State close to resolving just three of 12 EU cases

 

The Government is unlikely to be able to resolve three-quarters of its infringement cases under EU environment law during 2013, according to officials.

In the latest update on progress in such cases, Department of Environment officials said only three of the 12 infringement cases were likely to be closed in the early part of 2013.

The paper, prepared earlier this month, also pointed out that the number of open cases had fallen substantially in recent years, from a high of 34 cases in 2009 to 12 in 2012, and may be reduced to nine in 2013.

For the other nine open cases, it is noted that substantial work has been carried out to address the substantive issues.

However, the paper conceded: “It will be a challenge to secure closure of many of the remaining cases during 2013.”

The reasons cited for this are the complexity of the issues, the multi-faceted nature of the complaints and the European Commission’s practice of not closing a case until all elements have been addressed substantively.

Three cases

The three cases likely to be closed are:

1. Split decision-making on environmental impact assessments (EIAs).

The commission took a case against the Irish practice of allowing planning authorities (on planning permission) and the Environmental Protection Agency (on a licence) to make separate decisions on the same planning application.

This was not an “appropriate manner” to assess impact, it said.

Examples cited were the incinerator in Duleek, Co Meath, and the Glandis wood-processing factory in Leap, Co Offaly.

2. Ireland had failed to transpose a directive on on-farm projects requiring EIAs for major changes to farm holdings, the use of uncultivated land for intensive agriculture, and major water-management projects.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan blamed inaction by the last government for bringing Ireland to a point at which it faced a €4.3 million fine (it was reduced to €1.5 million).

“So-called environmentalists in government failed to engage meaningfully with the EU Commission,” Mr Hogan asserted.

3. The directive on carbon capture and storage: further clarification by the Government, plus legislation, will close this case in early 2013.

Nine open cases

Of the nine open cases, the most complex relate to the ongoing disputes over the closure of 53 raised bogs; the introduction of registration and inspection for domestic septic tanks; the waste framework directive and the water framework directive.

The latter two cases will require substantial investment of public money to achieve compliance.