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

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

First, I would like to welcome the Minister to the House and compliment her on her initiative in bringing this Bill to the Seanad. This is a bold move by the Minister and, indeed, a very appropriate one. If we consider for a moment the Seanad, its composition and the role it should play in the democratic system in Ireland, basically it is a nonpolitical body, a combination of members who are elected through the decisions of local government representatives and through vocational decisions. Who is better versed than those who have taken on board a consensus of opinion from those relevant electors?

I am very impressed by the broad and responsible debate on all sides of the House on this Bill so far. It proves that the Minister's decision to give priority to this House was, first, a welcome decision as far as the House is concerned but more importantly, it will give the Minister and the Government a very valued opinion — and hopefully suggestions and, perhaps, amendments — that will provide the people with a system of structures and advice that will enhance our country and perhaps provide a model for the protection and enjoyment of the environment for the developed and even the developing countries.

In the Minister's address to this House last week, she indicated that we may have missed the problems associated with. industrial developments that have bedevilled some other European countries in particular. That may be so, but this time we have a background of great public concern over issues such as damage to the ozone layer, the effects of fish farming, oil spills, chemical factories, acid rain, the disposal of waste and the pollution of rivers and water courses. Different groups and enterprises are often identified with contributing to these situations, and rightly so. State and semi-State organisations can be included in this category.

Without being local or, as it were, having a back garden outlook, it would be remiss of me, as somebody from the west or midlands of Ireland not to mention the destruction of one of our largest rivers. I consider it destruction at this stage, namely, of that fine water course — possibly one of the finest in Europe — the River Shannon and its tributaries. It is pretty well accepted now that the involvement of a semi-State body has contributed to a large extent to that destruction and to the state of pollution of the river and its tributaries, particularly the River Suck. The Minister would know where it is and may have travelled around there when she was a schoolgirl. That is a matter of importance. It must be looked at on the basis of private and public contribution to pollution and the destruction of our environment. By "public" I mean the State contribution to pollution.

The Bill is presented in a climate where the importance of increased attention to the environment in which we live is generally accepted by members of the public, local authorities and national and international governing bodies. We start off on a good base where there is a public awareness. The Bill introduces for the first time a structure for the co-ordination of efforts towards achieving a better environment for us and, more importantly, for our children and a place for them to live. This Bill provides a legislative basis for tackling our many environmental problems. I believe it will meet the needs identified in the European Commission's Green Paper on Urban Environment. There is one major omission in that paper. I will get back to it later.

When studying the Bill a number of possible improvements or suggestions came to mind which if agreed would enhance the effect of the Bill. I am not at this stage coming up with amendments or pre-empting Committee Stage, nor have I a very definite view. The Minister in her reply may clear the air on particular areas or sections, or on opinions of people regarding the Bill. The first area of concern raises the need for active and prescribed co-operation between our 33 local authorities and the new agency. The Bill deals with that in sections 41 to 44 — the relationship which it envisaged between those two parties charged with the protection of the environment. While the need for a national co-ordinating body which protects the environment is accepted, there is also a need to involve, not in a discretionary way, the local authorities which have traditionally performed this function. This would achieve the need for local input into the performance of this function and provide the necessary local knowledge to properly plan environmental protection.

The need for a regional structure is, indeed, accepted in section 42 of the Bill. What has bedevilled local authorities to date is the lack of finance. Something written into the Bill aimed at ensuring active participation of local authorities would be of benefit in so far as it would show a combined approach by the local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency. I would also be concerned with the provisions of sections 53, 92 and 97 of the Bill which allow a transfer of functions from local authorities to the agency. You will have to appreciate from the background from which I come, through the local authority system, that obviously I would have to be somewhat protective of the local authority system. The organisation from which I got my nomination to this House — the General Council of County Councils — have discussed this Bill. They see it as a fine Bill. I am worried about some minor parts of it, but the Minister in her research in preparing this Bill met the General Council of County Councils and got their views. I have no doubt the Minister included measures to alleviate their worries regarding the Bill.

It is essential that section 27 of the Bill should have some provision for two members to the advisory committee from the nomination of the General Council of County Councils which is a representative body of the County and County Borough Councils of Ireland. This is necessary to ensure the participation of representatives of local authorities who, jointly with the proposed agency, are charged with the responsibility for environmental protection. In order to ensure that local authorities can properly perform their existing statutory functions, which are to be supervised by the agency in accordance with sections 56 to 63 of the Bill, the necessary financial assistance must be provided for local authorities. I hope these financial problems of local authorities will be addressed in the reform of local government, which we hope will take place in the very near future.

Section 11 of the Bill could be strengthened as it is too weak in allowing offenders off the hook if not caught within a period of five years from the commencement of the offence. Because of the silent and unseen nature of many environmental offences, it can take a long time before such offences manifest themselves. Accordingly, I feel it wise not to limit the time permitted for the prosecution of an offence. This may create legal complications arising out of the statute of limitations, but I believe those could be addressed. It is necessary that the Minister make an order under section 79 of the Bill, if passed, requiring all established bodies to make application for licences within a limited period.

The introduction of the environmental impact assessment system last year, with the implementation of EC regulations, has given rise to problems particularly in relation to the content of the environmental impact statements. The proposals in section 69 enabling the agency to prepare guidelines which must be observed is to be welcomed. The role of the agency in relation to the grey area of exemption from preparing impact statements is welcomed. Although there are many references in the Bill to the advisory role to be played by the agency and the publication of reports on the results of monitoring procedures, section 51 could be amended to require the agency to promote public awareness of the need for care of our environment. There is a significant and increasing appreciation by the public of our environment, of the need to improve it and a realisation that the way in which we live and work has an effect on it. There is a need for the agency to harness this reservoir of goodwill by actively promoting an interest in environmental issues in conjunction with the recently established environmental information service.

Sections 51 and 52 of the Bill provide that the agency will have an international dimension by way of research and liaison with the European Environmental Agency and the performance of any additional functions assigned to it by the Minister arising from emerging international obligations to the State. I suggest that the agency be required under section 51, or section 52, to make active representation at EC and other international levels to tackle the serious problems arising from the use of nuclear plants in other countries. Such nuclear activity is not rated highly by countries such as Ireland, the population of which is subject to the dangers to life arising from this activity. The environmental dangers of nuclear developments are a source of great concern to this country because of the long-range transfer of environmental problems associated with them.

It is essential that a national agency of this nature be specifically required to carry out the necessary research and make the necessary representations internationally on this question. It is the cause of much regret that the recently published EC Green Paper on urban environment made no reference whatsoever to nuclear environmental damage when listing the problems and suggesting solutions in the environmental area. This is the point I mentioned earlier. The Commission Green Paper regretted the absence of sufficient information on key environmental health indicators such as air, water, soil qualities and noise levels.

Section 2 to section 68 of the Bill, establishing a national structure for the collection, co-ordination and publication of such information, is a very welcome development. I believe the views and analysis included in the Green Paper to be accurate and well-founded. I regret, however, that no reference is made to the major environment damage and risk caused by nuclear development in relation to power generated from it. This is identified as a significant risk to the lives and health of humanity, yet there is no mention of it. The silent and unseen long-range transfer of environmental dangers associated with nuclear plants is identified by me as one in need of urgent regulatory control, research and monitoring in any analysis or policy formulation in relation to the environment. It is a view held by practically every person in the country that protection of the environment must be addressed in the context of the nuclear situation also. I agree with the solutions suggested in the Green Paper but I also feel that any solutions must consider the sources and effects of environmental problems in smaller urban and rural areas as well as in cities. This is something that is missing in this document as well. This document is very relevant in so far as the Bill before the House is concerned. I also believe that there must be a careful balance between the conflicting needs in relation to environmental protection and economic and social development. The results of strong, regulatory controls in the environment area will naturally be more pronounced in poorer regions. Any solutions must consequently be combined with financial assistance and inducements to commercial and industrial enterprises, particularly in regions where the scale of commercial and industrial enterprise is underdeveloped. The success of any solution will ultimately depend on the ability of local, national and European authorities to provide the financial resources to ensure that the solution of environmental problems is not accompanied by deterioration in economic and social development.

