Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

As I was saying, section 9 of Part I of the Bill gives a very strong warning indeed to polluters who harm the environment. That warning is that you face massive fines and-or years in jail if you violate in a major way the provisions in this Bill. Thus, a person found guilty of an offence under the Act shall be liable on conviction on indictment to a maximum fine of £10 million and-or ten years imprisonment and, on summary conviction, to a maximum fine of £1,000 and-or six months imprisonment. Daily penalties for ongoing offences will involve a maximum fine of £100,000 per day on conviction on indictment and a maximum fine of £200 per day on summary conviction.

Part II of the Bill deals with the establishment of an environmental protection agency, its organisational structures, staffing and financial arrangements. In so far as it is possible to do so, this Bill seeks to secure the ability of the agency to make independent decisions on such matters as licensing, monitoring, research, etc. This is achieved by the manner in which the director general and the board of directors are appointed and by the ability and responsibility of the agency to publish information and to provide public access to categories of information.

Part III of the Bill sets out the functions of the proposed agency and these range from direct action functions, which include licensing and control, to advisory support, overseeing and indeed promotional functions.

Part IV of the Bill introduces the concept of an integrated pollution control licensing system. This, of course, will be operated by the agency for those activities which are specified in the First Schedule of the Bill. The introduction of integrated pollution control, IPC, is welcome but, of course, it is very long overdue. It was recommended by the British Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution as far back as 1976 and it is contained in the British Environmental Protection Act, 1990.

Part V of the Bill enables the Minister to extend to the agency powers under existing air and water pollution legislation and to make air and water management plans on behalf of local authorities. The various problems facing local authorities have been outlined by the Leader of the House and I do not intend to go into them at this stage except to say that he raised many matters which need to be considered and perhaps to be amended.

Part VI of the Bill deals with certain specific environmental problems, including the very real problem of noise and, of course, the question of genetically modified organisms, GMOs. Section 105 of the Bill provides that any person affected by a nuisance caused by noise will be able to complain and to apply to the District Court for redress. I welcome this provision.

Section 104 of the Bill gives new powers to local authorities to require that measures be taken to prevent and to limit noise. Section 103 of the Bill enables the Minister to introduce, by regulation, further controls for the prevention or limitation of noise. All these provisions must be welcomed by those of us who serve on local authorities.

Under section 108 of the Bill, power is given to control the use of genetically modified organisms and section 107 provides for greater access to environmental information held by public authorities, including the implementation of the EC directive on this issue. However, as was pointed out by Viscount Mills during the debate on similar legislation in the House of Lords in Britain, developments and techniques in the scale of bioengineering operations are likely to continue to increase rapidly. As public awareness of the issues involved increases, so too will public debate on possible ethical, moral and legal problems of genetically modified organisms. Thus, the provisions in this Bill may be only a first step. Further legislation could well be required in future to address some of the wider issues associated with genetic engineering.

I share the concern expressed recently by Frank Convery of the Environmental Institute at University College, Dublin, in a paper presented to the first Irish environmental researchers' colloquim which was held at Sligo Regional Technical College on 11 January 1991. I congratulate all associated with that colloquim. The extent and the comprehensiveness of the papers presented deserves the commendation of this House. He stated: "The lack of an appeal mechanism and the absolute discretion on the part of the agency to hold an oral hearing on a licence does limit the scope of public involvement in the decision making process and for development interests to get a review of a negative decision".

On a similar vein, An Taisce, in a press release dated 1 December 1990, stated:

An Taisce is concerned about the looseness of the discretionary power which the proposed agency has in relation to the holding of an oral hearing prior to the granting or refusal of a licence. Since the licensing function of the agency will not be open to appeal, the basis of the agency's decisions on the holding of oral hearings must be unambiguous and transparent. The present wording of the Bill gives no indication of how and when the discretionary power might be used and leaves the agency exposed in controversial situations.

It may, therefore, be necessary on Committee Stage to look again at the necessity and the desirability of having a more definite appeals mechanism and greater assurances regarding the holding of oral hearings.

In conclusion, it is clear that the policymakers face daunting challenges in this area. As has been stressed by the Leader of the House and others, there is a need to strike that often elusive balance between building and sustaining an industrial society while at the same time preserving an environment rendered all the more fragile by that very industrial process. There is a place for sensible regulations which are tight enough to guarantee conservation and flexible enough to permit growth. Good environmental management is now an imperative and, as has been well proved, is a good investment. I would like to welcome this important Bill and compliment all those associated with its preparation and presentation and welcome in particular the fact that it has been introduced in the Seanad in the first instance.

I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of State for introducing this legislation in the Seanad in the first instance. I trust it will be the first of many such Bills to be introduced in this House.

The Bill before the House tonight is perhaps one of the most significant and necessary pieces of legislation to appear in a very long time. The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency is long overdue. In contemporary Ireland the preservation of the environment and the country's natural assets are assuming ever increasing importance. There is a well defined public awareness of the need to take a more caring and respectful approach to the natural and built environment. We have identified the need to be much more sensitive towards the environment when it comes to commercial, industrial and agricultural activities. The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency will play a meaningful role in acting as an independent objective invigilator in seeking to achieve managed and sustainable protection and conservation of our physical environment.

The agency will be charged with the responsibility for overseeing, controlling and regulating various activities which may be regarded as prejudicial to the quality of the environment. The agency will also provide the supporting advisory function for the benefit of public authorities. I absolutely endorse the fundamental philosophy in hand in this legislation as it is now imperative, through the effective operation of the Environmental Protection Agency, that a rational balance and an informed approach be taken to matters relating to the environment and its overall protection.

The operative word as far as I am concerned in this increasingly topical debate is "balance". I have already referred to increased public consciousness in the area of environmental protection. Man is the greatest destroyer of the environment, he poses the single most menacing threat to the ecology. However, I believe in many instances most of the public's concern and anxieties, which have been voiced so stridently, are ill-informed and emotionally charged. Much hysteria has been introduced in an effort to scare-monger. Objections have been voiced, but the scientific data to substantiate many fears and concerns have in some cases not been produced, or are of dubious validity. Of course, we have a responsibility to act as conscientious custodians of the environment, but we must also be pragmatic in our approach to development.

