The environment is an area that is subject to an increasingly complex body of rules and regulations, breach of which can result in a significant punishment on successful prosecution. The protection of the environment is a topical issue for government, and suspected breach of environmental laws and damage to the natural environment can result in a significant penalty on evidence of guilt.

At Bright Line Law, we provide bespoke legal advice and guidance to corporate clients on how environmental laws apply to them and their operations.. If you need assistance in dealing with any aspect of environmental law, the team at Bright Line Law may be able to assist you.

Understanding Environmental Law and Your Position

Environmental law is an area which is covered by a variety of different pieces of legislation, much of which is intended to regulate the activities of both individuals and businesses in their interaction with the natural environment. Much of environmental law in England & Wales is policed by the Environment Agency, which has significant powers and resources at its disposal under the Environment Act (1990) to do so. It is charged with dealing with, amongst other things, the following:

Waste management obligations

Businesses engaged in commercial or industrial practices are under an obligation to take responsibility for waste that results from their activities, and to dispose of it in a way that does not pollute the local natural environment, or harm the health of other people. This includes making use of licensed waste management sites and using appropriate services e.g. waste hauliers that are registered to dispose of waste.

Water regulations

Organisations involved in activities that involve the discharge of waste liquid as a result of industrial or trading processes must be conscious of the need to secure an environmental permit to do so. If activities demand the discharge of harmful or otherwise pollutant water in natural water sources e.g. rivers and streams or onto the ground, then a permit to do so must be granted by the Environment Agency.


Commercial or industrial processes may have, as an unintended consequence of contamination of local land. Further, businesses may look to develop land or purchase a new site which could have been the former home of a facility that has caused significant local pollution. If this is the case then there will need to be an investigation into how this is to be addressed, and who is to be made responsible for addressing the contamination and restoring the land to good health.

The rules on environmental law are complex and impact businesses in different ways depending on the details of their operation. It is vital when designing processes that specialist legal guidance is sought on what obligations commercial and industrial bodies owe under environmental legislation so to comply with regulatory expectations.

Sanctions for breach of environment law

The Environment Agency takes responsibility for investigating and pursuing a prosecution of any suspected breach of environmental laws by businesses. Sanctions for failing to observe the rules on environmental law can result are varied. Recent reform in this area has resulted in a new suite of guidelines that have developed the penalties for failing to comply with environmental law. Courts are under a specific obligation to issue a penalty that reflects (i) the gravity of the offence committed and (ii) the financial resources of the business in question. Businesses can face a substantial fine if they are found to have committed an environmental crime. Further, if a business is found to have committed a particularly grave offence with a flagrant disregard for its responsibilities, which also enjoys significant financial resources, it could face a fine of several hundred million pounds in significant cases.

Seek specialist guidance on UK environmental law

Environmental law is a specialist area demanding the attention of a sufficiently experienced and knowledgeable legal advisor. Business that are developing their operation in the UK or are adjusting to reflect new commercial realities should ensure that they are fully advised on their environmental obligations. Further, they should equip themselves with effective representation by commercially oriented, strategic lawyers that have experience of dealing with regulators on questions of contravening environmental law and defending against such allegations.

Bright Line Law is a barrister led law firm advising national and international commercial clients on their obligations under environmental legislation. Our service is designed to provide clients with access to expert legal counsel with skills and knowledge that meet their needs and expectations. At Bright Line Law, we take a pragmatic approach to our working with clients: we assess your needs and expectations at the outset and identify ways to achieve these quickly and effectively. If you need to speak with a truly commercial, client oriented law firm on any aspect of environmental law, contact the team at Bright Line Law today. 

Jonathan Fisher QC
Lead Counsel

Email jf@brightlinelaw.co.uk
Telephone + 020 3872 2852

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