Establishment of the Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in 1992 in order to provide a single national expert monitoring, licensing and enforcement agency, for environmental matters. The Agency provides a single point of licensing for major industrial projects, thereby avoiding the requirement for multiple authorisations. It is also the body which enforces many EU environmental standards and obligations.
The formation of a single expert agency reflected the increasing complexity of pollution control, some aspects of which, were too complex for management by local authorities. It seeks to provide overall management, control and oversight of local authority management of environmental matters. It provides the requisite degree of independence required by the European Union law in various instances under EU law.
The 1992 Act which established the Agency, was reformed significantly in 2003. The original integrated pollution control licensing system was updated with an integrated pollution prevention and control system. The EPA was given enhanced powers and was made central to the State’s environmental policy.
The EPA is an independent body. It has a board comprising a Director General and Directors. The Directors and Director-General are appointed by the Government, on the nomination of a committee, which includes various interested national bodies. The board is advised by an advisory board, which comprises members of interested organisations, professionals and other persons concerned in environmental matters.
The Agency is obliged to have regard to certain general principles and policies. It is to seek to maintain a high standard of environmental protection while promoting sustainable and environmentally sound processes in development. It is to keep itself informed of the public policies of various authorities. It is to implement the ‘polluters pays’ principle. It is to seek a balance between the protection of the environment and development.
Relationship with Other Bodies
Various bodies are obliged to consult with the EPA in the relation to environmental matters. Powers may be transferred to the EPA, allowing the EPA enhanced enforcement and inspection powers. The Minister may transfer functions under the air and water pollution legislations from local authorities to EPA. It may confer enforcement functions on it.
The EPA has certain supervisory functions in respect of other authorities, in particular, local authorities, in relation to their environmental function. Local authorities must have regard to the EPA advice. The EPA has particular functions in the context of drinking water and sewage regulation. In certain cases, the local authorities may be the subject to legally binding decisions and enforcement by the EPA.
The EPA may require a local authority to furnish information in relation to its environmental functions. It may carry out an assessment and the authority must cooperate. It may require remediation by way of advice and recommendation. It may provide assistance. It may direct the local authority to take actions it deems necessary for the proper performance of its functions.
The local authority may make observations in relation to the proposed direction. Subject to those observations, the directions may be confirmed and become binding within a specified period. A local authority may be subject to prosecution if it fails to comply with EPA directions.
European Environmental Agency
The European Environmental Agency was established in 1990, with members from each of the EU States. It assesses and collects environmental information and assist national authorities. Its objectives are to support sustainable development and to safeguard the environment through the provision of timely, targeted and reliable information to policy-making bodies and the public. The EEA is a separate legal body, established under by regulation under EU law.
The EEA has established an Environmental Information and Observation Network, for the purpose of collecting and assessing environmental data. It uses a range of modern technology. It taps into information from numerous environmental agencies and research centres within the EU.
The EPA promotes environmental awareness. It carries out research itself and assists environmental research. It assists public authorities in providing environmental services. It liaises with its European equivalents. The Minister for the Environment has the power to assign additional functions to the EPA. Additional powers have been transferred to it over the last 20 years.
The Minister may request the Agency to give advice, information and make recommendations. It may require the Agency to publish criteria and procedures in relation to the protection of the environment, in the context of water and sewage. It may authorise the Agency to license sewage discharges by sanitary authorities.
The Minister may direct the preparation of guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment. It may request recommendations in relation to the limits and values for various types of pollutant. It may require matters to be investigated and reported on in relation to environmental pollution. It may arrange for an inquiry in specified instances.
The Agency prepares various national programs of monitoring, as well as supervising sanitary authorities. It provides environmental information and prepares reports on the environment. It may prepare and publish codes of practice and quality objectives. It may promote environmental audits. It may establish or arrange an eco-labelling scheme. It may enforce noise control.
Research and Awareness
European Topic Centres coordinate research activity in certain focus areas. All States have a National Focal Point. This is an agency or governmental entity which manages and reports within that State, for the purpose of the EEA. In Ireland, it is the Environmental Protection Agency. The National Focal Point makes submissions, to EEA publications and submit information and data to the EEA.
Each National Focal Point is assisted by National Reference Centers. These are boards, with areas of expertise in relation to key indicators. The National Focal Point may subcontract work to the National Reference Centers.
The information provided by these national agencies is fed to the EPA and provides a database of the environmental status. This assists public bodies, private entities and research groups to monitor and chart the status of the environment.
The EPA operates an environment report information system, which is a database. The EPA works on Multi-annual Work Programs, providing five years programs of work.
The EEA has a mandate to promote and educate the public in the EU regarding the state of the environment. It publishes an enormous amount of environmental information on its websites. This includes the regular reports and assessments.
There are Annual Work Programs undertaken in accordance with the Medium Term Multiannual Work Programs. The European Topic Centre’s maintains contracts with the EEA in order to carry out specific projects, under their Medium Multiannual Work Program.
There are Topic Centre’s dealing with key issues such as air and climate change, waste and water, water, the terrestrial environment, nature protection and biodiversity.
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