The single greatest duty which the Environmental Protection Agency could discharge is that of reconciling the interests of the environment and industry. These interests need not necessarily be competing or mutually incompatible. Mature and sensible assessment is crucial and will play a dominant role in resolving an alarmingly high number of disputes. The scenario should not be industrialist versus the environmentalist. I believe it is totally wrong that we can credibly argue that all environmental concerns must take precedence or must be paramount in a developmental context. It is very foolish to assume that we can all aspire to the idyllic existence of organic farming, important as that is. This is not the real world but, unfortunately, many would have us reach for such a lifestyle. We live in an age, unfortunately, where man's propensity is to be environmentally unfriendly, where we can be reckless with regard to the environmental consequences of our operations. Thankfully, we are now somewhat more enlightened, but a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

I am fearful of accelerating public disquiet being generated. To my mind, there is an urgent need for public dialogue, for informed public debate where issues affecting the environment are addressed in a comprehensive manner based on sound scientific data. We have to have regard to man's well being, but we must also be mindful of economic realities. There is a possibility that extreme reactions can have devastating implications for man's livelihood. Industrial development and job creation in this country must also be a priority. However, there is evidence to suggest that much industrial activity could be stifled or prevented in the absence of rational and balanced public policy parameters. Extreme sensitivity towards industrial development, the raising of spurious opposition for whatever reason could have detrimental consequences for employment potential in the long term. It is only through a process of balanced dialogue and educated debate that we can set about creating a situation where industrial prosperity and environmental integrity can co-exist harmoniously.

The establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency is momentous in that we will now have an independent assessor, comprising a bank of expertise which will have due regard to all processes which will impinge on the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency will be in a position to offer objective appraisal and to reconcile seemingly conflicting objections. It is absolutely vital that appropriate regulatory controls be put in place, that monitoring be conducted on a consistent basis and that the twin national desires of our environmental conservation and economic prosperity be encouraged in tandem with the proper over-view procedures.

Having fully endorsed the thrust of the Bill in its broader control, I would now like to give closer scrutiny to some provisions of the proposed legislation. The concept of environmental protection encompasses control of a broad spectrum of activities which impact on the environment, for example, offshore oil, farming and agri-business, forestry, land drainage, local authority operations, mariculture, aquaculture, industrial activities, mining, peat extraction, energy, farming, etc.

At present this range of activities is controlled through a combination of planning permission procedures, discharge licences, waste disposal permits, etc. In specific cases the planning licensing procedure involves and includes the formal environmental impact assessment process. Currently, the onus rests on the relevant local authority to administer all these procedures subject to the right to appeal planning or licensing decisions to An Bord Pleanála. In the case of some activities, for example offshore oil or mariculture, they are subject to control by the appropriate Government Departments. The Bill proposes to divide the environmental protection functions between local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, the functions of some Government Departments may become subject to approval of the Environmental Protection Agency provided the agreement of the relevant Minister is forthcoming. The Environmental Protection Agency will effectively be excluded from the EIA procedure. The role of the Environmental Protection Agency will be confined to submissions of observations to planning authorities in similar fashion to that currently obtaining for bodies such as An Taisce.

First Schedule activities comprise of major industrial projects. and the Environmental Protection Agency will operate an integrated pollution control licence for such activities. The integrated licence may contain conditions relating to air, water, noise, waste and other unspecified aspects. However, it appears that a clear separation of Environmental Protection Agency and local authority functions is not achieved: for example, the integrated licence could include conditions which conflict with conditions attached to a planning permission. Equally, the integrated licence is excluded from controlling First Schedule or any other waste waters connected to a local authority sewer. Consequently, the Environmental Protection Agency will not be empowered to control domestic or industrial waste waters in sewered areas.

In relation to all other activities, the status quo prevails; local authorities and Government Departments will be responsible for controls. Thus, the control powers invested in the Environmental Protection Agency would appear to be very restricted in terms of the range of activities which affect the environment. I stress that this could be a major shortcoming; moreover the proposed role of the Environmental Protection Agency introduces an additional layer of complexity to this situation which currently exists and could potentially have the capacity in certain circumstances to dilute rather than consolidate current environmental controls. For example, the First Schedule activity applies for an integrated pollution control licence from the Environmental Protection Agency. The same activity applies for planning permission from the local authority. An EIS is required and submitted to the local authority. The local authority assess the EIS and issue their planning decision. However most of the contents of the EIS will relate to omissions which will be under the control of the Environmental Protection Agency and not the local authority. The Environmental Protection Agency, which will be preparing their integrated pollution control licence, will not be involved in the EIA process. The result will be that the EIA will be carried out by the wrong authority. It is almost useless to the local authority who must do the assessment. Conversely, the Environmental Protection Agency who need to be involved to prepare their licence are excluded from the assessment. I gather from the Minister of State's speech that she has identified this as one of the problems and hopes it can be sorted out.

A formal appeals structure, through An Bord Pleanála, is currently in place for decisions pertaining to applications for planning permissions and licences. The proposed Environmental Protection Agency integrated pollution control licence has no provision for a formal appeals process and the developer or third party is entitled to lodge an objection with the Environmental Protection Agency. However, the Environmental Protection Agency, or an agent nominated by the Environmental Protection Agency, will process the objection. This self-assessment may not be in the interest of the developer, third parties or, indeed, overall environmental protection.

In an attempt to demystify the process and to lend public confidence to the Environmental Protection Agency in terms of the exercise of their functions in this regard, I welcome the Minister's placing an obligation on the Environmental Protection Agency to give public access to any records or files connected with any decision issued on the self-assessment basis. In my view affected parties are entitled to know the grounds on which a decision is made. By lending greater transparency to the process greater public confidence can be achieved and sustained. The appeals system regarding planning permission is still vested in An Bord Pleanála and it appears that the board will be confined to dealing with matters relating purely to planning. The effect will be to exclude the board from handling appeals relating to emissions to the environment. In the absence of our right to appeal to An Bord Pleanála on environmental issues the only judicial resort for any objector is the High Court. This could inevitably place a substantial financial burden on the applicant. Equally, I believe the High Court is not the appropriate forum for resolving such disputes given that it would lack a certain amount of scientific expertise in this area.

I welcome the comprehensive monitoring powers vested in the Environmental Protection Agency under this proposed legislation. This capacity will be of extremely significant benefit. I also welcome the long overdue increased penalties for offences committed under this legislation. This reinforces the deterrent and preventive nature of our environmental legislation. The monitoring powers include right of access to emission sources and emission records. This is indeed a welcome development. Such powers to enter the plant should greatly enhance public confidence in the State's ability to identify and successfully prosecute transgressors.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency will be empowered to monitor the activities of local authorities in so far as their activities impact on the environment. This includes a requirement on local authorities to execute monitoring of their own activities under the direction of the EPA. This is a welcome departure and I need hardly point to the advantages inherent in that provision. In the past some local authorities have been the worst culprits in the flagrant disregard for the environment. It is absolutely vital that the powers of the EPA in this regard be rigorously enforced. This discipline to be imposed on local authorities is progressive and timely.

The Environmental Protection Agency will have various miscellaneous functions including the production of state of the environment reports, promoting environmental research and environmental audits, and providing data bases, general environmental advice and advisory functions to Ministers. While these are obviously necessary and important functions they are only of value if they can be used by the EPA to effect real environmental protection.

