British Polluters Undeterred by Penalties

Some of the biggest and best known companies in the United Kingdom are also some of its worst polluters — but neither financial penalties nor shame seem able to keep them in line, according to the Environment Agency’s fifth annual Spotlight report on the environmental violations of companies in England and Wales. For the billion-dollar businesses in question, the fines are insignificant; for the environment, the consequences are far more serious. Fish are dying by the thousands, tons of toxic waste are being dumped in rivers and inner cities, groundwater is being poisoned — the list goes on. While the number of prosecutions for environmental crimes rose 13 percent since the last report and the number of financial penalties handed out rose by 36 percent, the average size of the penalty rose only slightly, to $14,134. “Fines are still small change for big business,” said Barbara Young, the Environment Agency’s chief executive.