LEGISLATION that would save the taxpayer huge sums of money has not been introduced into Irish law.
The deadline for the polluters-pay directive was yesterday.
The Government objected to the legislation when it was voted on by member states in Brussels three years ago but it was finally adopted in April 2004.
The new rules, modelled on the US system, means that those who cause environmental damage must pay to remedy it. It covers damage to water resources, natural habitats, animals, plants and to contamination of land that causes significant harm to human health.
The legislation would save taxpayers in the EU about €1.5 billion a year and encourage companies to be more careful about the environment. It is the first EU law specifically based on the polluter-pays principle.
The Government’s failure to enact the law was criticised by Labour party MEP Proinsias De Rossa.
“It should have been enacted into Irish law by April 30 but this deadline has not been met,” he said.
The polluter-pays principle was lobbied against by business interests but after almost 20 years of haggling, agreement was reached by a majority of countries.
However only Italy, Latvia and Lithuania have incorporated it and the Commission may take legal action against the rest.
Those involved in activities that could result in pollution must pay the costs of preventing the risk or for remedying any environmental damage. Activities covered include releasing heavy metals into water or the air, installations producing dangerous chemicals, landfill sites and incineration plants.