Ireland in breach of EU environment law

THE European Court of Justice has ruled that Ireland is in breach of an EU directive setting out how potentially dangerous developments are assessed for likely environmental effects before planning permission is granted.

The case was taken by an environmental organisation, Cork Harbour for a Safe Environment (CHASE), and others who had concerns about the proposed building of two multimillion euro waste incinerators at Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, by waste management company Indaver.

The ruling is likely to have implications for the Indaver project, as the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process by which Indaver’s controversial proposal is being assessed has been found to be in breach of EU law.

The crux of the case was based on claims that no one agency had overall responsibility for the overseeing the EIA, as the directive instructed. Instead, the function falls between the Environmental Protection Agency and An Bord Pleanála.

Also, under Irish law, it could be left to individual companies to carry out the assessment themselves, which the EPA would then check, rather than the other way round.

The European Court of Justice upheld both claims.

CHASE chairperson Mary O’Leary said the group’s campaign had been vindicated by the ruling.

“This is exactly the point we have been making since 2003, and yesterday’s decision poses a real problem for An Bord Pleanála in the Indaver case.

“Ireland has been condemned for failing to ensure that where Irish planning authorities and the EPA both have a role to play in regard to a project, that there will be a proper fulfilment of the directive’s requirements.”

It is eight years since Indaver Ireland first announced its plans to develop a toxic waste incinerator in Cork harbour. Huge local opposition from CHASE led to an oral hearing in 2003.

However, last January a “decision in principle” was given on the planned incinerators by An Bord Pleanála saying a hazardous waste incinerator was likely to be sanctioned, while a household waste incinerator was “not appropriate at this time”.

Joe Noonan of Noonan Linehan Carroll Coffey Solicitors, which took the case, said the ruling would have “very serious implications” for the way the board now deals with the application.

“Because Ireland chopped up who should be taking responsibility for assessing developments like this it is likely that it will have to be cured by legislation. This means the board may either have to refuse the application or put it into abeyance until new legislation is place,” he said.

Mr Noonan said the ruling had come after many years of fighting. “We are delighted it has come through in our favour and we look forward to it being fully respected by the Irish authorities from now on.”

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