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Office of Climate, Licensing and Resource Use

The Office of Climate, Licensing and Resource Use has a broad remit, which includes licensing large-scale industrial and waste facilities, permitting large petrol storage facilities and granting consents for genetically modified organisms. The Office is also responsible for implementing the EU Emissions Trading Directive in Ireland, the National Waste Prevention Programme and the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan and for enforcing producer responsibility initiatives such as the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, Packaging Regulations, Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) legislation and Ozone Depleting Substances (OSD) Regulations.

In September 2007, a system for the licensing or certification of Waste Water Discharges (WWD) from areas served by local authority sewer networks was brought into effect with the EPA made responsible for authorisation of discharges. The licensing and certification authorisation process will be introduced on a phased basis commencing on 14th December 2007 in accordance with the requirements of the Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations, 2007.

In June 2007, in line with the goals set out in 2020Vision and to meet the challenges posed by climate change, the EPA created a Climate Change Unit by merging activities carried out in the Emissions Trading Unit with the Inventories, Projections, Climate Change Research and Air and Climate Science areas.

A new Resource Use Unit was also established in the EPA in 2007. This Unit leads the National Waste Prevention Programme, which aims to reverse the trend towards increased resource use and waste generation in Ireland. This includes the reduction in wasteful use of materials and excessive water and energy consumption.

Licensing Unit

Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Licensing

The IPPC licensing system emphasises waste prevention with the aim of reducing emissions to air, water and land, reducing waste overall and using energy efficiently. Large-scale or complex industrial processes with significant polluting potential require an IPPC licence.

In 2007 all IPPC licences, other than those for the intensive agriculture sector, were reviewed for compliance with the IPPC Directive requirements by the deadline of 30th September. Thirty one licences were subjected to a detailed review. Fifty three IPPC licences were granted while 4 licence applications were either withdrawn or abandoned. In addition, 60 Proposed Decisions were issued. For details of licensing activities see Table 1. Technical amendments were made to 22 licences in accordance with the licensing regulations. Technical amendments provide for the correction of clerical errors or amendment of conditions in a licence to bring it into conformity with the requirements of the IPPC Directive or to facilitate the operation of the licence.

A High Court judgement was delivered in favour of the EPA in the judicial review case of Donal Brady v EPA. The decision in this case also applies to Glanbia Farms Limited v EPA and Laragan Farms v EPA. In the case of Donal Brady v EPA the licensee has appealed the High Court judgement to the Supreme Court.

Waste Licensing

The Waste Management Act, 1996, gives the EPA responsibility for the licensing of all significant waste recovery and disposal facilities managed by local authorities and private operators. Stringent conditions are placed on the operation of facilities under the waste licensing process to ensure potential environmental impacts are strictly controlled.

The EPA granted new or revised licences for 5 waste transfer stations, 2 materials recovery facilities, 2 integrated waste management facilities and 2 compost facilities in 2007. Two licences were refused to South East Recycling and Carbury Compost Ltd. Fourteen Proposed Decisions and 15 Technical Amendments were issued.

Details of all EPA licences are available at the licensing section of our website www.epa.ie.

Table 1: Licensing Activities in 2007
 

IPPC Licences

Waste Licences

GMO Consents

Certificates of Registration

Applications considered

123

37

50

90

Proposed Decisions

60

14

N/A

N/A

Objections received

63

30

N/A

N/A

Final Decisions

53

13

43

90

Waste Water Discharge Licensing

The licensing function of the EPA was extended in September 2007 when the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government brought into effect the Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations (S.I. No. 684 of 2007). These regulations require local authority urban waste water discharges to be subject to a licensing and authorisation process. The licensing process commenced in December 2007 with the first tranche of applications being made to the EPA. The final group of applications are to be submitted by 22nd June 2009. The licensing process applies to agglomerations greater than 500 population equivalent while a certification process, which commences in 2009, applies to all agglomerations below that threshold.

Significant work was done in advance of the Regulations being finalised with information seminars held at a number of locations for local authorities and all other interested bodies. Application and guidance forms have been published and are available on-line. Provision is being made to provide public access to all applications at www.epa.ie. It is estimated that some 480 agglomerations will be subject to the licensing process.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) Consents

The EPA is the competent authority in Ireland for the implementation of the GMO Regulations on the contained use, the deliberate release into the environment and the transboundary movement of GMOs.

By the end of 2007 there were 234 entries on the register of GMO users in Ireland. More than 96 per cent of these relate to contained use, the majority of which are third-level research laboratories classified as being of negligible risk. Forty three consents were granted for the contained use of GMOs and site inspections were carried out on nine GMO contained use premises.