Effective environmental protection is the ultimate goal of this legislation. However, I ask the Minister to consider a number of amendments which would greatly augment the operations and scope with the Environmental Protection Agency in accomplishing their expressed aims. The existing arrangement whereby applications for planning permission licences and permits are currently directed to relevant planning authorities or Government Departments could continue to operate. However, these applications could then be referred by the local authority or Government Department for the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency. It should also be necessary for local authorities and Government Departments to submit their proposals for developments which would potentially affect the environment. It would then be possible for the Environmental Protection Agency to assess such applications, including the conduct of the EIA procedure where appropriate. The Environmental Protection Agency could prepare all relevant environmental licences, permits and conditions. Equally a system of licensing and permitting of farming activities should be introduced and could be under the control of the Environmental Protection Agency who would issue them to the local authority or relevant Government Department. These Environmental Protection Agency conditions, licences and so on need not be subject to change by the local authority or Government Department, who could simply attach their appropriate conditions not relating to environmental emissions or other environmental aspects within the remit of the Environmental Protection Agency. It would be possible for the normal independent appeals procedure to operate on the issue of notice of intent to grant planning permission by the local authority or Government Department.

I would now like to refer in some detail to section 10 which enables the Minister to regulate any process or action involving a genetically modified organism for the purpose of preventing or minimising any damage to the environment or any danger to health arising from the planned or accidental release of such organisms. Provision is made for the making of regulations for the purpose of the section and for the control function to be assigned to the Minister or any such person or body as may be prescribed. This section requires the person in charge of any process or action involving a genetically modified organism to use the best available technology not entailing excessive costs for the purpose of environmental protection. While I recognise that reasonably stringent systems of over sight governing genetically modified organisms must be put in place, I urge the Minister to exercise caution with regard to the nature of persons or bodies whom she may prescribe to implement this provision. This aspect of bio-technology is incredibly complex and sophisticated. Consequently it is of paramount importance that persons or bodies have the appropriate expertise and scientific resources to properly assess the environmental implications of any such bio-processes and to make correct decisions in enforcing these provisions.

Bio-technology, and the incredible advances in its various applications, represent one of the most revolutionary techniques in the production of goods and services. Some discussion of bio-technology and the material benefits which accrue to mankind is germane particularly in the context of environmental protection. It is essential that due regard be taken of this dynamic process in establishing regularity controls under section 108. It is important, if the growing bio-industry is to be encouraged and fostered and if we are to harness the accruing benefits, that regulations not be unnecessarily cumbersome or stultifying. Moreover, it is vital that any decision made in the exercise of the functions granted in section 108 be based on sound scientific data while all the time being mindful of safety, prudence and progress. Bio-technology products and services have been successfully applied in three primary sections, health care, agriculture and food, and environmental management. Benefits have undoubtedly occurred and will continue to occur as developments continue.

Let me outline some of the well documented areas in which significant and practical progress has been achieved. In the area of health care, the production of interferons used to treat cancer and leukaemia, the production of tissue, plasminogen, activator used in treatment following heart attack, human insulin which is used to treat diabetics and blood factor to treat haemophilia. Factor 8 is noteworthy in this regard. All of these products of which many of us have been beneficiaries are based on recombinant DNA, technology which replaces traditional technologies based on extraction from animal organs. The appalling tragedy of HIV infection among haemophiliacs treated with Factor 8 arising from blood transfusions is well documented. It should be emphasised that Factor 8 produced by bio-technology methods has no attaching AIDS risk. The enormous benefit to humanity as a result of the production of this blood factor are manifest and indisputable.

The second area where achievements are occurring is that of agriculture and food. Significant international research is now concentrated towards improving the environmental value of food crops. Work is currently being undertaken in developing crops with the greater ability to tolerate drought and high soil content. Predictions are that crops will be developed which will withstand higher temperatures.

Currently many crops produced suffer from viral, fungal and other infestations. Bio-technology has the potential to develop crops which process inbuilt resistance to insects, fungi and viruses. In the area of animal reproduction bio-technology techniques have been successfully employed to improve animal breeding programmes. The area of particular relevance to today's debate is that of environmental management. Biotechnologies offer enormous potential in actively preventing widespread destruction of our country by waste products. We are all painfully aware of the pernicious effect of synthetic fabrics such as non bio-degradable plastics. Bio-technology has a highly positive contribution to offer in terms of development of bio-degradable products. Equally, biological processing of toxic chemicals should greatly improve hazardous waste management.

Changes in agricultural techniques potentially will reduce agricultural waste. Bio-technology systems are already applied in the purification and treatment of water. Scientific indications are that the use of biological processes in industry will reduce overall air pollution by as much as 15 per cent. Agriculture uses a significant portion of two of the earth's most natural resources, land and water not to mention carbon dioxide. The single greatest cause of loss of top soil is excess tillage. New means of weed control reduces the need to till, so this loss can be cut significantly. Environmental quality depends to a large extent on our ability to develop and foster agricultural systems which produce efficiently while sustaining our natual resource base.

Bio-technology represents one of the few opportunities available to improve agricultural systems while simultaneously protecting the environment. Instead of relying only on chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers there is now the ability to introduce these properties directly into plants through recombinant DNA technology, or by micro injection. The development of new varieties of crop's resistant to disease and pests can be achieved by way of a reduction of noxious chemicals. The impact of such developments is profound.

The introduction of this Bill is a significant move in comprehensively addressing environmental considerations in a modern context. We must be prepared to take on board any innovative or creative methods by which the overall integrity and character of our environment can be maintained while seeking to encourage and promote industrial development and sustainable employment. In the overall decisions on environmental protection in which the new agency will serve as a powerful instrument we must have regard to the advantages new and evolving techniques can give to proper management of the environment. It is interesting that this Bill should contain provisions to govern the process of genetically modifying organisms. If prudently and practically regulated this process should be recognised as offering outstanding potential to those actively concerned about environmental protection.

I reiterate my endorsement of this Bill and the positive initiative it represents. Like any other Bill of this nature we will have to await its implementation before determining the efficiency of the new agency. Given the necessary expertise and resources I am confident that the new agency will be the primary force in striking the balance so necessary in achieving proper environmental management. In order to achieve this balance the agency, in its composition, must be representative of the views of industry as well as those of the environment. The need for the agency to view issues coming before them within a proper, balanced perspective is vital. I would recommend that the Minister allow some time for the agency to become fully operational at which point we will be in a position to assess their efficiency. When all of the necessary mechanisms and procedures are in place and functioning it will be necessary for us to review the provisions of this Bill to ensure that the agency is functioning satisfactorily and its primary objectives being achieved.

I congratulate the Minister on the work she has done in having this Bill introduced. I know that personally she has put a lot of hard work into it.

