The EPA overall has provided “considerable benefit for Ireland’s environment and for the health and well-being of its people,” according to an independent review of the agency. The review was a commitment in the Programme for Government 2007, and is the first review of the Environmental Protection Agency to be carried out. The EPA welcomes the endorsement of its role and performance.
The review involved a comprehensive examination of the EPA and a public consultation process to gather views from the public and the widest range of interested parties. The assessment of the agency was structured under a number of themes including:
* Internal Structure and Resources,
* Assessment and Monitoring,
* Environmental Research and Information,
* Relationship with Stakeholders; and
* Legislative Framework.
The final report makes 58 recommendations under these headings, some addressed to the Environmental Protection Agency itself and recommending a strengthening or deepening of some activities, or the undertaking of new approaches; others address the very important issue of national environmental governance and are addressed to the EPA along with other stakeholders including the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government; and others which would require changes and consolidation of legislation to take effect.
Whistle-blowers legislation, extending Parliamentary Questions to EPA, and bringing the EPA under the remit of the Ombudsman are among the recommendations.
Some of the key findings and recommendations of the review include:
* Generic legislation to protect whistle-blowers should be introduced;
* The EPA should be subject to the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction in respect of administrative issues and be more answerable to the Oireachtas through the extension of the parliamentary question process to the Agency;
* Robust systems to monitor and enforce the financial requirements of licences should be put in place, to ensure there is sufficient provision for the aftercare of facilities;
* The level of license fees should be routinely reviewed, these are due for upward revision;
* There is a strong argument for the EPA’s licensing process to be revised to include formal requirements on Health Impact Assessment, with a specialist Advisory Committee being established to address the interface between the environment and human health;
* A wider review of environmental governance in Ireland should be carried out;
* Funding for environmental research should be maintained;
* Interaction between the planning and environmental licensing should be addressed in light of the ECJ judgment against Ireland;
* The Aarhus Convention should be ratified.