The need for integrated decision making policies identified in the Green Paper is strongly supported in this context. It suggests a particular change in policy in the planning area in relation, say to land use and transportation infrastructure and I am in agreement with this. There are significant financial implications in this change for local and national authorities. The development of large, isolated housing settlements, public and private, in urban areas must never again take place in view of the many social problems created by this type of development. We cannot separate social and environmental matters in this situation. I strongly recommend the continuation and expansion of the excellent urban renewal programme in Ireland. It has served to revitalise and improve derelict urban sites in designated urban areas. I also propose the commencement of possible pilot projects in some of the major urban areas to relieve environmental problems experienced therein.

Irish cities, although as old as other European cities and possibly as rich in culture and heritage, are not as advanced in the city life cycle as their European counterparts. Two examples prompt me to this conclusion. The first relates to the tackling of pollution arising from the use of coal for home heating. This is mentioned in the Green Paper. It has been mentioned that European states or cities started the process of elimination in the fifties. This matter is dear to the Minister's heart and I must compliment her on her swift action in that area when the problem became intense here. Now the matter has been firmly dealt with. The point I want to make is that we only finalised that process in recent years while the Green Paper on urban environment states that in other European countries it started in the fifties.

The second example relates to the stage of growth of cities in the city life cycle. The Green Paper suggests that European cities have passed the stage of creating new districts within cities to absorb population growth from rural migration. While that may be the situation in the European context, I do not think we have yet reached that situation in an Irish context. I do not think they have passed the development stage. I feel it is necessary to regulate in relation to air quality, water quality, noise levels, soil contamination levels and waste disposal practices. This is being done in some of the areas, though it must be extended to all identified areas. Any such regulations must take account of matters that are raised.

We have to have a very broad approach to this whole area of the environment. I do not think we can leave anything aside just because it is a thorny or a particularly obnoxious situation, whether it involves a State boundary or whatever. In order to remedy the problems associated with the disposal of effluent from city sanitation facilities, there is a need for joint ventures between city and rural authorities because of the major costs involved. This is also an area where financial resources are required.

I do not mean to digress but I believe all of this is inter-linked with protection of our environment. The measures required of European institutions are referred to above when considering solutions proposed in their Green Paper. They relate mainly to the provision of a structure to provide the necessary and significant finance required to implement solutions. Any policy on solutions should not inhibit the necessary social and economic development. The development of universal standards is also desirable at international level. Obviously the European Commission has to play a role in our situation.

Senator O'Keeffe mentioned yesterday that a sum in the region of £500,000 was originally considered to be sufficient for the establisment of an Environmental Protection Agency. The figure is now £8 million. Are we involved in other areas where costs may escalate? I believe European support for such a body is vital because any research that is done — and obviously there is a research element in this body — will be available on a global basis. Therefore European back-up is very important.

The subject of nuclear environmental problems should be addressed as a matter of urgency at EC levels because the nuclear industry is an international enterprise and is not shared by countries with a non-nuclear policy although they experience the damage and effects. We all remember the contamination from the nuclear plant in Russia when lambs in Scotland and possibly in Ireland were affected. Nuclear fall-out does not respect boundaries, it can wind up anywhere.

While it is most important that we care for the environment, it is also important that we do not unnecessarily inhibit further social and economic development. Accordingly, the Bill is ensuring that control of the environmental problems takes account of other factors and this is welcome. It is felt that the introduction of the integrated pollution control licensing system envisaged in Part IV of the Bill will assist in this regard. There must be a broadening of the criteria used in determining the allocation of EC Structural Funds to allow for further social and economic growth while, at the same time, achieving our environmental objectives.

It is also opportune at this time to raise the question of the environmental problems caused by silt run-off from intensive peat developments. I mentioned this earlier in relation to damage to our River Shannon and its tributaries. The Local Government (Water Pollution) (Amendment) Act, 1990 empowered the Minister to make regulations repealing or subjecting to conditions the provision on the exemption from water pollution offences under section 3 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977 currently enjoyed by Bord na Móna operations. That was an exemption they had in that situation. I am aware that the Department of the Environment, in conjunction with local authorities, initiated a survey to assess the extent to which peat silting is affecting waterways, rivers, lakes and coastal waters. I would like to ask the Minister if the results of this survey are available, what recommendations are suggested or what action is required.

I believe the Minister has done justice to this House in bringing this Bill here. It is a very progressive Bill. The content of the Bill is something that is very close to the Minister's heart. She has shown a personal interest in the environment. It is hard to cover all aspects and to foresee all the problems that may arise along the way and I would not be downhearted if at a later stage we ran into problems in a particular area because the environmental scene is ongoing and developing. There is no reason why at any time in the future the Minister, or somebody else in her position, could not come back to this House or the other House for further amendment and further measures to protect our environment. This is a most worthwhile Bill. It is extensive. It covers practically every area except the nuclear one. However, there may be other situations in the future when further measures will be necessary.

I want to compliment the Minister on the Bill and wish it well on its passage through this House. I am very impressed by the Minister's promise that if, on Committee Stage, there are Members or parties of this House who wish to put down amendments she will consider them if they do not interfere with the broad outline of the Bill. I look forward to further debate on the Bill.

I would like to welcome the Minister and thank her for her patience in listening to the contributions for the past few days. I am sure this debate is likely to go on for a while. Like many others, I have a tremendous interest in the topic before us and if I digress or wander off the straight line occasionally I ask the Minister to forgive me. It is more enthusiasm and lack of an ordered script than any deliberate attempt to disrupt anything.

I compliment the Minister on her own contribution, even though there are a few areas I would like to get back to and take up specifically with the Minister, time permitting. I am sure on Committee Stage we will get the opportunity for far more detail in the different areas the Minister mentioned and passed over. I know she has a personal commitment to this area and I can understand her interest in it having spent one all too short year in the Department. I was junior Minister with responsibility for environmental protection.

The environment is absolutely absorbing and one's interest keeps getting deeper and deeper. I am not saying one's knowledge deepens but one's interest certainly does. At times one has to take stock and make sure one is having a balanced, realistic attitude to it and not going too far in one direction or cultivating too extreme a view on anything because we live in the real world. We all have a job to do. We have to hand over our heritage as we now have it at least in as good, if not in better, condition than when we inherited it. We have to stand and see where we are, take stock and move forward rather than legislate either for Utopia or speak in Utopian terms about what we want and what we insist on. Occasionally we all have to be reminded that it is the real world; let us face facts as they are and let us sort out the problems and make sure we do not create any more.

The long term protection of the environment requires the integration of policies that will allow a healthy environment and a healthy economy to co-exist. For all the tangents we may go off on and all the aspirations we may have in the different areas, that is the tenet we must come back to and remind ourselves to keep our feet firmly planted in the real world. A healthy environment and a healthy economy will have to co-exist. This has been talked about as a time of stock-taking for the international environmental community. Twenty years on from the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm which was the start of the environmental era, as we now know it, we must ask ourselves how far down that road have we gone, what achievements have been made and whether those achievements have been shared equally throughout all parts of the globe or whether they have just benefited certain sectors. Certainly if we look at ourselves in the west, or the developed world as we like to call it, or if we include ourselves as one of the OECD; countries, there have been tremendous improvements in 20 years. One only has to look at eastern and central Europe and the less developed world generally, or the developing world, as we refer to it, to realise how much there is still to be done.

In eastern and central Europe, now that the veil covering what was going on has been pulled back and the Cold War is effectively over, the extent and severity of environmental degradation pose a special challenge to economic reform. While the new East-West co-operation will provide hope for improving the health and welfare of the hundreds of millions of people and, hopefully, also for protecting and above all rehabilitating the environment there, we must not underestimate the job to be done there. We just have to look at the lakes and rivers that are dead over there, the polluted soil, the forests that have taken the battering of acid rain for so long; certainly if we were aware of it we gave it no priority in the preceding decades.

Again, in the developing world their priorities have been with coping with population growth and debt problems. Both of these factors have conspired effectively to overwhelm any efforts to improve their environment. While we can take some comfort as part of the OECD group of countries for definite improvements and successes, if we look at the global situation very little can be said to have been achieved.

The extent to which our awareness has been raised and indeed our sensitivity to threats to our environment, it can be expressed very succinctly in the words of one wise commentator when he said: "One can trace the evolution of environmental concern over the last 20 years by watching it move from the back page of major newspapers to the front page and now to the financial pages." That says it all. Many words could be used but that one sentence tells what has happened in 20 years and that we are all facing sustainable development now when it comes to integration with our environment.

