The Environment Agency has powers under legislation to recover the costs of some of its activities. These powers enable the costs of activities to be placed onto people and organisations that use a service, rather than using funds from general taxation.
As well as ensuring that the costs are paid by those using the environment, the Environment Agency aims to provide financial security to cover the costs of interventions across a range of incident, compliance and enforcement situations. To do this, the Environment Agency uses an operational risk assessment scheme (Opra) and the unified charging framework with the aim of making the applicable charges proportionate to the level of environmental risk of the permitted activity.
Whilst the general trend has been that of a reduction in major or serious pollution incidents, there has been an increase in some sectors. This suggests that more could be done in terms of charges to provide a greater incentive to operators to improve their compliance. At the same time, however, it is important to consider how increasing charges might encourage more operators to work outside permitting and licensing schemes, with a resultant increase in more illegal activities.
RPA (with Cambridge Econometrics) has been commissioned by the Environment Agency to undertake a study looking at the potential impacts different charge scenarios may have on affected sectors. The results of this study will feed into (and draw from) the Strategic Review of Charges (SROC).