BP and Total are among the Environment Agency’s list of the most persistent offenders in environmental crimes.

The Agency has warned that despite higher fines and more prosecutions, a number of multi-million pound businesses are failing to learn from their mistakes.

According to its Spotlight on Business Environmental Performance 2002 – the fifth annual report on good and bad environmental behaviour by companies in England and Wales – repeat offenders make up 20 per cent of this year’s list of poor performers.

The findings take the shine off a 21 per cent cut in serious pollution incidents caused by businesses, as well as significant reductions in emissions of key pollutants.

Barbara Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “Courts are getting tougher on environmental offenders – but fines are still small change for big business.”

In 2002, BP was fined a total of £60,000, and Total £54,000. In October last year BP was prosecuted for allowing the equivalent of a road tanker of fuel to escape a 30-year-old tank before the leak was located at the forecourt in Luton, Bedfordshire. This was BP’s fifth prosecuted offence.

Meanwhile, in April 2002, Total was fined for causing petrol from its

service station in Tadley, Hampshire, to pollute groundwater and a tributary of the Foudry Brook following leaks in an underground petrol tank and filler and suction lines.