Protection of the Environment Act 2003

Summary: Act implementing Directive 96/61/EC of 24 September 1996 concerning integrated pollution prevention and control and certain other Acts adopted by the institutions of the European Communities. Amends the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992, Waste Management Act 1996, and Litter Pollution Act 1997.

Published: 2003


Pages: 113

Filesize: 579KB

Format: pdf

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Background to the legislation

The IPPC Directive was transposed into Irish law in 2003 with the enactment of the Protection of the Environment Act, 2003.  While the 1992 Act anticipated and implemented most of the requirements of the Directive, the PoE Act 2003 made legislative provision for the remaining elements. 

Though some of these were technical or procedural in nature, they all contribute to a significantly strengthened regulatory framework for environmental protection.  The EPA Act 1992 and Part 2 of the PoE Act 2003 are collectively referred to as the Environmental Protection Agency Acts 1992 and 2003.

In 2004 the licensing regulations were amended to provide for the necessary changes to the licensing system set out in the PoE Act 2003, and these came into effect on 12 July 2004.

Existing IPC licences

The licensing changes under the PoE Act has had implications for existing licence holders. 
The extent of the implications varies depending on whether the existing licence contains conditions that meet the additional requirements of the Act, with particular regard to energy efficiency, waste prevention measures, accident prevention and control together with a requirement for measures to be in place, following cessation of the activity, to return of the site to a satisfactory state.

The EPA has examined all existing licences as required by the POE Act and where significant changes are required reviews are being initiated. The examination and review process is required to be completed by October 2007 in line with the Directive.

List of licensable activities extended

One of the most significant changes to the licensing system is the number of additional activities that have been added to the list of activities that require a licence from the EPA.  The activities most affected by the changes include certain intensive agriculture activities, the treatment and processing of milk, the slaughter of cattle, food production, and the production of paper, pulp or board. 

Any person carrying on a licensable activity in breach of the legal requirements may be subject to prosecution by the EPA.  It is the sole responsibility of the person or company carrying on the activity to have or have applied for the necessary licence. The penalties for certain convictions range from 3,000 to 15,000,000.

Other key changes to the licensing introduced by the PoE Act 2003 and supporting regulations are:

  • a requirement for an applicant to be a "fit and proper person", 
  • a change in the technical basis of the licensing system from best available technology not entailing excessive costs (BATNEEC) to   best available techniques (BAT),
  • increased emphasis on energy efficiency in the carrying out of activities,
  • provision for the transfer and surrender of IPPC licences (similar to those already in place for waste licensing system),
  • provision for the revocation or suspension of licences,
  • a greater emphasis on pollution prevention in the licensing system and on minimising environmental problems at source,
  • amendments to and  an increase in the range of documentation to accompany an application for a licence,
  • extended powers to the EPA to reject a licence application where the applicant fails to provide additional information within specified timescales
  • an explicit requirement for the inclusion of emission limit values in licences,
  • the EPA can regulate greenhouse gas emissions in IPPC licences where necessary,
  • provision for an objector to request the EPA hold an oral hearing in relation to a proposed decision on a licence application,
  • a clear legal basis for compliance with the requirements of EU Directive 80/68/EEC on the protection of groundwater against pollution by certain dangerous substances through the IPPC licensing process
  • a comprehensive provision empowering the EPA to determine that, where a waste activity is carried on in a facility connected or associated with an IPPC activity, a licence under one of these regulatory codes, but not both, will be required,
  • a power for any person to seek a High Court order where an activity is being carried out in contravention of licensing requirements.

Criteria for granting a licence extended

The EPA must now satisfy itself with regard to the following additional criteria before it can grant a licence:

  • the production of waste will be prevented or minimised or if produced will be recovered as far as possible,
  • energy will be used efficiently,
  • measures will be taken to prevent accidents,
  • pollution risks will be avoided in the case of cessation of the activity,
  • the site of the activity will be returned to a satisfactory state and
  • the applicant is a fit and proper person.

Changes to objection period

The set period for the making of an objection has been changed and brought into line with that of the Waste licensing code.

Third parties and the applicant now have the same 28 days to make an objection to a proposed determination (draft licence).  It was previously 21 days for third parties and 28 days for applicants.