Like other speakers, I have great pleasure in welcoming the Minister to this House and complimenting her on having introduced this highly complex, lengthy Bill. I am pleased it has been introduced in the Seanad and that we are being given an opportunity to give it the consideration it deserves. It must be heartening for the Minister to hear the compliments from all sides of the House. There are no Members who do not believe that its introduction was the result of the Minister's input, tenacity and determination. I should like also to compliment the Progressive Democrats on their input, in having made it a plank of their participation in Government that there would be a commitment on their part to an environmental protection agency.

Having said that I would add that the Bill is somewhat overdue. When the Government opposed the Fine Gael Bill brought forward by Deputy Shatter, the Government promised that the agency would be in place before the end of 1990. I notice that the same promise was contained in the environment action programme — that as a matter of urgency the agency would be established with a view to having it in operation in 1990. I regret the delay because we cannot afford to be complacent.

I am sure the Minister was assisted in her endeavours by the fact that at the time of the last election the electorate made it clear they were concerned about the environment and about pollution. We saw the election of the first Green Party Deputy to the Dáil, Deputy Roger Garland. Indeed many of the other Green candidates did extremely well, which showed the determination of the public to bring home to Government, to the powers that be, their wish to have clean air, water and soil in this country. Ireland has had a very clean, green environment. I suppose one could say it has been the envy of our European partners. Sadly, in recent years that image has rapidly changed in that in some quarters we have destroyed our image as a very green country. Indeed in her introductory remarks the Minister made the point that the situation in Ireland was different from that of many of our EC partners because, luckily, we had avoided heavy industry; it had passed us by, leaving us almost alone in Europe with a relatively unspoiled environment. I suppose the word "relatively" could mean anything, but because heavy industry did pass us by to a large extent, we should examine what are the factors that have led to our rapidly deteriorating environment. Later in her remarks the Minister said that recently difficulties had begun to arise, the Minister having given a little pat on the head to local authorities on their having performed well. I do not suppose everybody would agree with that but I will come to that matter later. It is some time since those difficulties began to appear.

I always take the view that a clear environment primarily is something we want to have for our wellbeing, selfrespect and health. Of course there are other factors, one being tourism and the image of our country with regard to tourism. The number of tourists who visit this country is a major economic factor, and we must ensure that they continue to perceive Ireland as — somebody described it — the daylight playground of Europe. That is what we could be but I have heard it said that the nearer tourists get to Ireland the less they perceive the green image; the further away they are from it the more Ireland is thought of as green. I suppose we have done quite a bit to foster that image ourselves by way of the good policies and advertising of Bord Fáilte. But very often when people spend a holiday here they go away with a rather different picture. In many instances they see a great deal of litter and environmental pollution.

We cannot ignore the fact that, on many occasions recently, we have breached EC environmental directives on air pollution, on bathing water and on toxic waste disposal. I will not give the relevant figures but merely say that we have breached those directives regularly.

One serious problem of concern to myself as a Dublin city councillor as well as a Senator was the question of smog in the city. Once again the Minister present played a significant role in getting to terms with the smog problem. Personally I regret that the Minister did not forbid the burning of bituminous coal. However, I am hopeful that the measures introduced will be effective and that the smog problem in the city will be eliminated in the not too distant future. Not long before that the Taoiseach said that the whole question of smog in the city was an awful lot of rubbish, contending that it was part of the modern, industrial world. Happily the Minister's contribution prevailed and hopefully we will solve that problem in the near future.

Another matter of extreme importance to me was that of the pollution of Dublin Bay. We were constantly reassured by city officials that there was no cause for alarm, that the sea was able to absorb vast quantities of sewage, industrial discharges and effluent of one kind or another and that there was no hazard to health. On both sides of the Irish Sea there are huge amounts of discharges into the sea and we have done much less to counteract that than has been done in, say, the Mediterranean or in the North Sea. I hope that problem will be tackled in the not too distant future. I read recently that it was estimated that no less than 1,200 million cubic metres of sewage was dumped annually into the Irish Sea. That is a horrendous figure which I am sure will be looked at.

Our rivers are extremely important for fishing and amenity purposes in tourism terms. Here, we have no cause for complacency. Senator Naughten mentioned the Shannon, but one could mention many other rivers. The Boyne Estuary is in a very sorry state. The collecting of mussels there has been banned because of pollution. The Avoca River is also in a very unsavoury condition, because of mining and the fish and plant life has virtually gone. In the west — I go there regularly — I heard last year of a horrendous incident where a lorry load of cement was dumped into the Ballinahinch River. It is horrendous to think that these things are still happening in our beautiful green Ireland. We all remember the fish kills in 1987 which alarmed everybody, and we do not want a repetition. It is estimated that approximately a quarter of our rivers and a third of our lakes are polluted, some of them heavily polluted. That is not a situation any of us can allow to continue. The Central Fisheries Board were doing very good work but I heard there were considerable cutbacks which made it more difficult for them to bring polluters to court — it is a fact that in many instances the polluters were the local authorities.

Toxic waste is another area where we simply have not got to grips with the problem. We do not have toxic waste incineration for the chemical industries. It is estimated that over 50,000 tonnes of toxic waste are produced yearly. One has to ask how much of that is disposed of. The same applies to the CFCs. There is little or no control of CFCs in Ireland. There is not an adequate recycling service for old fridges, etc.

Another area which concerns me greatly is the pollution of our seas as a result of fish farming. I am pleased to see in this Bill that some of the powers of the Department of the Marine with regard to the issuing of licences will be taken over by the agency. I know that fish farming has been developed in a very haphazard manner, with very little control over the undoubted pollution which is subsequently caused.

Having given the Minister a litany of some of the ills, it is fair to say that last year was in many ways a good year for environmental management. At the beginning of the year, the Environment Action Programme was launched with a great fanfare of trumpets setting out the policy of the Department of the Environment to be implemented over the next ten years. We also had Ireland's Presidency of the EC. The Taoiseach declared that that was to be a Green Presidency. That was a very enlightened move on his part. I only hope that it is backed up by solid policies with solid progress flowing from it. I endeavoured to encourage Dublin Corporation to support the activities put forward by the Government, by declaring a Green week. They did so in a halfhearted manner, but as other speakers have said, there was always the problem of shortage of money.

The EC's environmental impact assessment directives were very important. Last June the Environmental Information Service, ENFO, was established and I must compliment those involved. I have heard very loud words of support for the service they provide — for the efficiency of the service and their whole approach. I understand that service is working extremely well. In July we had the amendment to the Water Pollution Act which increased the fines that could be imposed on offenders. We hope that the implementation of that measure will help to reduce some of the problems.

The EPA Bill, in conjunction with the Environment Action Programme, to a large extent shows a co-ordinated approach to environmental pollution. I welcome that approach. The most important thing the EPA need to do is to help restore confidence among the public in the ability of Government, both local government and national Government, to get the environmental problems sorted out.