Today issues involving the possible creation of new international environmental funds to assist developing countries and the facilitating of technology transfer dominate conferences on the ozone depletion, on climate change, the greenhouse effect and on tropical deforestation. There is no shortage of talking shops, no shortage of conferences or no shortage of media cover. It is now time to get down to some action and get the hard work done. We have raised awareness, we have raised sensitivity to the major problems in this area, now it is time for action.

Much has been achieved in the developed world over the past couple of decades and for the completeness of the record we should point out what has been done. There has been a reduction of urban air pollution by sulphur dioxide, particulate matter and lead; there has been a reduction of pollution in the waterways and lakes by organic substances by extending the treatment of household waste water and industrial effluents; there has been the virtual complete elimination of pathogenic macrobial contamination of supplies of drinking water; there have been less accidental marine oil pollution as the frequency of major shipping accidents and spills have been reduced. We have seen the improved collection, disposal and recycling of municipal waste, the reduced release into the environment of some persistent chemicals such as DDT and PCBs and mercury compounds. There have been increases in the area of protected land and habitats such as parks and refuges throughout all OECD countries but there is still only 4 per cent of the world's habitats actually protected. We have seen increased forest resources in areas as well as in the volume of timber stock in the West. There is better protection and management of a number of our game species and growing population of several threatened species of flora and fuana. They have been pulled back from the brink of extinction.

This progress has been achieved at not too great an expense. The direct cost of anti-pollution policies in the West, in the OECD countries, is estimated to range around 1 per cent of GDP, while available estimates of resulting reduction in pollution damage offer figures that are significantly higher than that. The effects on overall prices and economic growth are limited but those on total employment are beneficial in most countries.

In many other areas problems remain from unfinished agendas of the seventies and eighties. The world atmospheric problem, air pollution, ground water resources and the marine environment, land and forest, wildlife, waste and noise, to mention only the main headings of some very long lists. For example, in the western developed countries we are responsible for 45 per cent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, 40 per cent of sulphur dioxide emissions and 50 per cent of nitreous oxide emissions, all related to the intensity of human activity. The OECD countries produce 60 per cent of the world's industrial waste. In OECD countries, 330 million people live in areas that are still not served by water treatment stations, and 130 million are subjected to unacceptable noise levels. We may pat ourselves on the back but even we have a long way to go, even though we have travelled a long part of the road.

Most of the environmental problems that will arise during the 1990s have a far more marked international dimension than before. Pollution of all kinds respects no borders or boundaries. That is a tenet we have come to live with in recent years and it was dramatically brought home to us by the tragedy of the major disaster of Chernobyl. If you need to give an example of the fact that pollution is no respecter of transboundary law that really brings it home to us.

Problems of cross-border pollution such as long-range pollution, the management of international river basins, the international transport of hazardous waste and risks associated with installations located close to international frontiers will be some of the main problems facing us in the next couple of decades. We can include protection of the ozone layer and potential climate changes as a consequence of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, even though I urge some caution in getting into this whole debate in relation to the greenhouse effect on climatic changes. I honestly feel it is a major case of doctors differ, patients die. Depending on which environmental expert you listen to, you get a different slant and they can really use statistics to support both sides of the argument. Those of us who have only a lay person's opinion in this area need to be very careful. We can heighten fears in the unsuspecting public too much if we are not careful in what we say in this area.

There are problems. We are causing damage to our environment by lack of proper controls, particularly in the industrial area, but we need to have a balanced approach as to the extent of the damage that is being done and the long term effect it will have. It may be worse than we are now being told, but it may not be anything like what we are now being told. Let us just try and get from the experts the most likely outcome and most likely scenarios and not run with the ball that may be way off-course altogether.

We also have to face the management of regional areas such as the Baltic, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the North Sea and the Arctic Ocean. There will be environmental problems relating to international trade. OECD countries account for a large part of world trade not simply in chemicals, cars and other potential sources of pollution but also in natural resources such as forestry products and endangered species of flora and fauna. In many cases trade and the trade-related policies of industrialised countries affects the use of natural resources in both developing and developed countries. In other words, it is not just a question of whether we are soiling our own backyard or even the NIMBY principle — not in my backyard — it can be done somewhere else, but we will make use of the product having polluted another unsuspecting nation somewhere else where they have less planning and licensing controls on a particular operation.

Recently chemicals from European industries have been found in the blood of polar bears in the Arctic. We are really now affecting far-flung places by our activities. First, we need to define that, then we need to have a balanced approach in deciding the extent of the problems and how we go about resolving it. We need to have a balanced approach in deciding the extent of the problem and how we go about resolving it.

Environmental problems in non-OECD countries, whether in developing countries or central and eastern Europe, have to be handled in conjunction with bilateral and multilateral aid and financing. We need to emphasise this because again, unless we take the Utopian approach to this topic, it is very easily condemned — we must look at other countries, particularly developing countries, and call to book their particular policies in this area. But with the population explosion in those countries, their main thrust is to feed their people. We know that starvation and famine exist in large tracts of the world today and there is no point in us, in our comfortable Chambers and Houses of Parliament in Europe, preaching to nations suffering from starvation about their environment policies. We need sufficient multilateral and bilateral aid and self-help policies in terms of helping them to provide food for themselves and we need to feed the people before we preach environment to them. There can be a parallel action so long as the number one priority of preventing starvation is looked after and helped by those of us who have never had to face that, and hopefully will never have to. A balance is needed again.

I will just say in passing that our ODA contribution is pitiful, the official contribution as a nation, as a Government. The people of Ireland are more than generous when it comes to supporting non-governmental organisations in relation to aid to the starving and developing nations, but officially I am afraid we have shirked our responsibility and may hang our heads. May I say that successive Governments have been involved, it is not just a new phenomenon with this Government. It has been the case for some time with the exception of when Deputy Garret FitzGerald took a personal interest in the matter and increased the contribution, but we have been tumbling downhill with successive Governments since then. Let us get a balanced attitude towards the environmental problems in relation to developing countries and particularly the starving nations. Yes, if we can, we will prevent any further environmental degradation; but we will help them to feed themselves and help them to provide their own food before we preach to any of them.

In view of the world economic and ecological interdependence the environmental and economic state of the western world of the OECD countries influences and is influenced by non-OECD countries, including those of eastern and central Europe, the dynamic Asian economies and the developing countries. Apart from general co-operation in the fields of research and information, international co-operation on environmental issues has to date taken two basic forms: development of international and environmental law and the adoption of related bilateral and multilateral agreements, such as those concerning trade in flora and fauna, sea pollution, cross-border pollution, international movement of hazardous waste and protection of the ozone layer.

The impact of these agreements on the environment obviously depends on the way they are implemented and on the length of time required for measures to be translated into environmental improvements. Again, our record in relation to that last point is not great. In regard to the length of time required for measures to be translated into environmental improvements, you are talking about getting governments to agree on specific polices, a specific way forward. You are trying to fast-track it through, whatever parliamentary draftsmen are there to draw up the relevant policies, trying to fast-track it through Houses of Parliament in Europe and other developed countries; and that can be no easy job, as I am sure the Minister will agree. No matter how important the legislation, such as the Environmental Protection Agency Bill we are now discussing, there is a process through which it is very hard to go unless you take your time. We can feel we know what we want, we can feel we know the way forward, the environmentalists and policymakers can decide the way forward; but it seems then to take forever to enact legislation that will see the improvement move from the ground thereon.

The challenges in the 1990s will be to ensure that international agreements already signed are effectively translated into environmental reality. We can all play our part as policymakers and legislators in that regard by supplementing existing agreements with new ones on emerging issues, such as climate change, and to back them up with appropriate liability and quantified targets. We can also liberally amend any legislation already on our Statute Book that does not measure up to the requirements and the standards we now expect in different areas without taking forever to do it. I have already mentioned the queue in terms of getting legislation into Houses of Parliament. I think we should be able to give it priority. Let us sit on Fridays and Monday if we have to, so that we can amend legislation on our Statute Book if it is needed. I think of the Wildlife Act. We all have our pet interests. Let us get the legislation up and running and then let us implement on the ground what we want in the policies in this area.

Another challenge of the nineties will be to monitor improvements in the international environment and the contributions of different countries and regions of the world, to promote the integration of environmental concerns into trade and aid policies in practice in order to ensure the planet's sustainable development and a fair share for all regions in that development.