At European level one consent was granted for placing GMOs on the market (deliberate release) within the European Union. The EPA played an active role in this regulatory procedure on behalf of Ireland.

GMO enforcement site inspections were carried out at 12 GMO registered premises during 2007.

Certificates of Registration

The EPA uses Certificates of Registration to regulate low risk local authority waste recovery facilities. In 2007, the EPA issued 90 Certificates of Registration.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)

The purpose of The Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992 (Control of Volatile Organic Compound Emissions resulting from the Storage of Petrol and its Distribution) Regulations, 1997 is to control volatile organic compound emissions resulting from petrol storage and distribution terminals. The EPA uses a permitting process to regulate these activities. In 2007, 12 VOC Permits were reviewed by the EPA.

Technical Guidance

The EPA produces technical guidance on a variety of topics to support environmental best practice as well as licensing and enforcement activities. In 2007, 14 IPPC Best Available Techniques guidance documents were added to those already available on the EPA website www.epa.ie.

Access to Licensing Documentation

The EPA's policy of openness and transparency was further enhanced in 2007 by a number of additions and improvements to its website. The website now provides access to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) permit applications and Waste Water Discharge licence applications in addition to the Waste and IPPC licence applications that were already available. In addition to providing access to documentation the chronological search function of application documentation has been significantly improved. The availability of all licensing documentation on the web, including application forms, maps and correspondence, provides easy public access to licensing files as well as meeting key requirements of the EU Directive on Access to Information on the Environment (Aarhus Directive).

As part of the EPA website redevelopment initiative all licence application guidance pages were redesigned and rewritten in a more customer focused manner. Additional guidance on the VOC permit application process and the waste water discharge licence application process was added.

Climate Change Unit

Emissions Trading

The EPA is the competent authority responsible for implementing emissions trading of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Ireland. The scheme applies to large producers of GHGs - such as the cement and power generation industries as well as other large users of fossil fuels.

All operators surrendered the required amount of allowances, by the end of April 2007, to match their verified emissions, ensuring that Ireland was 100% compliant with the scheme. As Registry Operator, the EPA successfully retired Ireland's 2006 allowances, as required by the Directive, on 30 June 2007.

In September 2007, Ireland received a favourable result on the Independent Assessment Report of the National Registry, the fifth country to pass this milestone worldwide.

A second public consultation of Ireland's second National Allocation Plan (for the period 2008 - 2012) was held in October 2007. Over 20 submissions were received and views expressed will be taken into account prior to finalising the Plan in early 2008.

A National Emissions Trading Registry, which ensures the accurate accounting of the issue, transfer, cancellation and surrender of emission allowances within the Emissions Trading Scheme and for International Emissions Trading under the Kyoto Protocol, is accessible at www.etr.ie.

At the end of 2007, 111 installations covered by the emissions trading scheme in Ireland held valid permits requiring them to monitor and report emissions and surrender allowances in accordance with the Regulations.

National Emissions Inventories

In 2007 the EPA submitted data regarding Ireland's annual greenhouse gas emissions to the EU and to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and during the year the national inventories for 2005 were published.

No questions of implementation were identified with regard to the review of Ireland's initial report, which was held in conjunction with the review of the 2006 submission under the Framework Convention. EPA inventory experts were also engaged in reviews of the initial reports of Hungary, Luxembourg and Iceland under the Kyoto protocol and in the centralized review of the 2006 submissions of the US, Australia and Croatia under the UNFCCC.

Other Kyoto Protocol 'Mechanisms'

In 2007, the EPA finalised the procedures for issuing Letters of Approval for Irish project participants in the Kyoto Protocol (project based) flexible mechanisms. In January 2007, the EPA issued the world's first Letter of Approval in respect of a project under the Kyoto Protocol's Joint Implementation mechanism. In November 2007, the EPA issued Ireland's first Letter of Approval in respect of a project under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism.

National Greenhouse and Acid Gas Projections

In 2007, under the revised National Climate Change Strategy, the EPA was designated responsibility for developing annual national emission projections for greenhouse gases and acidifying gases. In the past, national projections have been produced to meet specific requirements such as to inform the development of the National Allocations Plans under the EU ETS and the development of national programmes under the NEC Directive. Since the appointment, the EPA has been developing an approach that will improve the quality and robustness of national emission projections.

