The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has called on the industry to back its calls for stronger enforcement powers.
Speaking at the Scottish Resources Conference, Sepa senior policy officer Eleanor Strain said the regulator was “really keen” to be able to issue fixed monetary penalties to persistent non-compliant businesses.
A consultation is currently running on the proposed changes to the agency’s enforcement powers, but there is concern that not enough businesses have contributed.
The fixed penalties proposed would be over three levels of £300, £600 and £1,000.
Currently, Sepa can serve formal or informal notices to suspected criminals, but it has to refer cases to the procurator fiscal to consider a criminal prosecution.
Strain called on those working in the industry who agreed that Sepa should have these powers to say so in their consultation response.
“At the moment, our toolbox consists of engagement, advice and a great big sledgehammer in the form of a report to the procurator fiscal,” she said.
“That is why we are so keen we get the appropriate tool, in terms of the fixed monetary penalties, where we can go through an engagement process and then issue a fine each time they are not compliant.”
The consultation is set to close on 22 October, but environmental lawyer Laura Tainsh told MRW this deadline could be put back if Sepa does not get the input from operators it wants.
“I have tried to encourage my clients, who are primarily operators, to respond. I think there has been quite a lot of response from local government and public bodies who are involved because they tend to be the beneficiaries of the current enforcement policy.”