In Cork we saw what happened with Sandoz, Merrell Dow etc. These and other incidents caused great but genuine fear among the local population. It is not right for Senator Ryan to speak about scaremongering and hysteria. The public have genuine fears about the chemical industry. Since Ireland is, I understand, the twelfth largest exporter of chemicals in the world, the public have genuine cause for concern. They were very much aware of the conflict between the IDA, whose primary job is to bring industries into this country, and environmentalists. There were occasions when the IDA gave assurances or guarantees to local communities that a particular industry was "state of the art" but that was subsequently shown to be very far from the reality. This caused people to lose confidence in what they were being told and to reach a stage where they were inclined to question everything. I hope that the setting up of this agency will sort out that problem and that we will be able to achieve a balance between the requirements of a clean environment on the one hand and the obvious need to attract industry on the other. The setting up of the EPA should not be seen as anti-industry. I know that in the United States there is a very powerful and very independent environmental protection agency and it has not been seen as inimical to industry.

As many speakers have said today, we have to try to find a balance between the environment on the one hand and social and economic progress on the other. We have to consider attracting jobs, particularly jobs needed in those parts of the country where emigration has been a festering sore for so long. In many instances, these are the parts of the country which are the most environmentally sensitive. The Minister put it well in the last paragraph of her speech when she said:

It is no longer an issue of jobs or the environment. In the 1990s it is an issue of jobs because of the environment.

That sums up a great deal. If we went forward on that basis we could make a lot of progress. There are sound reasons companies and industries should pursue, or try to pursue, environmental excellence. They should welcome this Bill. It has been shown that the public want to purchase environmentally friendly products and they are switched off by the dirty image of some industries. Indeed, we had a classic example of that in what I mentioned earlier, the whole question of the smog in Dublin, CDL's role in it, how the public felt towards CDL's for the pollution and their severe reluctance to take effective steps themselves until the Minister virtually forced them to do so. There is a growing market for clean products.

It is important for industry to remember that legislation, here and internationally, is tightening all the time. Industry needs to achieve higher environmental standards. These standards will have to be met in the future and when industries are researching new products, they need to bear in mind what the legislation will be like in five or ten years time. There is also the question of law suits for damages to the environment and these are growing and are expensive. We have had one or two of them here, but there has been a great number of them in the United States and in Europe. Insurance costs are growing and there is a great number of reasons why industry should get the message that pollution prevention pays in the long term.

The more modern attitude or approach to pollution is to try to prevent it at source rather than adding on equipment such as better waste disposal or better stack filters. That is the old-fashioned approach of cleaning up the mess. The more modern, far-reaching attitude is to try to prevent pollution. If we can eliminate the negative aspects at source, we will, in the long run, go a long way towards sorting out our problems.

The attitude which was farily prevalent, say, 15 years ago when I was first in politics, was "a job at any price" mentality. Communities welcomed multinationals because they brought jobs and they did not, in those days, think of what the downstream impact would be. That mentality has changed very dramatically now and industries that damage the environment are simply unacceptable. The cavalier attitude of many of these large firms both to their workforce, firing them with impunity, not considering the health of their workforce and their attitudes to toxic waste are simply not acceptable any longer. We had an instance only last week of a planning application from a company to set up in Ringsend. Indeed, the company was to make an environmentally friendly coal product creating 40 jobs or more but the local people simply did not want to consider the proposal unless they could be given absolute guarantees that there would not be smuts and pollution into the air. This change is very good.

There needs to be a positive relationship between the community and good business. Another factor which is worth mentioning is the anxiety of many firms nowadays to be sponsors of various environmental projects. Many firms are looking for environmental projects to sponsor because they know it is good for their image. Having said that about industry, and pollution from industry, we must recognise that we all, each and every one of us, contribute to pollution. It is not alone industry, but agriculture, intensive farming or the local authority sewerage systems. A whole range of issues are involved and each and every one of us is responsible.

I mentioned aquaculture and there are problems also with forestry and domestic waste disposal. One which has not been mentioned today, and I do not think there is anything in the Bill to cover it, is the whole question of pollution from transport, emissions from private cars in the city and from trucks; the whole problem of noxious air, lead and catalytic convertors. I urge the Minister to turn her attentions to that area and to make both lead and catalytic convertors compulsory as soon as possible. The other side of it, of course, is that we could have more environmentally friendly public transport and such things as cycling, which I indulge in myself for both environmental and many other reasons.

Another matter I would like to mention — it is one we should not lose sight of — is the importance of, so to speak, cashing-in on the enthusiasm of young people for the environment. That is something which is very obvious and which I am sure many of us are aware of. The young are extremely concerned about the environment and they want to take their responsibility seriously. Perhaps the Minister would ask her colleague in the Department of Education, to emphasise to schools the importance of civics in the school curriculum. In many instances if something else has to be pushed in, the civics class can be squeezed out. We need to encourage in young people an individual sense of responsibility.

I speak very often to schools on the question of the environment and I often notice that they seem to be more interested and concerned about environmental problems which seem a long way away, things like acid rain or global warming, but when you talk to them about something as simple as the litter in the school grounds they are not always as enthusiastic to get involved. It is important to make them realise the contribution which each and every one of us can make.

I do not think new laws alone will suffice. We have a plethora of new laws. We have had anti-litter laws and, indeed, somebody mentioned this afternoon the £800 fine we heard about when the Litter Act was introduced. It would be interesting to know how many times the £800 fine has been imposed. We also have the laws, I mentioned earlier, under the water pollution and air pollution Acts. However, all the laws in the world will not protect us from undisciplined, careless, unscrupulous and ruthless materialistic people who are simply on the make. It was mentioned that environmental awareness, information programmes and promotional campaigns were being intensified in the environmental action programme so that we will all know individually how we can help to protect and enhance the environment. I would like to hear from the Minister what exactly is being done on that score because we need to change people's attitudes. We need to change their hearts and their minds if we are going to solve this problem. We need to be positive towards the environment.

One of the provisions in the Bill which I will be coming back to at a later stage is that on public involvement and public discussion. It is something that should be welcomed. Earlier Senator John A. Murphy said that self-appointed environmentalists would be out of a job after the Bill is passed. I do not believe that for one moment and it would be very tragic if they were.