Climate Change Research

During 2007, a new Climate Change Research Programme was established with funding from the Interdepartmental Committee for Innovation & Technology for Science Strategy. 30 valid applications were submitted to the Programme by the 31st July closing date for applications. External experts evaluated the proposals and the EPA Board approved the list of projects recommended for funding in September. Thirteen projects and four fellowships were awarded in the first round of funding in 2007. The budget commitment for these projects amounts to €8.7m. The EPA has established an inter-agency committee for the co-ordination of research on climate change in Ireland.

Reports were published on the following in 2007:

  • Key Meteorological Indicators of Climate Change in Ireland
  • Implications of the EU Climate Protection Target for Ireland
  • Climate Change: Estimation of Emissions of Greenhouse Gases from Agriculture and Strategies for Reduction

Resource Unit

National Waste Prevention Programme

In 2007, the third annual report for the programme was published. The National Waste Prevention Committee, chaired by the EPA, continued to provide valuable strategic advice on all of the National Waste Prevention Programme projects.

The Local Authority Prevention Demonstration Programme (LAPD), which promotes waste prevention through local authorities, was extended to include 14 authorities. This national initiative is now showing how waste can be prevented in a wide variety of participating businesses and sectors. Its findings are providing the template for similar waste prevention projects nationwide.

A Green Business Initiative was developed with an online resource audit tool backed up by expert advisors and a hotline. Case Studies Implementation projects arising from the EPA Cleaner Greener Production Programme were further developed for dissemination. The Green Business Initiative will be officially launched in 2008 as a package of measures to help reduce wastage in Irish businesses.

Also in 2007, the EPA launched a Packaging Prevention Programme with Repak (the packaging waste compliance body) who are leading the programme. Case studies were developed and disseminated through seminars and on a new website at www.preventandsave.ie.

The EPA has integrated into all National Waste Prevention Programme projects consideration of domestic or industrial consumption of water, energy as well as material resources. Any organisation undertaking waste audits or prevention programmes will be encouraged to reduce consumption of all relevant resources. Strategic linkages have been made with Sustainable Energy Ireland, which provides expert advice in relation to significant energy issues that arise.

Producer Responsibility Initiatives

The EPA has responsibility for the enforcement or promotion of a range of Producer Responsibility Initiatives (PRI). These are legal and economic instruments that require producers (manufacturers and importers) to take financial and other responsibilities for waste generated by the products that they market. Examples include:

  • Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations;
  • Packaging Regulations;
  • Other Regulations in relation to restricting hazardous components in products including the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and the Deco-paints Regulations;
  • Solvents and Deco-paints (vehicle refinishing) Regulations.

The EPA has engaged extensively with each of the diverse commercial sectors involved with these Regulations to assure effective implementation of the law. An extensive programme of guidance, communication, inspection and enforcement follow up has been engaged in during 2007 and opportunities for waste prevention, hazardous material substitution, the adoption of greener operational practices as well as eco-design or re-use have been identified and promoted.

Where local authorities have significant roles in PRI enforcement, for example with packaging or WEEE, their capacity has been developed directly through the OEE Environmental Enforcement Network.

National Hazardous Waste Management Plan

Following extensive consultation and research, a Proposed National Hazardous Waste Management Plan and Environmental Report was published in 2007. A Strategic Environmental Assessment was conducted as the proposed plan was being developed and this is documented in the Environmental Report. The proposed plan sets out the facts on hazardous waste arisings and management. Recommendations are made in relation to hazardous waste prevention and improved collection rates as well as environmentally sound treatment and disposal.

National Waste Reporting

Early in 2007, the National Waste Report for arisings in 2005 was published, stimulating debate on the issues in the media and community generally. Statistical work on 2006 arisings was completed in 2007.

Ozone Depleting Substances, Polychlorinated Bi-phenyls and Persistent Organic Pollutants

The EPA is leading the implementation and enforcement of the Regulations concerning Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS), Polychlorinated Bi-phenyls (PCBs) and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Control of the use of and waste generation from these substances is important for the protection of air, waters and land. Information and guidance has been developed and disseminated on an on-going basis by a variety of means including seminars and the EPA webpages. Inspections and, in some cases, further enforcement actions have been undertaken.

Inspections

Table 2 presents a summary of inspection work conducted by the Office of Climate, Licensing and Resource Use in 2007.

Table 2: OCLR Inspections 2007 Inspection Type

Inspection Type

Number

License application and review inspections

200

GMO facility inspections

12

Emission Trading inspections

110

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment inspections

532

Decorative Paints inspections

500

Restriction of Hazardous Substances inspections

135

PCBs/POPs inspections

68

Ozone Depleting Substances inspections

7