Planning to keep on polluting - that's it?
A few months ago you may remember the government putting out its hopelessly inadequate plan for 'consultation'. WASP wrote a few lines just in case Defra may listened to the cacophony of criticism - as unlikely as that was.
Well the plan is back and it is largely unchanged and will drag out water companies polluting for profit way into the future - but don't worry about that detail for now. There are bigger forces to think about.
WASP has been working on getting to the heart of what is behind the scandal and what really needs to be fixed while the government tries to blame the Victorians, climate change and now the regulators it has forced into acting so inadequately.
We have some more big revelations coming soon but for now here is the media comment we made about the plan:
The truth about the government plan is that this is the first government to throw the water industry a statutory lifeline to allow it to keep on polluting illegally even as the massive extent of its criminal pollution is dragged out into the open by campaigners like WASP's Prof Peter Hammond.
By substituting vague and far-off targets for an existing requirement to simply obey the most basic anti-pollution law the government has caved into the industry's blackmail over the cost to rectify the underinvestment which allowed it to extract £72billion in dividends and other payments.
Those eye-watering costs were established in a flawed study commissioned by Water UK - an opaque and unregulated trade organisation representing the industry and suddenly the fee is levelled at the billpayer and even taxpayer rather than the wealth funds that benefitted from creating the crisis - the perfect scam; create a problem and charge the captive customer to fix it.
The government hype conveniently ignores the existing and far more demanding requirement to classify and rectify unsatisfactory storm overflows within 3 years which was made by the Environment Agency in 2018 . This has simply been ignored by the industry and the regulators and government capitulated. It is clear that the companies choose how and when they are regulated and far off vauge targets suit them perfectly - especially as they are still allowed to monitor themselves.
What the government will struggle to explain to the public is why it has stood silent as water industry shareholders reneged on the premise of privatisation and failed to bring shareholder equity in to fix the now monumental black hole in infrastructure but still took a fee and sucked money out of annual bill payer funding which would have been available for investment in real improvements. No wonder so many overseas investment funds have hooked on to this guaranteed trough of money for nothing.
Thames Water owners August 2022
It is beginning to look like the environmental scandal of the century and we ask what the government is doing to reclaim funds that were extracted by breaking the law. The Environment Agency uses Proceeds of Crime Act Legislation to reclaim funds from solid waste companies that operate illegally, so why not water companies?
The bottom line is pollution remains profitable and the regulators and government are in a panic as evidence of their stunning incompetence and failure simply will not go back in the box.
Here is the Defra media release if you want to read it:
Of course it's one of those toughest ever, world beating over hyped servings of so little when we need so much.
If you do read it you may get to this comment from Secretary of State, George Eustice as just one example of the misleading information to which we have become all too accepting:
''We will not let companies get away with illegal activity and where breaches are found, regulators will not hesitate to hold companies to account.''
Simply and demonstrably not true. Defra prosecution and sanctions policy and the EA attendance policy makes that statement a complete nonsense.