Sunday 12 July 2009

EPA identifies new sanctions that could be used in Ireland to protect the environment

The EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) has published a report entitled - A Study on the Use of Administrative Sanctions for Environmental Offences in other comparable countries and assessment of their possible use in Ireland.

The report reviewed the use of civil/administrative sanctions relevant to environmental protection in Ireland, the UK, USA, Germany and Australia.

The drivers for the study, from a regulatory point of view, were -

* The burden of proof required to use the current criminal code for regulatory offences and the associated resources.
* The lack of options between the maximum District Court Sanction of €3,000 and the maximum Circuit Court Sanction of €15m.

The study, commissioned by the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE), identified 20 administrative sanctions that are available to environmental regulators to enforce environmental law without resort to criminal or civil court proceedings.

In total, Ireland already has access to 11 of the 20 non-criminal sanctions identified. Some of the non-criminal sanctions that Ireland either does not have, or does not have a legislative basis for are -

* Enforcement Undertaking
Written undertakings to remedy the harm done that can be enforceable in court.

* Fixed or variable Penalties
Payment of specified or variable monetary amounts to discharge or compensate for the breach (on-the-spot fines or infringement notices).

* Environmental or Community Services Order
Offender carries out a specified project for public benefit. Examples include the provision of recycling facilities, conservation or remediation work, training or education initiatives, etc.

* Compensation Order
Offender compensates the regulator or third party for costs incurred in taking action.

* Name and Shame or Publicity Orders
Order requiring publicity of environmental consequences, penalties, etc.

“New environmental legislation and the nature of illegal activity requires an increasingly sophisticated and flexible enforcement response to attain compliance” - said Dara Lynott, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement.

“Administrative sanctions have the potential to put the environmental regulator in a better position to match their response to the realities of enforcement. This report will contribute positively to the debate about better regulation” - he added.

The study also identified a number of hurdles that would need to addressed if additional administrative sanctions were to be introduced. These include the identification of the costs versus the benefits, the right to appeal against a sanction and the protection of the constitutional rights of the individual.

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