Pollution prevention and control
In order to help provide environmental protection, the European Union and Ireland have implemented legislation to prevent or reduce pollution of the atmosphere, water and soil, as well as the quantities of waste arising from the industrial and agricultural industries. The law allows for regulation of industrial and agricultural activities and sets minimum requirements to be included in all permits, particularly in terms of pollutants released.
The EU Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive (Directive 96/61/EC) provides for a permit system for activities including waste management. It was brought into effect in Ireland by the Protection of the Environment Act 2003 which amends the licensing provisions of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and the Waste Management Act 1996. The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for the Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) licensing of large or complex industries with significant polluting potential.
Various activities must have a licence to operate and these are listed in the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 as amended by the Protection of the Environment Act 2003. These activities include:
- Energy production
- Intensive agriculture
- Food production
- Activities involving chemicals
- Paper production
The 2003 Act adds further activities to the list which need licences – for example, rearing of poultry and cattle slaughtering.
Licence holders are required to use 'best available techniques' to avoid pollution. An applicant for an IPC licence has to be a 'fit and proper person'. Among other things, this means that they have not been convicted of an offence involving the pollution control and waste legislation. The EPA has the power to revoke or suspend IPPC licences where the 'fit and proper person' requirements are no longer met. The EPA maintains a register of licences and this is publicly available.
The applicant for a licence must publish a notice on the site of the activity in question and put a notice in a newspaper of the intention to apply, and must inform the local authority. Anyone may comment in writing on the application. When the EPA gets an application for a licence, it must tell the relevant local authority. The Agency normally publishes such applications on its website. When the EPA issues its proposed determination, you may object within 28 days. You may ask for an oral hearing but bear in mind there is a fee for such requests. The agency has discretion on whether or not to grant an oral hearing. Any objection to the refusal of an oral hearing or any proceedings once the decision is made, must be taken within 8 weeks.
The EPA may attach a range of conditions to the licence. For example, conditions on emission limits (including greenhouse gases), protection of soil and groundwater, the efficient use of energy and what is to happen when the activity ends.
The Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) is responsible for ensuring that the licences are enforced and
all the conditions attached are met.
Further information on environmental protection is available from: