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Ireland

Environmental rules

Updated 12/2012

Legal requirements

Businesses in Ireland must comply with certain European and national laws to lessen their environmental footprint. The areas covered by these laws include waste management and chemicals.

Environmental control

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government develops policy, regulates environmental quality and maintains information on the legal and procedural obligations relating to environmental control.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has responsibilities for a wide range of licensing, enforcement, monitoring and assessment activities associated with environmental protection.

Local authorities, such as city and county councils, also are a key player in environmental control and pollution control with a particular responsibility in the planning and licensing process.

Land development

Local authorities such as city and county councils are responsible for planning applications. The main instrument for regulation and control of development is the Development Plan, drawn up by the local planning authority.

Waste management

Waste disposal and recovery activities in Ireland are required to hold an authorisation in accordance with the Waste Management Acts, 1996 to 2012.

A four tier system of authorisation has been established for the regulation of such activities at a facility. A waste recovery or disposal activity at a facility is either:

  • an exempted activity (no authorisation required), or,
  • requires a Waste (or IPPC) licence, or,
  • requires a Waste Facility Permit, or,
  • requires a Waste Certificate of Registration / Registration Certificate.

Depending on the authorisation required these activities are controlled either by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or by Local Authorites within their own areas. All non-exempted Local Authority waste facility activities are regulated by the EPA.

Under the Waste Management (Collection Permit) Regulations, 2007 and Waste Management (Collection Permit) (Amendment) Regulations 2008, those intending to carry out waste collection activities in a Local Authority area must apply for a waste collection permit. Responsibility for issuing all waste collection permits in the State is centralised in a single National Waste Collection Permit Office.

The control of hazardous waste shipments is now fully consolidated under the National Transfrontier Shipment Office.

Chemicals

The EU's Regulation on Chemicals or REACH (Registration, Evaluation Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) came into force in 2007.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has been appointed as the lead Competent Authority for REACH in Ireland. The HSA maintains a dedicated Helpdesk and has information on-line on the REACH regulation. The Chemicals Acts 2008 & 2010 provide for the implementation and enforcement of the EU REACH Regulation in Ireland.

Water

The Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts 1977-1990 and the EU's Water Framework Directive (2000) regulate pollution control in this area. Certain specified and larger-scale activities will require an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) licence under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992.

Air

Atmospheric emissions by industry above certain thresholds or in certain sectors require a licence under the Air Pollution Act 1987. Certain specified and larger-scale activities will require an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) licence under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992.

Noise protection

Legislation relating to the control of environmental noise is provided for in section 107 and 108 the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and Environmental Noise Regulations 2006. Noise emission from certain large scale industrial facilities may be subject to licensing or planning conditions. There is also separate legislation applying to "occupational noise" in the workplace.

Nuclear protection

While Ireland chooses to not use nuclear power for the generation of electricity we recognise the right of States to determine their own energy mix, including whether or not to develop nuclear power. It is Ireland's expectation that, where a State chooses to develop a nuclear power industry, this will be done in line with the highest international standards with respect to safety and environmental protection.

Persons engaged in the production, import, and export of specified materials used in the nuclear industry are required to provide specified information to the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII). In addition, if you are an exporter of military or dual-use goods, you may require an export licence from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, -and - Innovation.

Inspections

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) protects the environment through its licensing, enforcement and monitoring activities. The Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) within the Environmental Protection Agency is dedicated to the implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation in Ireland.

Local authorities also play a key role in relation to inspections involved in the planning process for land development, pollution control and licensing.

Public Participation

Ireland has ratified the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention).

This sets out requirements for public authorities to provide certain environmental information.

It requires that the public be afforded the opportunity to participate when decisions are made that impact on the environment.

It puts in place measures to ensure that members of the public have access to justice where environmental laws have been infringed.

Green Business Initiative

The Green Business Initiative is an inter-linked suite of projects, specifically aimed at helping enterprises save money and help to reduce their environmental impacts. The projects aim to actively help enterprises to become more “resource efficient”. This means that they will use less energy, less water and less raw materials, in turn producing less waste and costing the business less money. Through guidance, self-help web tools and actual site visit support, the free Green Business Initiative services are helping a wide variety of businesses make real savings.

Businesses are free to go beyond the minimum environmental legal requirements at their own initiative.

Administrative procedures

Declaratory procedures, permits and licences

Your business may require an individual licence for any emissions to the water and air in order to comply with specific environmental Acts. These can be obtained from the local authority or in some cases the EPA.

Large-scale industrial undertakings in particular may require an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) licence, the aim of which is to prevent or reduce emissions to air, water and land, to reduce waste, and use energy and resources efficiently. IPPC licences are issued by the EPA.

An IPPC licence must be obtained prior to starting an activity and certain categories of industry are subject to thresholds. If an activity is operating below a threshold and it is expected that the threshold will be exceeded then it will be necessary to obtain an IPPC licence prior to exceeding the threshold.

Land development

Generally, planning permission is required for any development of land or property, unless the development is specifically exempted from this need. You obtain the permission from the planning authority for your area i.e. your local County Council, City Council, Borough Council or Town Council.

Certain developments must be assessed for likely environmental effects before planning permission can be granted.

Waste management

Under the Waste Management (Collection Permit) Regulations, 2007 and Waste Management (Collection Permit) (Amendment) Regulations 2008, those intending to carry out waste collection activities in a Local Authority area must apply for a waste collection permit. Responsibility for issuing all waste collection permits in the State is centralised in a single National Waste Collection Permit Office.

Waste disposal and recovery activities in Ireland are required to hold an authorisation in accordance with the Waste Management Acts, 1996 to 2012. Depending on the authorisation required these activities are controlled either by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or by Local Authorites.

If you require a waste licence, you must follow a series of steps including notifying the planning authority and the public, and submitting an application.

There are specific rules for the transport of hazardous waste.

Chemicals

The manufacture, importation, distribution and use of chemicals are regulated by the REACH legislation. REACH requires registration (unless explicitly exempted) of substances with the European Chemicals Agency that are manufactured or imported into the EU at 1 Tonne or more per year.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has been appointed as the lead Competent Authority for REACH in Ireland. The Chemicals Acts 2008 & 2010 provide for the implementation and enforcement of the EU REACH Regulation in Ireland. The Acts designate the following as the competent authorities for REACH in Ireland:

Water

For industry, a discharge of wastewater (effluent) to waters (river, stream, lake, estuary etc. and groundwater) or to a municipal sewer can only take place if it is licensed. Such licences are issued by the local authority concerned. An IPPC licence may be required from the EPA for larger-scale operations.

Climate Policy

A National Climate Change Strategy is in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a national low-carbon roadmap is being developed. Businesses are being encouraged to use energy more efficiently.

The EU Emissions-Trading Scheme for greenhouse gases is administered in Ireland by the EPA. The EU Emissions-Trading Scheme Directive which has been transposed into Irish Law, underpins the administration of the scheme in Ireland.

Noise protection

Noise emissions from business facilities may be subject to licensing and checks by either the local authorities or the EPA.

Nuclear protection

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) regulates the provision, use and disposal of radioactive substances employed in the health sector,  industry and education. By law, all practices which use radioactive sources and/or irradiating apparatus (such as an X-ray unit) must hold a valid licence from the RPII, unless they have been exempted.

In addition, if you are an exporter of military or dual-use goods, you may require an export licence from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation.

Resources

Enterprise Ireland aims to raise environmental awareness among Ireland's business community. It addresses mainly small and medium-sized companies.

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government supports a general website with information on the environment.

Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is the Irish national energy agency. It can provide information to business on energy efficiency.

The BASIS website provides information to business on environmental laws and covers the following areas:

Programmes

Funding opportunities are available with a number of bodies - including:

Help & advice

Help & advice

E-mail a business organisation near you

The EU runs a network (Enterprise Europe Network) of local business organisations in most European countries that may be able to help you.

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