There was critical coverage in Saturday (24th)’s Times on breaches of environmental protection laws and the Environment Agency’s enforcement and prosecutions of those responsible.
Across three pieces in Saturday’s paper, The Times depicts an increase in environmental breaches alongside a decline in EA site inspections in its main, data-driven story, linking this to cuts to the Agency’s budget from central government. A secondary piece focuses on farm pollution incidents and speculates that reducing pollution run-offs could be a ‘public good’ eligible for funding under the government’s future farm funding scheme.
The EA’s Chair, Emma Howard Boyd, gave an interview to the newspaper for this piece but very little of this was published.
Today (Monday 26 October), the Times includes a letter from Emma Howard Boyd in response to Saturday’s articles. The full letter is below.
Sir, I welcome your recent reporting on the pollution of our environment. Our waters, air and soil are precious assets. People need to know what state they are in and we need a national debate about how to protect them.
You are right that the main sources of pollution are water companies and farmers; that they need to be robustly regulated to prevent pollution; that those who harm our rivers, air or land should be held to account; and that the Environment Agency does not have the resources it needs to do these things as effectively as we and the public would like.
What you did not say was that where there is a robust regulatory framework and the resources to enforce it, we have seen dramatic improvements. Our rivers and bathing waters are in a much better state than 20 years ago, with wildlife returning to rivers that were once biologically dead. Our air is far cleaner, with emissions dramatically reduced. Land that was horrendously polluted by industry has been transformed into housing and natural habitat for wildlife.
The Environment Agency has played a central role in this. Our professional and passionate staff work non-stop to create a cleaner, greener country. We constantly innovate to do more with less. But ultimately we will get the environment we pay for. A core part of that is funding the Environment Agency properly. The government has an opportunity to do that in this year’s spending review. We hope it will.
Emma Howard Boyd
Chair of the Environment Agency