I welcome the Environmental Protection Agency Bill before us. It is limited in some respects but I think we are all delighted to see much promised legislation finally reach the Houses of Parliament. I thank the Minister for ensuring that the Seanad had the opportunity of having the first go at this important legislation, that we were not used yet again to rubber stamp a protracted debate of the other House but that we can feel we had a real input. I hope that when it comes to Committee Stage we can substantially amend it, if amending is needed in the different sections. I sincerely trust that we will be listened to and that there will be an openness in terms of accepting amendments from all sides of the House. I would imagine, without any particular expertise in the area, that such a technical and important Bill will need amendment as we tease out the issues and as collectively we try to find the best way forward and use this opportunity to incorporate as much as possible in this area.

Essentially, and in a broad sweep, everything in this Bill is already covered in legislation. There is nothing new — I might stand to be corrected on small specifics on that — but, effectively and broadly speaking, there is nothing new in the Bill. We just centralised what is already out there covered by legislation and different enactments over the years. Having said that, as far as I can see the main purpose of this Bill must be to create a scientific body that will have impeccable integrity in the eyes of the public. We want an independent, scientific body whose integrity is beyond reproach so that all the growing fears, real and misplaced perceptions and concerns of the public on a whole range of areas connected with the environment can be addressed and that if the Environmental Protection Agency says it is all right, it will be all right. We seek to have a body off of which the enormous and growing range of environmental fears of the public can be bounced, can be dealt with and can be decided upon. Above all else, it must be independent. It must be independent in its decisions. It must be financially independent and not crying out that it cannot afford to do this or do that. It must be able to stand financially on its own two feet. Above all, the scientific integrity of the body must be beyond reproach. To me, if there is any question of lack of scientific integrity or lack of independence as a body, we may stop now and go home because we are wasting our time.

As I said, effectively everything is covered in other legislation. I warmly welcome the concept of an independent scientific body whose integrity is beyond reproach and is there to perform an increasingly necessary service for the public generally in this area. There are concerns, misconceptions and perceptions in this area and even we ourselves at times find it hard to distinguish between fact from fiction when it comes to alarms concerning environmental issues.

The Bill has been well covered in the media. But I feel that for completeness a brief referral to exactly what is involved is necessary. The organisation, structure, staffing and funding are well laid out. There will be a whole-time Director General. We might have more to say about that when we come to Committee Stage. There will be four other whole time directors and an advisory committee which will advise the Director General plus the four. It will also, I imagine, advise the Ministers and will be there to be called on by any Departments of State or semi-State bodies that might need advice in this area. The agency will be staffed by the former staff of An Foras Forbartha and others.

I would like to put on record my thanks for the work done by An Foras Forbartha over 25 or 26 years. In the rush to abolish what we glibly call quangos or bodies of this sort in the last few years we swept a whole lot out of existence with the promise of new ones coming in to replace them. One of the bodies that performed an inestimably good task for the country over the years was An Foras Forbartha. We should compliment and thank the Director, members of the board and the staff on the ground right up to the top, for a job extremely well done. At a time when it was not fashionable to be concerned about the environment they worked away quietly in a whole range of areas, got no headlines, but the work was done. But for the work done by An Foras Forbartha the pieces we would be picking up today and the problems we would be trying to resolve would be enormously magnified.

It is hard to quantify the extent of our indebtedness to that body, a much underestimated and a little appreciated body; but wonderful work was done by them. Even though they were semi-State, if that is a correct description of them, even though the boss was a civil servant and taking into account all of the other matters that have been pointed out, they managed to maintain an integrity and independence that was commendable. If the Environmental Protection Agency can measure up and build on that, we are putting in place an extremely good body here and in the Dáil. I am sure I express the views of many when I single out An Foras Forbartha for special commendation. They are just mentioned in the Bill as being abolished and the staff being transferred. That is the extent of the official view. But their activities deserve to be analysed and publicly recognised for what they were and the problems they saved us in the years ahead.

The Minister deals in the Bill with funding, grants, approved borrowing, fees and charges. I am a little worried about the charges and I will come back to them again on Committee Stage. I make this plea, the funding should be such that the Environmental Protection Agency are never reduced to the begging bowl for any of the actions or practices they will have to carry out or that they can never use lack of money for not doing something that has to be done. There will be other responsibilities handed to the Environmental Protection Agency as they arise over the years in different sectors. If increased work is imposed on them they must then either get increased work force or increased funds to carry it out.

That plea has long been made in relation to the local authorities. Government after Government have heaped new legislation onto local authorities and local government but never providing the funds to carry them out. In fact, we curtailed public expenditure. We curtailed the numbers in the civil and public service and yet we expected more and more work to be done as we passed more and more legislation that pertained to that area. The integrity of this body must be unimpeachable. They must never be compromised either through lack of funds or lack of manpower to do what we now will be charging them to do and the extra charges they will get in the future. I urge that that be put on the record of the House and that the Minister would ensure that that situation will never arise.

The agency will establish regional environmental units to perform functions in so far as is practicable. Maximum use will be made of existing facilities. In the regions there are some excellent facilities at the moment, although some do not measure up. Providing that the relationship; between the operators of the existing facilities and the new agency can be clearly spelt out in relation to who does what and when, and who is responsible for what, there will be an excellent network of facilities in the regions. Some need to be built up, but in general there is an excellent network in the regions.

Above all, what we are charging this agency to do is introduce a system of licensing, monitoring and enforcing in respect of a wide range of specific activities and the promotion and co-ordination of environmental research. If in two sentences we had to describe this agency I think it would be fair to say that broadly their terms of reference are, a co-ordinated approach to licensing, monitoring and indeed, the enforcing, promotion and coordination of environmental research.

Could the Minister spell out when winding up Second Stage the exact role of the agency in the promotion and coordination of environmental research? Research has become the cinderella of our agencies with the puning of funds for Teagasc. Since Teagasc took over an Foras Talúntais and amalgamated with ACOT the downturn in research has been dramatic and tragic. Today's research will be for the education and programming of tomorrow's world generally. If we do not keep up with what is happening, and if we are not in the frontline in the area of research, be, it in agriculture, industry or whatever, but particularly agriculture, we will pay for it dearly.

There is a tremendous problem with the downturn in research. It has been pruned. Programmes have been cut off and there is no planning. There is a two or three year run-in to planning proper research programmes. That has all stopped in the last couple of years. Even if the Minister said in the morning that the promotion of environmental research was now the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency, there would be a two to three years led-in time to programme research projects and there will have been a five or six years hiatus where we reneged in our responsibilities as a nation in this area and, quite frankly, there will be a tragic gap in an otherwise excellent programme of research.

Please spell out how the agency will promote and co-ordinate environmental research. It is considered as the cinderella. Without the research the job of the Environmental Protection Agency in decades to come will be very difficult. If we do not know how to prevent and control, if we do not know levels of pesticides, fertilizers and everything else that is safe in different environmental situations we will have to mop up the damage and we will be talking about rehabilitation rather than prevention. What is meant by promotion and co-ordination of research? What will the structure within the Environmental Protection Agency be dealing with the research area? Will it be a specific unit within the Environmental Protection Agency as distinct from the unit that will deal with the licensing, monitoring and enforcing of all the other areas? This has to be spelt out as it is very important.

A system will be provided in respect of the licensing, monitoring and enforcement of a wide range of activities, including large industrial plants, intensive pig and poultry rearing operations, large scale peat extraction, mining and the food industry generally. With the Leas-Chathaoirleach in the Chair I will not venture too far down the road on mining, because I do not know too much about it. But it would appear to me that public concern in the area of mining has reached the point of not matching reality at all. The perceived fears do not match reality when it comes to the whole extraction and mining industry generally. In our own county at the moment there is a major lobby against what they consider a mining operation in the Blackstairs. Yet all research, through both Carlow and Wexford County Councils, planning authorities and everywhere else to try to find out what is happening draws a blank. No application. There are prospecting licences out there. A few bore holes have been drilled to assess whether there is a future for the operation or whether the amount is economical in terms of mining. But there is a major panic among the people of the Carlow-Wexford border and right down along Wexford about what is happening to the Blackstairs. Nothing has started to happen at all. How will that translate if and when mining does become a reality?