We all know that no matter how far we go we will not go far enough and the job of the many excellent environmental groups is to be the conscience of the country and to aspire to achieve a better and a cleaner environment I know the Minister is very highly thought of in environmental circles and does not see environmentalists as weirdos, cranks or wayouts. The Minister listens to them and got as many of them as she could together in Kilmainham for a day long seminar before putting this Bill together. This was greatly appreciated and there has been widespread support, with reservations, for the Bill. We need to emphasise that a clean environment is in everyone's long term interest because we share this planet and share a common fate, and the more we encourage public involvement the better. We should be aiming higher because we should live up to the very high perception people from other countries have of Ireland. We should see if Ireland can be a model in ecological and environmental terms. I was in Switzerland recently and I hear that in 1988 workshops were introduced in each of the 14 districts of Basle to see how they could make Basle a model, ecological city. We need to do that and not rest on our laurels. We need to encourage local authorities, towns, cities and villages to get involved in that debate so that they can understand the positive benefits of being an ecologically and environmentally good city or town.

The reform of local government and the need for genuine local democracy are important. I will speak about that when that Bill comes before this House, soon I hope.

This Bill will be a major tool in our fight against pollution, provided the public have confidence in it and in its ability to control pollution. There is an important role for the IDA in the Bill because they have one of the six members of the committee who will put forward names for the director and members of the board. The Government obviously support the Bill and the trade unions and the Council for the Status of Women are accommodated.

With regard to the environmental groups, I am glad to see that An Taisce is one of those represented on this committee, but would it have been advisable to include some of the other excellent environmental groups such as Green-peace and Earthwatch? They have all made important contributions to our understanding of the importance of the environment. This is in no way to denigrate An Taisce — I have been a member of it for a very long time — but it might be seen by some of the other organisations to be more conservative, solid, respectable and responsible. Those are all good things but I do not think we should leave out the other environmental groups.

I welcome the fact that the agency appears to be relatively independent and free of political involvement; it is separate from the Department of the Environment and the Government. The Bill secures as far as possible the ability of the agency to make independent decisions on licensing, research, monitoring and the various areas of responsibility, but a great deal depends on the calibre of the members of the board and the staff. To this end salaries will be extremely important. Under the provisions of the Bill I note there can be a transfer of staff from Government Departments and An Foras Forbartha. I thought An Foras Forbartha had been abolished two or three years ago and that the staff had been redeployed, but I see from this Bill that they are to be abolished yet again.

I caution taking on too many staff from existing Government organisations, not because they are not excellent people who have done a very good job but, in my view, this agency would benefit from outside fresh young thinking. That is what is required. This is in no way to denigrate the very talented and dedicated personnel in the Department and in An Foras Forbartha. The funding of the agency is vital. It must be adequate and it must be guaranteed so that the agency will not be dependent on industry or anybody else to carry out their functions. An Foras Forbartha was an excellent body and did very good work but I do not think anybody seriously believed they were independent of government. To that extent they did not have the same clout I hope this agency will have.

As mentioned by Senator Kennedy, there are a great number of sections in the Bill and there are at least 14 sections where we will be relying on the Minister to make regulations or to do various things. As long as the present Minister is there we will be very happy with that, but she may not be there forever. She may be transferred to higher office or there is the possibility that the Government may fall or there may be a Minister from the Opposition.

That is possible.

I am not sure it is a good thing to rely so much on the Minister making all these regulations. I will be putting down amendments on Committee Stage. There are certain areas where the Bill says that the Minister "may" and I will be pressing that it be changed to "shall".

The success of this Bill depends on the relationship between the agency and the local authorities. I have said on previous occasions — and I do not mind repeating it as often as I can — that I regret the relationship which exists between the Department of the Environment and local authorities. I have been a member of a local authority for 16 years and I find the Department's attitude to local authorities abysmal. It does nothing to boost local authorities; it does nothing to encourage them to be responsible. The Department have a very stultifying controlling influence. I am not talking about the area of finance, where we know the local authorities are starved; I am talking about the Department's attitude to local authorities which is that they are incapable of doing anything efficiently. Of course they are incapable of doing things efficiently because they are not given and have never been given the opportunity to be responsible. This matter more pertinently should be left to the local government Bill when it comes here for debate. I am aware that in some instances local authorities have had a poor record in regard to their concern for the environment but I am not sure that has always been their fault. I welcome the areas where the agency will be able to assist the local authorities by setting standards giving advice and laying down guidelines. Neither do I resent the power being given to the agency to monitor the performance of local authorities. This is necessary and desirable as local authorities have failed in their duties in some instances but I wonder whether it is a good idea to remove the granting of licences from the local authorities who grant them at present.

At present local authorities make planning decisions which, of course, can be appealed to An Bord Pleanála and they issue licences under the water pollution and air pollution legislation. I have a great apprehension that the division of those functions will lead to many problems. I would favour the agency giving all possible advice and support and laying down guidelines and the issue of licences being left to the local authority in the final analysis. I do not think one can divorce planning decisions from the other areas and they should be integrated. If there is conflict in this area between the local authorities and the agency it will spell doom. If it reaches the stage where the local authorities resent the agency and are unco-operative, it will not be of advantage to the environment in the long term.

I would like to stress to the Minister and to Senators that I am not elected by the members of a local authority. If I was, they might believe I was only endeavouring to carry favour with them. That is not my purpose. I have always believed we will never get things right in this country unless we have 27 local authorities who are independent, responsible, buoyant and that can do a good job. Local authorities should be given all the help, advice and encouragement they need because they are the bodies who, in the final analysis, understand the special conditions pertaining in different areas. There will be considerable problems if an industry is lost to a locality. It will be blamed on the agency and there will be antagonism towards them. I was going to say it would be blamed on Dublin again but, of course, we hope this agency will be sited in Wexford. I am genuinely concerned about this issue and ask the Minister to reconsider it.

I am disappointed with the Bill because I had heard the Minister favoured allowing the local authorities to grant the licences. Knowing the Minister, I know he would not easily allow himself to be deflected by the officials in his Department so I am sure he will be able to put forward very cogent reasons why he changed his mind, if he did change it, on this issue. As other Senators have said, it would also mean that appeals procedures would be similar to those in the planning appeals board. At present people can only appeal to the courts which is, as we all know, a very expensive and unlikely course of action for most people. What will happen is that the agency will be judge and jury in its own case.

I do not know whether part of the Minister's thinking is that the money received from the licences will assist in funding the agency. It would have been no bad thing if the income received from the licences had gone to the local authority. I also would urge that there be as much public consultation as possible in the whole licensing process. I would like to see changes made in regard to oral hearings. Under the Bill it will be the agency who will make the decision completely at their own discretion.

The provision in regard to access to information has been welcomed by many speakers. By and large I find these provisions satisfactory. However, like Senator Murphy, who I think referred to it earlier, I have reservations about section 38 which deals with confidentiality. It should be spelled out a little more precisely in the section what is meant by confidential information. We should not allow the Bill to go through the House if it contains a section which would virtually allow the agency not to give information simply on the basis that it was confidential and might be of significant industrial importance. Section 38 needs to be amended and I will be putting forward amendments on Committee Stage.

