The role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Irish planning process
The EPA has responsibility for preventing and controlling environmental emissions from certain activities with potential for significant impact on the environment, through the operation of a system of Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) licensing. The objective of the IPC system is to ensure that relevant activities operate to a standard which provides a high level of protection for the environment. The system is based on the application of BATNEEC (best available technology not entailing excessive costs) in order to prevent or eliminate, or where that is not practicable, to limit, abate or reduce emissions from activities. Such development activities require planning consent and an IPC licence (for which there is a separate application procedure). The projects to be licensed by the EPA are set out in the First Schedule to the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. In cases where an EIS is required to be submitted with a planning application to a planning authority, the EIS must also accompany the application to the EPA for an IPC licence.
Article 28(1)(I) of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 to 2002 requires a planning authority to notify the EPA of a planning application where the development comprises or is for the purposes of an activity in relation to which an IPC licence is required. The notification to the EPA must include a copy of the planning application and any EIS. The EPA is given 5 weeks from the date of the application to make a submission or observation in relation to the application.
Section 98(1) of the EPA Act 1992 (as amended by section 256 of the 2000 Planning Act) provides that, where a planning authority decides to grant planning permission for development which comprises or is for the purposes of an activity in relation to which an IPC licence is required, it cannot impose conditions which are for the purposes, inter alia, of controlling emissions from the operation of the activity, including the prevention, limitation, elimination, abatement or reduction of those emissions. However, Section 98(1)(A) of the EPA Act 1992 (as inserted by section 256 of the 2000 Planning Act) allows a planning authority to refuse planning permission for such a development where it considers that the development is unacceptable on environmental grounds.