I presume the role the Minister envisages for the Environmental Protection Agency will be to take a balanced attitude in order to be able to allay the genuine concerns of the public and to ensure that there will be no one in the mining industry who will have a cavalier approach to the environment and to restoration when operations are finished. Above all, we need to put in place a system whereby the fears of the public can be allayed. If they are real, the fears of the public can be addressed, and indeed even industry — the mining industry, in this case — will have a body with integrity which they can respect and which is above reproach when it comes to the handling of all of these issues.

The Bill states that activities licensed by the agency will not require licences under other environmental legislation, such as air and water pollution Acts. Licences will not be issued by the agency unless the best available technologies, not entailing excessive cost, are used to prevent and to limit emissions. This is a very thorny area and it is an area on which people have very different and opposing views. We get into the language of "environmental speak" here. The balance of whether the best available technology — BAT — or BAT not entailing excessive cost, or best practical means — BPM — is chosen in a particular area seems to be reasonably arbitrary.

Perhaps what the Minister brings here today underlines that in the future we are going to talk about BATNEEC, or best available technology not entailing excessive cost. If so, why did the Minister not use BATNEEC in the Local Government (Water Pollution) (Amendment) Bill, 1989? As was said to me by irate farmers recently, BATNEEC applies to everything except the farmers. There is no consideration for not entailing excessive costs when it comes to obliging farmers to comply with anti-pollution measures. Perhaps there is a case for not allowing farmers to have resources to the cop-out of not entailing excessive costs — and I do not use cop-out in a very derogatory sense. I would like the Minister to respond to that. We pick and choose, whether BPM, BAT or BATNEEC, when it comes to the technologies that must be used to resolve whatever problem particular legislation is dealing with. In future will it be BATNEEC we are talking about? But when it came to the Local Government (Water Pollution) (Amendment) Act, 1989, why was no consideration given to this? Was the point being made that farmers were earning so much that excessive cost was not an issue? Was it that the pollution from farming is worse than any other pollution, so we are not allowed the liberty of considering excessive costs? Or is it because you consider that the grants farmers are getting are enough to pay for it; if we do not pay for it, they can increase the Eurogrant so that entailing excessive cost might not be an issue? I do not know, but I would like the Minister to develop that point.

With 60 per cent of farmers with an income of less than £5,000, with the genuine problem in terms of emissions from farming operations and the intensification of farming operations and the threat to water supplies from slurry, fertiliser running into rivers and possible nitrate contamination in the future — it is not an issue now, so we should not go overboard — how does the Minister intend to oblige farmers to comply with necessary anti-pollution measures if their income is less than £5,000? Sixty per cent is an 1989 figure; so it could easily be 70 per cent now, given the figures that were confirmed about farm incomes last year.

This is a huge area. We are an agriculturally-based country. Primary production on the farm still makes a huge contribution to our GNP. It cannot be done at the expense of the environment, there is no argument there, but why the different standards in requirements? Under this Environmental Protection Agency Bill industry and local authorities will be required to comply with anti-pollution measures that do not entail excessive costs — BATNEEC. The farmers are required to implement anti-pollution measures without any regard officially to the excessive costs relative to the individual farmer's income. I do not understand the logic. I would like you, Minister, to tease this out. We have to get the anti-pollution measures in on the farms, we have to get them in relation to local authorities and industry; but why the different standards in official requirements of the different sectors? The sector least able to bear the costs — that is, the farmers today, given the last year and so on, given Mr. MacSharry's proposals and given what GATT may have around the corner — are not given any consideration in relation to possible excessive costs. When I compare this to other legislation, this issue puzzles me. The Marine Institute Bill may have involved BPM — best practical means and the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act was BPM. It does not add up. I would be very interested in teasing that out with you, Minister, either on Second Stage or on Committee Stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator should address her remarks through the Chair.

Certainly, Sir.

I have just dealt with the BATNEEC section, as it is referred to. With regard to public involvement in the licensing system, the licensing system provided for in the Bill is a two-stage process. The first stage involves application to the agency and with public notification of the application, including specific notification to the local authority. The agency will consider the application and any representations made by the public and announce its intentions with regard to the application. Secondly, the agency will consider any objections to its proposed decision, including objections from third parties. An oral hearing will be held if necessary before a final decision on the licence application is made. Any further appeals against the agency decision may only be taken through the High Court within two months of the decision.

Perhaps my point might be more correctly put on Committee Stage, but I will just state it and come back to it later. Could the Minister develop her thoughts in relation to how third parties will be able to afford an appeal to the High Court against the agency's decision? What will be the financial implications of that? We had one particular case recently — when I say "recently" it is recent in one sense but it has gone on for ten or 12 years — that is the Hanrahanv. Merck, Sharpe and Dohme case. That is the case of an individual trying to take on what he considered to be major problems caused by a multinational down the valley from him. When I see the message you are proposing here that any further appeals will only go to the High Court, I am a little bit concerned as to how the individual in any other situations might muster the resources or might be able to afford a trip to the High Court to appeal against an Environmental Protection Agency decision. When it comes to protecting land and property, free legal aid cannot come in; to the best of my knowledge they are not allowed into that area when it comes to property rights and all that.

I am not so sure what the situation is in relation to the protection of human and animal health, but I say that as an aside. Could the Minister develop that? Are we protecting the rights of third parties or are we preventing them having access, when we effectively say that the only further appeal is to the High Court? I am not saying that the High Court is the wrong place to go. You are talking about fairly major issues when you are talking about appeals in this regard — major energy plants, major industries of one kind or another, large pig units or whatever, so you need the might and clout of fairly senior institutions, but I am concerned about the individual, about the one-off, the family or individual who may have problems. Is the Minister debarring them from seeing their rights through to the end? He is certainly curtailing it as compared to the present situation. An Bord Pleanála is a big enough step for a lot of people to take. They have to be fairly serious about their intent if they appeal against a decision of An Bord Pleanála and they have to put their money down. You are talking about senior counsel representation and the array of support that is necessary to go into the High Court and make your case. Is it fair to the individual? Will people get support to take their case if needs be?

Arrangements for monitoring the quality of the environment and public access to the results will be improved as a result of the Bill. As a lay person reading the Bill I thought that was reasonable until I listened to the concerns of Senator Brendan Ryan yesterday. I will be very interested to hear the Minister's response to the points he made. He compared the access the US public have through Toxnet, the data base in the US, to information in relation to a whole range of chemicals and compounds. He quoted the freedom of information legislation and how there was no incompatibility between the freedom of information and the public's right of access to information, and commercial confidentiality in relation to individual companies. A balance has been achieved in other countries between allowing the public this access and preserving commercial confidentiality for some of the major chemical companies, etc.

I read the report of one of the Cork environmental groups and one of their concerns is access to information by the public. Maybe the concerns will not be sustained when the Minister explains exactly what she has in mind. One of the most important aims of the Bill is to allay the fears, both real and perceived, of the public at large on environmental issues and to create a scientific body whose integrity is such that their word is gospel.

In America today, rightly or wrongly, the FDA has that effect on the American public. They will do anything and eat anything so long as it is approved by the FDA. It may be slightly misplaced but it has created that security in the minds of the American public on environmental and related issues. If drugs or food are tested by the FDA, if the E colourings, pesticides, fertilisers, chemical compounds used, emissions in the air, are passed by the FDA it is all right with them. If we cannot achieve that same impact with the EPA we are wasting our time. The Minister should develop the exact plans she has for allowing access to information for the public generally while at the same time respecting commercial confidentiality which is a real concern and one that deserves to be respected.

The agency will oversee the monitoring by sanitary authorities of the quality of drinking water, sewage and other effluent from sanitary authorities and of landfill sites and will carry out its own monitoring for the purpose of assessing compliance with the relevant requirements relating to these matters. It will publish reports on incidents of environmental pollution and periodic state of the environment reports. It will operate a national hydrometric monitoring programme. It will require laboratories submitting information to it to be properly accredited and establish an analytical quality control programme to ensure the validity and comparability of environmental data. That is laudable.

The functions of Ministers, local authorities and other public authorities in relation to environmental protection will be strengthened through the actions of the agency. That says a lot. Sections 52 to 58 deal with the relationship between local authorities and the EPA on different levels. When we come to the sections we will need specific statements from the Minister as to what the relationship will be in the different areas. These sections of the Bill will either make or break the operation of the Bill in the regions.

If we get it right and if we get the inter-relationship with the local authorities right we will have a wonderful network there to protect our environment. If we get it wrong and start off on the wrong foot and officially step on toes without clearing the lines forward first, there will be nothing but hardship and lack of co-operation, people will get their backs up, vested interests will be protected and the Bill will go nowhere fast. Do not underestimate local authorities ability to protect their own patch. I say that with the best will in the world.