I was interested to see in the Environment Action Programme a reference to the principle of precautionary action even when there is no definite scientific evidence to link emissions or discharges with detrimental environmental effects. I cannot find any reference in the Bill to the principle of precautionary action and it would probably be appropriate to insert such a reference in 51 (2) (c). We can discuss this point at a later stage.

The setting up of advisory panels is a welcome move provided they are given the opportunity to make a proper input and are not just talking shops. It will be a good way for the agency to keep in touch. However, I know that other advisory committees of a similar nature met only once a year and were nothing more than a sop to public opinion.

I suppose in the final analysis, it comes down to a question of finance, and how much we are prepared to pay. We know that all environmental ills can be cured and all environmental problems can be solved if we, by which I mean the consumers and the taxpayers, are prepared to pay. I know that in the Netherlands where environmental problems are extremely serious they have put together an integrated and very strong plan to clean up The Netherlands by 1994 which they estimate will cost £12.2 billion. We should not underestimate the finances that will be involved.

I support the argument made by other speakers that unless local authorities are given the finance to undertake the environmental protection works required they will not be able to carry them out effectively. I want to refer to section 63 (1) (c) which is of particular concern to me. I welcome the provisions in section 63 which deal with the statutory functions of the local authorities, their obligation to carry out these functions and the extent to which the agency can issue advice, provide assistance or support and direct the local authority to carry out certain actions or functions. When a local authority fails, without reasonable cause, to comply with such a direction the agency will be able to carry it out and bill the local authority for the cost.

The Bill states that the agency shall not give a direction unless the local authority, with due regard to its other statutory functions, have the necessary funds to comply with the direction or those funds can reasonably be made available by them. It seems that that provision will undo everything that has gone before it. If the local authority only have to plead lack of funds — that will not be difficult — it will be extremely difficult for the agency to put on the necessary pressure to get them to carry out these functions. We do not intend to allow other polluters simply to say they have not enough funds. Even though the Bill envisages the BATNEEC principle, we should not allow them to get out of their responsibilities because they have not the necessary funds. That is a matter that certainly needs to be considered.

There is one other matter of concern to me, but I am not sure whether it should be included in the Bill. I would ask the Minister when the Bill has been passed to address the whole area of the built environment. Sadly this country has failed dismally in its determination to conserve our built heritage, our towns, cities and villages which are very unique. Although many of our villages are of great simplicity, they are very well laid out and very beautiful. However, there is enormous decay and dereliction. For example, in Dublin vast tracts of the city have been demolished to accommodate the motor car. In the countryside there is haphazard and uncontrolled development. There is ribbon development, urban sprawl and bungalow blitz. Many of the great Irish houses have fallen into ruin and decay. There is not much time left if this problem is to be addressed. We must see our built environment as part of the development potential of this country. Sadly there is very little being done in regard to this. When An Foras Forbartha were in existence they made some contribution in this regard. While An Bord Pleanála decide on planning appeals, they give very little guidelines in this direction.

I congratulate the Minister on setting up the agency. It can be, and I hope it will be a very effective watchdog. We have left behind us the attitude that environmental concerns must always conflict with economic progress and that they in some way impede progress. The Minister has turned that idea on its head. We need more long-range planning and less short term greed. We need to act decisively if we are to turn our environment around. Above all we must not rely totally on legislation or on Government agencies. We must look to each individual as to what they can do. I have always said that the solution to the environmental problem is a multitude of mini solutions and not one macro solution. The cleaning up of the environment falls on all of us, and this Bill is certainly a good start.

I would like to outline very briefly some of the provisions I would like changed. I will not go into them now; I am only summarising them or giving the headings on them. I am not happy with the licensing role of the proposed agency. It means that neither the developer nor any third party can appeal a decision. I am not hopeful that the Minister will change her mind on this matter, although I will do everything I can to persuade her to do so. We need to ensure that the agency will hold public hearings in advance whenever possible and will involve the public as much as possible.

I am not happy with the lack of definition of the role of the agency with regard to the scoping of the EIAs. For major developments the agency should be involved in scoping of EIAs and EISs and should also ensure the involvement of the public in these exercises so that the concerns of everybody will be addressed and decisions will have across-the-board support. I am not clear about the relationship between the agency and An Bord Pleanála, the relationship between the agency and EOLAS with regard to environmental research and liaison between Irish and EC researchers regarding EC grants and so on, but I will come back to that later.

I mentioned earlier the dissolution of An Foras Forbartha. I would like to know what roles previously assigned to An Foras Forbartha have not been taken up either by some other Government Department or in this Bill. I am not happy with the sections on the ETAs and EISs on motorways and roads. Is it possible that policies on transport and road development could be subject to environmental impact assessments?

Those are my main concerns about the Bill. I am sure the Bill will continue to be constructively debated in this House. I hope it will have a relatively smooth passage and that the necessary amendments will be accepted so that we will see the agency in place as soon as possible.

The Minister of State must be very pleased to come into the Seanad and hear the honours being showered on her in this debate. I too welcome her to the House. I would like to take this opportunity to compliment her on her commitment to the environment since taking up her portfolio. I would also mention the success of the Minister of State on issues such as the smog in Dublin. I compliment her on her resourcefulness in bringing many environmental matters to enactment particularly in regard to air pollution, water pollution and so on.

Like other speakers, I welcome the Bill. While there may be a number of minor matters which could be improved, everybody has to accept that this is an extremely open and honest attempt, in an independent way, to ensure that our environment is protected in a proper manner. As a Senator from Cork, it is appropriate for me to set the background to the Bill. I acknowledge there were certain problems in the past in relation to the environment and industry which could be said to have caused "clouding". In Cork in particular there was a sustained period of difficulty with a number of industries in the harbour area. Emissions from some factories caused a lot of concern to residents. The smells from these factories were extremely uncomfortable and nauseous. It was a major concern that many of these companies were not working within the remit of the planning permission that was granted to them. While it would appear that these emissions in themselves were harmless it brought about a situation where there was a lack of confidence, certainly in the local authority, the perception was that the local authority were not dealing with it in a meaningful way.

It would be appropriate for me as a member of the local authority involved to mention a number of items extremely pertinent to this case, including the law as it related to local authorities and the treatment of a pharmaceutical firm in that area, which was wrong. It is only in recent times, with the introduction of the Air Pollution Act and the Water Pollution Act, that local authorities have been given proper powers to take offending industries to task. The furore that resulted from the emissions has brought everybody to their senses in relation to the environment and particularly their responsibility to people living in those areas. To coin a phrase, many of these companies have now cleaned up their act because they have been forced to do so and I have no doubt that, but for the introduction of the Air Pollution Act and the Water Pollution Act, this might not have happened.

The environmental section of Cork County Council are probably one of the most efficient and professional in the country. During all this time their job by way of monitoring or reporting was always carried out to a T; anybody who has recently looked at the Cremer Warner report or indeed the Enviro report will see quite clearly that the council have been vindicated in everything they have done by way of monitoring in the past. It would also be appropriate to mention the Merrell Dow controversy and to make two points relating to this proposed industry. One is that those opposed to it were genuinely concerned on health grounds and no issue can arouse the emotions to a higher pitch — as those of us in Fianna Fáil who dealt with health matters in the last general election will know — than difficulties that might arise in relation to the well-being of residents arising from the location of a pharmaceutical industry in their area. However, many of the statements made at that time had absolutely no foundation and indeed the press did not do Irish industry any service by ensuring that the negative vibes from people who did not have the facts were given so much prominence. When facts were made available for some reason those facts seemed to be put into second place.

My second point relates to the location of industry; the local authority are not alone a planning authority but a development authority and most local authorities are involved in development plans. The idea of a development plan is that the planners working in the area, in combination with the local authority representatives from those areas, put together a plan of action for their particular local authority area. They do so with regard to housing, roads and industrial development. In the case of Merrell Dow, the IDA were directing a pharmaceutical industry out of an area which was zoned for that particular type of industry into what I would call a rural hinterland of excellent quality agricultural land. That type of industry would have been totally alien to the area and certainly would not have been included in the county development plan. A similar situation could again arise and the relationship between the IDA, the local authority's development plan and the new agency will be extremely important. What is the point in having a development plan which identifies particular areas for industrial development suitable for pharmaceutical development when the IDA, because they have a landbank, because certain land becomes available or because an industry indicate they will locate there, allow them to set up in that location which may not be suitable for that type of industry? While I appreciate the Minister's assurances in relation to planning laws, environmental impact studies and now the agency, there will still be apprehension among residents that something like that could occur again. Will the Minister look at this particular element so that we can avoid a recurrence of the type of thing that happened with Merrell Dow in Killeagh? It is important to say that the chemical industry is not the major polluter in Ireland. In many ways the local authorities have been major polluters in their own right over the past number of years and it is gratifying that as part of this Bill the local authorities will not have an overseer under the auspices of the environment agency.

Should the local authority determine the industry location according to its development plan and should the Environmental Protection Agency have an input into county and city development plans as a duty and as a role? Perhaps the Minister, in replying to Second Stage, might advert to that fact.

Anybody reading the Minister's speech and looking at the Bill will welcome the independence of approach to staffing, particularly at senior level. Every effort is being made by the Minister to ensure that the best personnel are chosen. I compliment the Minister for ensuring that the people who will recruit the director general and the four directors are not all drawn from the environmental or the scientific area. We will have a balanced board who will select the best people for the job in hand. They will look for people with what one would describe as diverse specialist expertise. This is both warranted and merited and is an extremely good idea. I have no doubt the advisory committee will be equal to the job.

I would now like to comment on section 30 of the Bill which deals with the transfer of staff and to pose the question as to how cohesive this will be given that the staff of An Foras Forbartha are to be transferred and it is likely that staff members from the Department of the Marine, perhaps from the local authorities and even from the Department of the Environment will also be transferred. I am aware that the pay structure for An Foras Forbartha personnel is different from those in the local authorities. I would be concerned therefore about the extent to which those working in the agency are motivated and satisfied if the same pay structures were to be carried forward.

The Minister of State has pointed out, quite rightly, that the intention is to decentralise the agency. Given the Government's commitment to decentralisation and the fact that they are now establishing a new agency, it is only right that it should be located outside of Dublin. I should say, as a Corkman, that we are crying out for decentralisation and have always maintained, having regard to the fact that the chemical industry is mainly concentrated in Cork, that Cork should be the location chosen for this agency.

In relation to recruitment, would it be preferable to recruit directly for the agency rather than take staff from other Departments and allow staff who would like to join the agency apply of their own volition for positions with the agency? It is my view that if they are recruited on this basis they will be fully committed to the agency from day one. I would also ask the Minister of State when replying to inform the House if staff of various Departments will have the option of transferring to the agency. A section of the Bill, the number of which eludes me at the moment, states that the agency will be able to identify staff within the local authorities. I have to say that the word "identify" does not appeal to me as it seems to imply that there will be an element of coercion involved. I hope we will take a look at the wording of that section on Committee Stage.

Having said that, the Bill has been well thought out and the Minister of State is to be congratulated for taking into account submissions from all quarters. I was not aware that environmental groups had a day-long session with the Minister of State who has taken the submissions of at least 40 groups, if not more, into consideration. This is reflected in the Bill which set out to be as all-embracing as possible.

In a way, the Minister of State sought in the Bill to avoid duplication of executive functions as between national and local agencies. I concur with the view that the agency should be encouraged and required to evolve national standards and where expertise is not available within a local authority, the agency should make this expertise available. Whether this should be sought from other local authorities or from consultants is a matter for the agency. The evolution of national standards by the agency will be crucial to their success and acceptance. If the agency succeed in doing this, the so-called self-appointed protectors of the environment to which Senator Murphy referred, will be able to shout no more that standards around the country are not comparable. It is also vital that our standards are comparable with the standards in other countries to ensure that we will not be placed at a disadvantage.

I wish to raise a number of other issues with the Minister of State on which further elaboration may be needed. The first is the monitoring of agriculture, of rivers and lakes. From my reading of the Bill, it appears the agency will have responsibility of monitoring rivers and lakes while the local authorities will have the duty to monitor agricultural land. In many instances, it is my experience that pollution in rivers and lakes emanated from the land. In my view this will make interaction between a local authority and the agency difficult. This matter is worth looking at.

Let me take up one point made by Senator Hederman about rivers and lakes. She gave the impression that there is a major problem but it is only fair to say that two years ago there was a major problem. However, the progress which has been made, by means of a process of education, legislation, coercion in some cases and grants from the Department of the Environment, has been quite extraordinary and a significant improvement has been achieved in that area. I would like it to go out from here that the vast majority of farmers are making a determined effort to clean up their act in relation to pollution.

In this instance the Minister of State should consider giving the responsibility to monitor land and water either to the agency or the local authority. As a member of a local authority I should say that, given that the local authorities will have responsibility for monitoring agricultural land, it would seem sensible to also give them a role in relation to rivers and lakes with the agency continuing to maintain a supervisory role.

In relation to planning, this element will be left to the local authority. Where an environmental impact assessment is required the local authority will be required to give their decision on a planning application within the statutory eight week period. In the case of licences, this function is now to be given to the Environmental Protection Agency. It is quite easy to envisage a scenario where a local authority, having examined the planning application and environmental impact assessment, grant permission and the Environmental Protection Agency do not grant a licence. It could be said we are adding another layer of bureaucracy.

Debate adjourned.

When is the debate likely to be resumed?

My understanding is 6 February.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

When is it proposed to sit again?

The Seanad will sit tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.