Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990 [ Seanad ]: Report Stage.

Amendments Nos. 1a and 2 are related to amendment No. 1 and I suggest, therefore, that these three amendments be discussed together. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, lines 19 and 20, to delete "Part I (other than section 18 (1)), Part II (other than section 43), Part IV (other than section 93) and Part VI will come into" and substitute "Parts I, II, III, IV, V and VI will commence".

There are in excess of 300 amendments to be dealt with on Report Stage in the space of about two hours and therefore, I do not propose to take up a great deal of time on this amendment. We had a long debate on Committee Stage on the parts of the Bill that should be brought into effect immediately and the Minister agreed to come back on Report Stage with an amendment on this matter. I am very glad that the Minister proposes to commence Part III of the Bill, which deals with the functions of the agency, with the other parts of the Bill. That is certainly acceptable to me and therefore I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 1a:

In page 7, line 20, before "Part IV", to insert "Part III,".

I gave an undertaking on Committee Stage that it was my intention to ensure that the agency had as many functions as possible delegated to them and that as much of the legislation as possible would come into effect very quickly. I undertook to reconsider which parts of the Bill could be brought into effect on the establishment of the agency.

I accept the point that was made by Deputy Gilmore and other Deputies on Committee Stage. Deputy Gilmore said that the functions of the agency should be with the agency from day one. I am happy to propose this amendment.

It is not possible to implement some of the Bill's provisions from day one. For example, section 18 (1), which repeals part of the 1963 Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, cannot be brought into effect until noise regulations have been implemented. Otherwise, there would be no law in relation to noise, and, whatever about the unsatisfactory position that might exist, I am sure all Deputies would agree it would not be appropriate to leave a vacuum. Likewise, section 43, which relates to the establishment of regional environmental units, cannot be brought into effect on day one. That will take time as the agency will have to determine precisely where they require those units before the units can be established.

So far as I could, I have brought all parts of the legislation, with the exception of Part V, under the commencement provision. It is envisaged that the functions in relation to inquiries and the transfer of powers under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act and the Air Pollution Act will be given to the agency in time but it is not necessary that they be given on day one.

I am pleased that Deputy Gilmore has withdrawn his amendment and I appreciate the support for my amendment.

I support the Minister's amendment. I feel that she has made a reasonable gesture in the direction of speeding up the implementation of this legislation. I shall withdraw my amendment No. 2.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 8, line 15, after "1987," to insert "as amended by the Third Schedule,".

I do not intend to take too long on these early amendments as I wish to get into the meat of the debate and I feel that we have a long night ahead of us. I understand that the Minister changed the definition of "pollutant" in the Third Schedule. That has a consequential impact on the definition of "emission". This amendment, which stands in my name and that of Deputy Kavanagh, seeks to regularise that.

This amendment is unnecessary because section 3 (4) refers to the Act being construed as the Act as amended.

I take the Minister's word for that. I presume that the consequential changes will be incorporated in the final draft of the Bill. Is that what the Minister is implying? We have had a very short time in which to examine the Committee Stage approved Bill so it is difficult for us to consider the way in which amendments slot in.

To make a general point, I consider that it is a bad procedure to try to guillotine a great number of issues in a complex Bill in a very short time. I remonstrated at the Whip's meeting last week about the completely inadequate time given between the completion of Committee Stage and the introduction of Report Stage. I take the Minister's word and I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

We now come to amendment No. 4. Amendment No. 5 is an alternative amendment and amendment No. 14 is related. I therefore suggest that for debate purposes amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 14 be taken together. Is that procedure satisfactory? Agreed.

I move amendment No.4:

In page 8, subsection (1), between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

"(e) radiation, or

(f) release of a genetically modified organism as defined in section 111;".

This amendment is identical to my amendment No. 4 on Committee Stage, so I shall not go through the arguments I put forward then. Several Deputies, including Deputies Howlin and Gilmore, supported the amendment on Committee Stage. The Minister did not hold out any real hope in the reply on Committee Stage and I am disappointed that she has not had second thoughts. It appears that my pleas are falling on deaf ears, so rather than waste any further time, I shall withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 8, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

"(e) ionising radiation, electro-magnetic radiation and other radiations (light and heat), or

(f) residues (salts and pesticides);".

This amendment has already been discussed with amendment No. 4. However, the Deputy may wish to comment on it.

It has not been discussed. I did not get an opportunity to discuss it.

The amendment was discussed with amendment No. 4. I stated that amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 14 were related and asked for the permission of the House to have them discussed together.

But we have not disposed of amendment No. 5 yet.

No, the Deputy may wish to comment on it.

I feel that the definition of "emission" is not an all-embracing definition and that the words "ionising radiation, electro-magnetic radiation and other radiations (light and heat), or residues (salts and pesticides)" should be included in that definition. Has the Minister considered whether or not this addition would be helpful to the definition or does she believe that they are already covered under the definition of "emissions"?

As I said on Committee Stage, radiation is already the responsibility of what is to be the Radiological Protection Institute. It would not be appropriate to have two national bodies duplicate responsibilities in this regard and it is obvious that the institute would be the appropriate body to have responsibility for matters relating to radiation.

Residues (salts and pesticides) are already included in the definition of "emission" if discharged as polluting matter, sewage effluent or trade effluent within the meaning of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977; if emitted into the atmosphere as a pollutant within the meaning of the Air Pollution Act, 1987; or if included in the disposal of waste. Therefore, there is no need to include specific reference to those matters.