The Minister must smooth the path and explain the inter-relationship of the roles, who does what and when, who has the final say, etc. If we do not have that set down in black and white the Bill will go nowhere. I want to see the Bill succeed and I want to see a compatible relationship with the local authorities. Quite frankly, some have been reneging on their responsibility to the environment to date, others have not. Unashamedly I am going to have a commercial for Wexford County Council at this stage because while some have run with legislation that has been handed to them, albeit with no extra funding, others have just sat back and done nothing but complain of lack of money.

I cannot impress on the Minister the importance of the relationship with local authorities. I am very pleased to put on the record a brief synopsis of Wexford County Council's environmental activities over the last few years. I say without fear of much contradiction that if other local authorities did the same we would have had far fewer problems in recent years.

Over the last number of years Wexford County Council have developed and implemented a very extensive programme of environmental protection and enhancement under the broad umbrella of "Keep Wexford Beautiful". We had a programme of direct action. The council have been very active in the implementation of the provisions of the Water Pollution Acts, 1977 and 1989, and also the Litter Act, 1982. The County Wexford water pollution liaison committee or task force, comprising representatives from the council, the IFA, the ICMSA, regional fisheries board and Teagasc, have met on a number of occasions and a clear understanding of environmental needs has been achieved.

The Minister commented in July 1990 that she was very impressed by the environmental improvements and initiatives carried out in Wexford and she considered that a number of these initiatives should be initiated in many other areas. Maybe the Minister would be good enough to expand on that and see if it has been done. It is not often we get the opportunity to compliment local government and local authorities in these Houses and yet, often much maligned, sometimes deserved, they get very little attention for the work they do on the ground.

Mr. Farrell

Never deserved. Councils do a lot of work but they are never recognised for it.

I thank the Senator, I was about to misintepret his comment, I accept that and if something is well done by local government it deserves to be recognised, particularly when we are considering the reform of the structures and functions of local government. Let us see what they do well, what they do not do well and where the way forward lies.

For many years Wexford County Council have provided recycling facilities at our tipheads for the receipt of waste oil, car bodies, unwanted machinery, etc. Recently equipment to extract CFC gases from refrigerators was purchased and this facility is now freely available to the public and commercial bodies generally. In co-operation with private interests bottle banks have been introduced in the main towns and a number of other recycling initiatives are being actively considered at present.

In 1990 Wexford County Council introduced special promotion of general environmental benefits in relation to a more extensive tree planting campaign and circulated a special promotional leaflet. Wexford County Council is also a member of Crann, an excellent environmental body, one that does not hit the headlines or have extreme views. It has one sole purpose and that is to re-tree Ireland with deciduous trees if at all possible. The county council joined Crann at my prompting and are getting excellent advice and help and support from that organisation. I recommend Crann to other local authorities. It is a non-political organisation. It works away from the headlines but is an excellent environmental organisation.

A number of financial grants to community groups undertaking a tree planting programme formed an integral part of this promotion. Wexford County Council's ambitious target is the planting of an extra one million deciduous trees by the year 2000. If that could be repeated in every local authority area or every county council area, 46 million trees could be planted in a decade. It is not practical in all areas because of soil conditions but if even half of the other county councils undertook to plant one million broadleaf trees in the next ten years it would make a great difference to the quality of our environment and to the country generally.

Wexford County Council looks forward with confidence to the introduction and development of many more initiatives in the general area of environmental protection and to working in full co-operation with the new environmental protection agency. We, as a county council, have nothing to fear. Wexford County Council welcome the provisions of the new Bill, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency's role in providing advice and assistance with a high level of expertise to deal with the complex environmental issues of today and the future. The agency will assist local authorities in the performance of their environmental functions on such terms a may be agreed. That says a lot. The Minister should spell out the terms she hopes to agree with local authorities in relation to the mutual functions or the interdependence of their different roles in the future.

The Bill will also advise and make recommendations to local authorities in relation to the performance of any of their functions for the purposes of environmental protection. The agency's proposed licensing, monitoring and enforcement of certain listed activities will need careful consideration — these are the views of the environmental section of Wexford County Council — in order to avoid any confusion of environmental functions of each local authority with those of the agency. That is a fair point. We just want to spell out who does what.

If the Bill is passed in its present form the Environmental Protection Agency will become the body responsible for licensing, monitoring and enforcement of all activities listed in the First Schedule of the Bill. We will consider some activities that are not already in it on Committee Stage. On initial examination — I am being parochial, if I may — it would seem that very few of these listed activities are in operation in Wexford on the specified scale. It should be noted that any activities licensed by the agency will not require a further licence under any other environmental legislation, such as air and water pollution Acts and waste regulations.

What springs to mind in reading that, and this is the view of our manager and our environmental engineers in Wexford, is the strange episode that occurred in the mid-seventies in Wexford. We sat down at our monthly statutory meeting and discussed planning applications. Only those that are contentious or likely to be contentious or of major public interest are brought to our attention, planning being an executive function. Here before us was an application from the ESB to construct a nuclear power station at Carnsore. The first inkling the unsuspecting Irish public had that officialdom in Ireland were thinking of going nuclear was when a planning application arrived on the table of Wexford County Council. We all looked at it, and the manager looked at it. There was no talk about a licence or recommendation from the Government or a policy decision by the Government. There was nothing. This was sprung out of the blue and you all know the history of that application. Immediately bodies formed taking one side or another. There were all sorts of sessions in Carnsore Point and environmental activists of every creed and colour descended on Wexford and Carnsore and so the thing ran. There is no way that Wexford County Council, with the best expertise that would normally be available to local authorities, would ever have been in a position to consider granting planning permission for a nuclear power station, given the magnitude and range of issues implied in that. Yet, that was the procedure. Hopefully, when or if such an issue ever arises again, it will land on the table of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hopefully, it will not arise.

It depends. If they ever sort out fusion power there may be no concerns. We have enough to do now coping with east coast reactors in the UK and their proposed extension by way of more reactors in the Sellafield plant but that is another day's work. Perhaps the Environmental Protection Agency would look into that straightaway when it is set up and see the implications for Ireland of further nuclear plants on the west coast of the UK. Whether it does or does not arise again it will now land on the Environmental Protection Agency's desk. I give that by way of an extreme example of where local authorities say what do we do with this.

The appeals system is as laid down, all the way to the High Court. I have already mentioned my concerns on that. If the Environmental Protection Agency decided that a nuclear power station was to be located in Carnsore Point — we are in the realm of the hypothetical area here now — do I take it that the local authority would have absolutely no role to play in locating a nuclear power station or any major power station of any kind, it need not be nuclear, in our own territory? Could that be done without any recourse to the opinions of the local authority? I take it it could. There are traffic and water provision considerations, etc. to be taken into account. Surely there is a role there for the local authority along with the Environmental Protection Agency. I understand from the procedure laid down that there will be no recourse to the local authority. Perhaps the Minister will develop that because it is a concern that has been highlighted by local authorities. Even on smaller issues, if the local authority is completely cut out——

So there will be a planning application?

I do not think that is well understood but I am glad to hear that. I would be delighted to tease that out when we get to the relevant section. The view of Wexford County Council's technical people in this is that we should note that any activities licensed by the agency will not require licences under other environmental legislation such as air and water pollution Acts and waste regulations. The planning procedure is untouched, do I take that?

I stand corrected on that; it is of some comfort. In addition — this is Wexford County Council's view — the Minister, following consultation with the agency, may by regulation transfer to the agency any function related to environmental protection which is conferred on other public authorities under legislation specified in the Second Schedule; for example, Communities Toxic and Dangers Waste Regulations, European Communities Waste Regulations, 1984, and European Communities Transfrontier Shipment Depositors Waste Regulations, 1988.

The Second Schedule deals with the enactments in respect of which functions may be transferred to the agency. There is no mention of the Marine Institute Bill and its relationship to the Environmental Protection Agency anywhere along the line. In fact, when the Marine Institute Bill was going through this House on 7 March 1990 I asked the Minister to specifically spell out what the relationship would be with the Environmental Protection Agency and I said we would leave it until we get to this Bill. I quote what I said on 7 March 1990 on the Marine Institute Bill at column 431 of the Official Report:

Finally, could the Minister tell me what the relationship will be between the soon to be formed, or so we are told, Environmental Protection Agency and its control over estuarine waters as claimed by the Minister, Deputy Harney, and the new Marine Institute that is being set up to co-ordinate and rationalise development, research and resources in this area to avoid overlapping and duplication. It would appear there is an immediate overlap and/or duplication in this area at present between the two new bodies it is proposed to set up.

