Enforcement Policy

This report sets out the “EPA’s Enforcement & Compliance Policy”.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the Office of Environmental Enforcement do?

The OEE is an Office within the Environmental Protection Agency dedicated to the implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation in Ireland. Its main functions are to: 

  • Improve overall compliance with environmental protection legislation.
  • Raise awareness about the importance of enforcement of environmental protection legislation.
  • Enforce Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control licences, waste licences and Urban Waste Water Discharge licences. 
  • Audit and report on the performance of local authorities in their environmental protection functions, including enforcement in respect of breaches of waste permits, taking action on illegal dumping, implementation of waste collection permits, and enforcing producer responsibility initiatives in areas such as packaging waste.
  • Take action against local authorities that are not discharging their environmental protection functions properly.
  • Prosecute, or assist local authorities to prosecute, significant breaches of environmental protection legislation, in a timely manner.
  • Assist local authorities to improve their environmental protection performance on a case by case basis, through establishing an enforcement network to promote information exchange and best practice, and by providing guidance.
Does the establishment of the OEE lessen the environmental responsibilities of other bodies?

No. Local authorities and other public agencies have a range of significant environmental protection functions, and continue to have responsibility for enforcement. 

While the OEE is not a one-stop shop for all environmental enforcement issues, it coordinates national efforts to improve the level of compliance with and enforcement of environmental legislation.  It also has a major role in supervising local authority environmental performance. In these ways, the OEE focuses greater attention on the need for better enforcement of environmental protection legislation by all public bodies with enforcement responsibilities.

How do you interact with other public bodies?

The OEE established an enforcement network involving various public bodies with enforcement responsibilities. We also monitor compliance by public authorities with their environmental enforcement obligations. 

The OEE has built on the Environmental Protection Agency's existing relationship with local authorities. It works with local authorities to bring about an overall improvement in the level and consistency of enforcement of environmental protection legislation in Ireland. It also audits local authorities' performance in enforcing this legislation. This includes giving directions to local authorities when necessary and to prosecute if directions are not complied with. We also work, where appropriate, with the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Criminal Assets Bureau, Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and other public sector bodies involved in enforcement activities.

How is it structured?

The OEE is one of five offices in the Environmental Protection Agency. Like the Directors of the other Offices, the Director of the OEE is a member of the Board of the EPA.

The OEE is based in our headquarters in Wexford, with enforcement teams in Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny and Castlebar. It is assisted by our laboratories and field staff in Dublin, Castlebar, Cork, Kilkenny, Monaghan, Athlone and Limerick.

What is the OEE's Enforcement Policy?

The OEE puts the environment first and encourages individuals and businesses to integrate good environmental practices into normal working methods.

We seek to prevent environmental pollution before it has a chance to occur. The OEE provides information and advice via published guidance to those it regulates, to secure environmental improvements while ensuring value for money. The OEE also works with local authorities and other regulators to ensure efficient use of resources and coherent enforcement of environmental law. Where appropriate, it co-operates with local authorities and other public bodies, voluntary groups and non-governmental organisations in order to achieve common goals. 

Our enforcement policy sets out the general principles which the OEE follows in relation to enforcement and prosecution. These include the principles of: 

  • Proportionality in the application of environmental law and in securing compliance 
  • Consistency of approach 
  • Transparency about how the OEE operates 
  • Targeting of enforcement action Implementation of the "polluter pays" principle