidies could be worth between £2m and £3m a year.
With this amount of money on offer, you can see why paying a paltry fine would be seen as just another operating cost.
In a more recent case, the “largest fish kill ever recorded in Devon and Cornwall” saw 10,000 Brown Trout, Sea Trout and Salmon, die in the river Mole near South Molton. The Environment Agency has already concluded that Anaerobic Digester digestate caused the pollution which killed the fish. There is a large AD plant just south of South Molton, a few hundred metres from the river.
The Unchecked website has masses of resources, please take a look. I’m delighted to have been asked to join their advisory group and look forward to working with them.