In relation to electro-magnetic radiation and other radiations (light and heat), I am assured that they are already covered under the definition of environmental pollution in section 4 (2). In that definition "environmental pollution" includes "air pollution" for the purposes of the Air Pollution Act, 1987. "Pollutant" as defined in the 1987 Act includes, as well as specific substances specified in the First Schedule to that Act, any other substance or energy which may cause pollution. I am advised that that definition includes electro-magnetic radiation and other radiations (light and heat) and therefore this part of the proposed amendment is not necessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 6 is in the name of Deputy Gilmore. Amendments Nos. 212, 213 and 214 are related to this amendment and I therefore suggest that amendments Nos. 6, 212, 213 and 214 be discussed together. Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 9, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following: "(e) an urban district council or a town commissioner,".

In the Bill as drafted the definition of "Local authority" is defined as comprising county councils, city councils and the Borough Corporation of Dún Laoghaire with no mention of urban district councils or town commissioners. In view of the considerable anxiety obtaining on the part of urban district councils and town commissioners about their possible demise within the context of the second phase of local government re-organisation I found it somewhat strange that they should have been excluded from the definition of "local authority". I wonder whether the Minister of State knows something the remainder of us do not about the fate of urban district councils and town commissioners. Perhaps she would either accept my amendment or clarify the position for us regarding the reasons for their exclusion.

Deputy Gilmore's amendment would extend the definition of "local authority" in the Bill from the 33 existing local authorities covered by the existing definition — which is the standard in practically all environmental legislation — to over 100 in all. Such extension would not be justified in all cases.

For example, it has been the practice in environmental legislation to confine the powers conferred by that legislation to the major local authorities. The principal reason for this is that only the major local authorities would have the resources, including the requisite level of expertise, to implement the provisions of the legislation. Therefore, it is appropriate that the definition in the Bill should remain unchanged. However, it is recognised that in some instances the wider definition of "local authority" would be appropriate. For example, in the case of advice given by the agency under the provisions of section 56, the performance of their statutory functions under section 61 and agreements to provide services to the agency under the provisions of section 45. In these cases the definition is extended and in every other section where the wider definition of "local authority" would be appropriate. These references take into account the resources, functions and capabilities of the various local authorities concerned.

My amendments arise from a detailed review of the use of the words "local authority" in the Bill when studying Deputy Gilmore's amendments tabled for Committee Stage. While having indicated I am generally satisfied with the definition of "local authority" it is apparent that the use of planning authority rather than local authority in section 89 would be more consistent with the remainder of Part IV. These amendments provide the necessary alterations.

I might add that the definition of "local authority" being used in this Bill is in line with the recommendations of the report of the Barrington Committee on Local Government Reform which quite specifically said that the county council was the most appropriate body for the implementation of major environmental legislation, capital works programmes and matters of that kind. It would not be possible — I think I made this point on our Part IV discussion the other day — to extend to town commissioners and to urban district councils additional functions in relation to environmental protection in that they do not have the resources or expertise. It would not be possible to provide those. Were we to widen the definition in this Part of the Bill to include town commissioners and urban district councils we would be diffusing the position rather than providing a central, coherent body that would help to streamline the way we organise our environmental protection activities, which is the whole purpose behind the establishment of this agency.

Therefore, I am afraid I cannot accept Deputy Gilmore's amendment. However, where advice may be forthcoming in the performance of their statutory functions and so on, obviously the agency will have a role to play in relation to all local authorities, including urban district councils and town commissioners.

We had a long debate about subsidiarity on Committee Stage. I have no intention of re-opening that topic. However, it does not augur well for the future of urban district councils and town commissioners that, in the body of environmental legislation going through this House, they should be excluded from the definition of "local authority". I contend it takes on an added meaning in the context of what we now know about the Government's intentions, or at least those of the Minister of State's party, with regard to the future of those bodies.

Amendment put and declared lost.

We come now to amendment No. 7 in the names of Deputies J. Mitchell, Carey and Allen.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 9, line 21, after "structure" to insert ", portion of the sea or seabed".

I was not satisfied with the Minister's explanation on Committee Stage in relation to this amendment. Therefore I have re-entered the suggestion that, after the word "structure" we should insert ", portion of the sea or seabed" because it seems to me that it clarifies beyond doubt that such places are covered by some parts of this Bill.

I must inform the Deputy that my advice is similar today, that the "seabed" is covered by the present definition of "premises" by virtue of the inclusion of "land" whether or not that land is covered with water. It is clear that the jurisdiction of the agency is within the State which includes the territorial waters of the State. It is also clear, from the definition of "waters", within the meaning of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, that the agency's area of jurisdiction applies to tidal waters which is defined as including the sea and estuaries. I might add that I sought the advice of the parliamentary draftsmen in relation to whether or not fish cages might be covered by the term "structure", which may be one of the reasons for the Deputy having tabled his amendment. I am assured that they are covered by the reference to "structure".

I did mean to cover one of the points the Minister referred to in my amendment. My advice is that it is far from clear that the Bill as drafted covers all of the sea, all of the seabed, or all structures or features of the sea or seabed; that it would be better to clarify that part of the sea or seabed is included. For instance, under the Foreshores Act, I know that the "land" is the land which appears at low water mark.

The Minister is now contending that "land" is land under territorial seas, which definition is certainly not replicated in the Foreshores Act. I am surprised to hear the Minister say that her advice is that land under territorial seas, is included in the legislation obtaining. Certainly it is a surprise to me to hear that fish farms, floating or submerged platforms are covered by the present definition because my advice is that they are not.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 8 not moved.
Debate adjourned.