Who controls the estuarine waters issue? Will it continue to be the Marine Institute or will it be handed over, as are many other responsibilities in this area to the Environmental Protection Agency? I mention it because I do not know why the Marine Institute Bill is not mentioned in relation to other bodies in the Environmental Protection Agency Bill. Is it because of politics with a small "p" that it is being left out? I do not know but I would like to know and I am going to chase that to ground. I agree that we should all co-ordinate under the one umbrella but, why leave out the Marine Institute and their responsibilities in environmental protection of estuarine waters? I do not understand that.

Wexford County Council say that clarification is also needed on the exact procedure to be followed where a planning application for one of the listed activities is submitted to the planning authority and a licence is also required from the Environmental Protection Agency. Arrangements for close cooperation between the two authorities would be vital, whether both applications are considered simultaneously or in a separate manner. Maybe the Minister could deal with that. It follows from the point I was trying to get to rather cumbersomely a few moments ago. What will the procedure be if simultaneously a planning application is with the planning authority and a licence is required from the Environmental Protection Agency? Presumably in such cases the local authority will have no responsibility in relation to any subsequent monitoring or enforcement. If the planning authority give planning permission for a major development of any kind that comes within the ambit of the Environmental Protection Agency — presuming that an environmental impact analysis has passed and a licence granted by the Environmental Protection Agency — will all subsequent monitoring and enforcement of any conditions, be they planning or licensing, be the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency? We can hardly have local authorities running around monitoring and checking one set of conditions and the Environmental Protection Agency checking another. It would appear to defeat the purpose of the Bill. I would like clarification on that point.

The new agency will also have an overseeing role in relation to the environmental activities of local authorities. Over a number of years Wexford County Council have developed a very broad and effective environmental programme under the headings of awareness, protection and enhancement. Our overall programme compares very favourably on a national basis with other local authorities and the development of further initiatives is being actively pursued. The council is satisfied that within our existing resources a very effective programme of environmental activities is in operation. I will not bore the House with more about that but I do not apologise for putting on record the success of Wexford County Council and their commitment to environmental protection or for putting their views or concerns in relation to the Bill to the Minister. I hope all local authorities will analyse the Bill and will clarify the issues through their representatives in this House or elsewhere or directly with the Department so that collectively we can ensure that whatever relationship is officially put in place between the local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency will be one of harmony which will ensure the effective operation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Under the heading "Other Activities", the agency will also be able to influence the control of major activities by promoting environmentally sound practices in the following ways: the issue of guidelines and advice on the contents of environmental impact statements; the issue of codes of practice related to environmental protection to provide guidance to developers and others and the promotion of environmental audits of existing developments to minimise adverse environmental impacts. The whole concept of environmental audits is very important. The Minister referred to that in her speech. There is a lot to be learned from that procedure. The agency will publish environmental quality objectives and establish an environmental labelling scheme for products and services that are environmentally friendly. The ECO labeling scheme, or whatever buzz word is used to describe it, is very important and needs to come onstream fairly quickly. Producers are deciding what are green products and labelling their products without any reference to certain standards or conditions that have to be laid down to qualify as a green product. We go into supermarkets and you pick up environmentally friendly products but when we read the contents or the manufacturing process, one wonders on what grounds they say they have either a green product or an environmentally friendly product. Many commercial outlets have made a genuine effort to ensure that their products, particularly those that will be used in households and industry generally, do not harm the environment or cause minimal harm to the environment. The clothes we wear are made at the expense of the environment in some way. A balance is needed. Before everyone declares their own product to be environmentally friendly and green, we must lay down certain standards and conditions that must be met.

I have taken a lot of interest in EIAs. Reams of paperwork about the EIA came from Europe that could do with reconsideration. I do not have my notes on this in front of me, but to the best of my knowledge all local authority programmes or constructions of any kind are exempt from EIAs. I do not know if that should be so, to be frank and honest. There are examples in Wexford, on which I have a view, which I feel will impinge on the environment more in the built heritage sense than cause dangerous emissions. Yet, because it is sponsored, planned and constructed by the local authority, an EIA is not called for. We should look at this area again to see if, given the handing over of collective responsibility to the Environmental Protection Agency, local authorities can still stand outside the requirement of an EIA on major construction projects, for example, in-filling harbours, which is fairly drastic action and affects our built heritage.

The last section of the Bill deals with what are called miscellaneous issues. They may sound like miscellaneous issues but biogenetics and genetic engineering is not a miscellaneous issue. I suspect that somebody picked up the UK Environmental Protection Act, 1990, and at the back of that they stuffed in the same biogenetics and genetic engineering. It is a bit of an also ran, but it is much more comprehensive than the references to it in our Bill. On Committee Stage when we can go through the Bill section by section I will pick up in more detail my concerns in this area.

Section 108 deals with granting exemptions from licensing in relation to this area. For the public's peace of mind, all operaters should be licensed. We need to record all handlers of genetically modified organisms. They need to be recorded somewhere and a licence is only saying you have permission to do it; your name and address is down in a book somewhere. That is all. We need to record all handlers of genetically modified material. It is not a big issue in Ireland or in most parts of the world.

Potentially for the environment there are major implications, ironically, of successful genetical engineering. When it comes to warfare, we talk about chemical warfare, the use of gas, chemical and nuclear warheads and releasing on the world genetically modified organisms that can now be engineered in laboratories. We are talking about horrific damage to the environment which would probably be irreparable. I do not want to overemphasise the importance of this or create a major scare in terms of the relevance to Ireland. In the future, biochemists and bio-engineers will make enormous strides in this area. We are into the fear of the unknown and a special committee is needed within the Environmental Protection Agency to handle this section as it is very specialised.

In section 108 which deals with this, the Environmental Protection Agency are not mentioned. It looks very much like a section that was tagged on afterwards — dare I say plagiarised from the British Bill or somewhere else?

Never, never.

Not at all. We have never done that. I am all for piggy-backing on the results and expertise of others if it can save us money in terms of research in areas like this, but I am a little concerned about the way this suddenly appeared under the miscellaneous column. I am also concerned that the Environmental Protection Agency are not mentioned at all in this section as their relevance is mentioned everywhere else. I do not think we should exempt from licensing handlers of genetically modified organisms. We will deal with that in more detail later. Will the Minister respond to that because it needs to be addressed?

Noise is also dealt with in the miscellaneous section although it should not be as it is a major problem in most of the industrialised and built-up world. Am I right in saying it is only in health and safety legislation that there is any reference to noise at the moment? It is not dealt with in any environmental legislation. We can deal with that again but it is far from being miscellaneous.

Smells are not mentioned anywhere in the Bill although the Minister dealt with the definition of "emissions". In the broader sense, an emission into the atmosphere of a pollution is within the meaning of the Air Pollution Act, 1987, although that Act does not mention smell either. Again, on the premise that the Environmental Protection Agency will be a body of scientific integrity able to allay all the fears, both real and imagined of the public, we must introduce the concept of smell officially into this legislation now. I say that because the whole notion of a smell — a good smell, a bad smell or at what level one can smell an emission of one kind or another — may be objective.

I would like to see the whole concept of smell being officially defined because in rural Ireland it can pose problems, for example, controlling the very intense pig production units because of the impact on the environment from slurry effluent. Smell is, perhaps, the major problem in terms of the objections that arise from the public in the immediate area of such units.

The smell from a pig unit does no one any harm, unless one inhaled the gases as they came off. The general smell in an area, such as the general smell of slurry being spread in a field, does one no harm. The smell from a silage pit does one no harm. One would not like to sleep beside it but the smell which a lot of people, particularly urban people, find objectionable does not actually harm one. I would like the concept of smell to be introduced now as it is not in the Air Pollution Act. We are not specifically mentioning it here but I would like us to bring it in, if only to be in a position to specifically allay the public fear about the Environmental Protection Agency being able to deal with such concerns and objections.

