Government criticised by EU over environment

 

THE EUROPEAN Commission’s director-general for the environment, Karl Falkenberger, has criticised the Government’s failure to adopt the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Mr Falkenberger said that unlike the waste management and water quality directives, where implementation required significant investment, this directive was an “administrative procedure that doesn’t cost much”.

Referring to a current case against Ireland over the environmental impact assessment carried out for the M3 and Tara, he said the commission “as guardians of EU legislation, have no choice but to see each other in court” when all other efforts to ensure full compliance had failed.

Under the directive, member states are obliged to carry out EIAs before projects that could have a significant impact on the environment are authorised. This includes the treatment of a country’s archaeological heritage.

The commission considers Ireland’s approach to decisions involving the removal of historic structures and archaeological monuments to be in contravention of the directive, in a reference to the prehistoric henge at Lismullin, Co Meath, on the path of the M3.

Because this site was only identified in 2007, its significance could not be taken into account in an earlier EIA on the motorway project. The Government has argued that the ministerial direction to excavate and record it did not constitute part of the M3 consent. Legal arguments in the case opened last week before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.