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Brussels, 19 May 2011

Environment: Commission takes Ireland to Court over missing industrial permits

The Commission is referring Ireland to the EU Court of Justice over industrial installations operating with outdated permits. Under European law, new permits should have been issued by 30 October 2007. However the permits of at least 17 Irish livestock installations have not yet been reconsidered or updated. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore referring the case to the EU Court of Justice.

Under European law, industrial and agricultural activities with a high pollution potential must be licensed. The Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive required Member States by 30 October 2007 to issue new permits or revise existing permits for all industrial installations that were in operation before 30 October 1999. Permits are only issued if a number of environmental criteria are met.

In November 2008 an initial warning was sent to Ireland about failures to bring the issuing of permits into line with the legislation. A reasoned opinion followed in November 2010 since at least 26 pig and poultry rearing installations still lacked appropriate permits for their operation (see IP/10/1579). Although the number of non-compliant installations is being reduced, at least 17 livestock installations still lack the permits required. The Commission is not satisfied with the pace of the permitting process and is therefore referring Ireland to the EU Court of Justice.


Installations must have the correct permits to ensure they meet the requirements necessary to ensure the highest protection to human health and the environment. Large industrial and agricultural installations account for a considerable proportion of total emissions of key atmospheric pollutants, and have major environmental impacts. Air pollution can have numerous consequences including respiratory problems, premature death and damage to ecosystems.

The IPPC Directive protects citizens by providing an EU-wide standard for licensing industrial and agricultural activities with a high pollution potential. Permits can only be issued if certain environmental conditions are met, with companies themselves bearing responsibility for preventing and reducing any pollution they may cause. The permitting process ensures that the most appropriate pollution-prevention measures are used, and that waste is recycled or disposed of in the least polluting way possible. The Commission has previously taken 10 Member States to Court for infringements of the IPPC Directive. These Member States are Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain, Estonia, Sweden, France and Austria (see IP/09/1649, IP/10/1412, IP/10/1579, IP/11/305 and IP/11/433).

Further Information

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

For more information on the IPPC Directive and its implementation:

See also MEMO/11/312

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