A demand for more directors of companies that contravene environment laws to be subjected to anti-social behaviour orders or jailed has angered a business pressure group.
The Forum of Private Businesses (FPB) said it was "shocked and dismayed" by the Environmental Agency's " adversarial" attitude to companies.
The emphasis should instead be on helping them comply with legislation, the organisation, which speaks for 25,000 companies employing a total of more than 600,000 people, said.
The FPB was responding to comments by Environment Agency chief executive Baroness Barbara Young who claimed that fines were "little more than back pocket cash".
An Asbo was imposed on a company for the first time in 2004 to prevent the owner of a skip and plant hire business from repeatedly burning rubbish instead of disposing of it legally.
Fines totalling nearly £2.5 million were imposed on offending businesses last year and directors clocked up nearly three years' worth of jail sentences and nearly 7,000 hours of community service after being charged with environmental offences.
"It is encouraging to see the courts using a wider range of sanctions against environmental crime," Baroness Young said.
"Restricting the ability of some persistent offenders to operate may be the only way of protecting the public and the environment from risk.
"The public damage to reputation of a jail sentence, a community service order or an Asbo may also act as a more effective deterrent than a fine that represents little more than back pocket cash to many of these environmental profiteers."
FPB chief executive Nick Goulding responded by saying: "This is a serious development which we view with unease.
"This cavalier attitude towards people's livelihoods is wrong and out of touch with this country's reputation for enterprise and fairness.
"A civil action involving a fine or penalty is the right punishment for this type of offence. The antagonistic relish of the Environment Agency's statement reflects an unreasonable desire to blacken the name of business.
"The FPB urges the Agency to rethink its approach and do all it can to support small businesses in the way they treat the environment. Asbos are used to control yobs who terrorise communities - to use them against business is over the top."