In the Bill there is a reference to the performance of statutory functions by local authorities. One of the most contentious provisions in the Bill is section 60 which is phrased in such a way that local authorities may opt out of complying with requirements placed on them by the Environmental Protection Agency in the environmental field. I suppose they can plead that they have not got the necessary funds to comply with a direction. It is stated in section 60 (c) that the agency shall not give a direction under paragraph (a), directing someone to do something unless the authority, with due regard to their other statutory functions, have the necessary funds. In other words, the agency we are setting up will not be able to compel local authorities to treat their sewage or some outfall that is causing problems in a river or whatever.

Again, a balanced approach is needed to this. All local authorities are institutions or bodies managing matters for the public at large. They are disposing of all our sewage, industrial, human and, occasionally, agricultural. They are providing other services. They are not making money out of anything they are doing. Their ability to provide state of the art sewage treatment plants depends on the willingness of the Government of the day to fund them.

Over the last ten years — the Minister will have the specific figures — to the best of my recollection, something approaching £400 million was spent on state of the art water installation and sewage treatment plants of one kind or another. I suppose we have the same amount to spend again. I do not know, but the Minister will be able to give us those figures. It cannot all be done in one year. There are bound to be local authorities who, through no fault of their own — the plans are in the Department for putting in these new plants — cannot comply with the environmental standards with which we would like them to comply and with which they should comply. Let us not pussyfoot around with it.

The reason they have not done so so far is that there has been an unwillingness by successive Governments to fund this type of capital programme. There are not many votes in sewage treatment. There are more votes in another 100 houses, particularly when it comes to local elections. It could be a main road, a county road somewhere, or a bridge that gets the votes. They are more easily recognised by the public. This has gone through Government, it is not the concern of any political party. There has not been a willingness to fund proper installations to prevent local authorities continuing to pollute — I say that advisedly — to a greater or lesser extent our waterways and our environment generally when making an effort to manage our waste. All they are doing is managing the waste for all of us.

Having said that, I would not allow local authorities an out as explained there. We must give the agency the strength to deal with all environmental problems regardless of who is causing them or why they are being caused. They must have an absolute right to direct, to say or to caution. The local authority should be told it is not on. If the agency direct a local authority to do something that authority may go to the Minister, and the Government of the day, and say that the agency are on their back about pollution of a stream, a lake or whatever. They may stress the need to get this plant in fast. I would allow a system of derogation if the Government, for whatever reason, have to renege on their responsibility to the environment in that regard. It will not all be done in one day. I do not think we should compromise the agency's integrity by saying that some people will not be in a position to be directed by them. I would allow local authorities a derogation through the Government but the agency must, quite clearly, have the right to direct.

It will strengthen the Government, and the local authority, if the agency are on their back saying this is not done; it is not acceptable. We will see a greater climate and an appetite among politicians for putting money into funding a sewage treatment plant and state of the art water treatment plants generally. I would not allow, as the Minister now appears to, under section 60 (c), the phraseology that the agency shall not give a direction unless the local authority have the necessary funds. I can assure the Minister that the agency will direct local authorities to do precious little because there is not a local authority in the country who have the funds to do anything extra at the moment. As long as that clause is in the Bill the agency's hands are tied behind their back in dealing with, what is regarded, rightly or wrongly — wrongly in my opinion — by the public one of the major pollution group of bodies in the country, the local authorities. The reason is that we have reneged on our responsibility of funding the capital schemes necessary.

The Senator might be in Government some time and might be glad to have that clause there.

I do not know if the Senator is following me or perhaps, I have not been clear enough. I am not saying that the local authorities have to find the money in the morning and put in whatever scheme is necessary to comply with the agency's requirements. What I am saying is that the agency must be able to direct unequivocally. The local authority who cannot comply may hightail it to the Minister for the Environment and if it is not practical for the Government that year to provide the funds, a derogation may be given at that level. We should not compromise the agency's ability to direct something to be done when it needs to be done to help the environment. In other words, we should not impinge on the integrity of the agency at all. It is essential that we get this right. I feel very strongly about it.

I am a member of a local authority and I sat in the Minister's seat; I can see both sides. Let us not start the agency off with its hands tied behind its back saying it cannot direct local authorities to do anything if they can plead that they have no money. The Leas-Chathaoirleach is a member of a local authority and so are half of us. Is there a local authority that would state they have the money to do anything if directed? There is not, they have genuinely not got it.

What about what we have done?

That will not cause problems for the agency. The fact that the work is done will be an non-issue, we know that. Unfortunately, that is the reality. We are talking about what the agency may do in the future and may not be allowed to do. The Minister is suggesting that they cannot direct a local authority if they can plead that they do not have the necessary money. I implore the Minister, if nothing else, to amend this. The Bill cannot travel with this. I am sure none of the local authorities, including my own, would be able to do anything.

I thought the Senator's local authority have all their work done.

We have a lot done and we are doing a lot. We have a main drainage scheme in Enniscorthy at the moment and there is a massive, multimillion main drainage scheme going on in Wexford town. We have more to do but we have a lot done.

We have done a lot in Clare.

I plead with the Minister to look again at this. The integrity of the agency to be able to direct, purely on environmental grounds, must be beyond reproach and I feel very strongly about that.

Section 30 (2) deals with the transfer of people from other bodies to the Environmental Protection Agency. It states that a public authority may, with the consent of the Minister who shall consult with the agency on the matter, designate for employment by the agency any person employed by the public authority.

Senator Rory Kiely should be here.

A lot of Members should be here, on my side as well but that is beside the point. I reckon this is Joe Rea's panacea. I know what was in the original draft of this Bill and this section was not in it, in any shape or colour at all. I am waiting for the Minister to state — and I am urging her to do so — that the Environmental Protection Agency will be located in Johnstown Castle, the former An Foras Taluntais headquarters. I know Joe Rea and Teagasc, cannot wait to offload Johnstown Castle and its staff to the agency. So willy-nilly regardless of whether the employees want to become part of the Environmental Protection Agency or not — there is no such thing as voluntary retirement or redeployment of any of the jargon we use in these cases — they are going if the public authority decide they have to go. In fact, it probably would be a great solution, particularly if the Minister could tell me that the Environmental Protection Agency will be located in Johnstown Castle. She will solve a problem for Joe Rea and he will be forever thankful to her for it. Section 30 (2) is Joe Rea's panacea unless the Minister can tell me otherwise. It is a hidden agenda and I would like to know what the Minister has in mind by that subsection, there is something there and I do not quite know what it is.

In section 37 the Minister talks about the disclosure of interests of the director and others involved in the various committees of the Environmental Protection Agency, and rightly so. However, under section 41 when it comes to consultants and advisers who may be employed by the Environmental Protection Agency there is no disclosure of interests. That hit me last night listening to Senator Brendan Ryan who is a chemical engineer and lectures as a consultant on these matters. In theory, a chemical engineer could be employed by the Environmental Protection Agency as a consultant. Why should disclosure of interest not be as essential for the consultants as it is for directors? That is a small point but it is very important one. A consultant could own a large tract of land or be a director of a company that the Environmental Protection Agency were deciding whether they could extend. There are all sorts of scenarios. It may be an inadvertant omission, I do not know but, for some reason, disclosure of interests apparently is not necessary when it comes to consultants and advisers. I would like the Minister's views on that.

The dog control Act, the Litter Act, legislation pertaining to radioactive substances, oil pollution from ships, dumping and incineration at sea and the whole area of pesticides, to the best of my knowledge are not dealt with under the Environmental Protection Agency. We want one central Environment Protection Agency to have control over all the legislation in the different fields. Will the Minister say why all those are omitted from an Environmental Protection Agency Bill? In other countries, in the US and in the UK — I do not know about any other country; I just checked those two — those areas are all included.

Senator Finneran and other speakers dealt with radioactive substances so it may not be a major issue at the moment but it could be. We just want a nuclear energy board and their relationship to the Environmental Protection Agency defined. Will the Minister tidy up that area? When I use the word "miscellaneous" I do not mean to make it sound an unimportant area but a collection of different bits of legislation in areas that appear to me — and I stand corrected if I am wrong — are not dealt with in the Act. Why should they all not be tied in for completeness and a really good integrated agency controlling the entire environmental spectrum?

Pesticides particularly would appear to be an enormous omission. I refer to the First Schedule — Activities to which Part IV applies. Why are pesticides not controlled by this Bill? Again, one does not want to overreact in this area. We need the use of chemical compounds either through fertilisers, pesticides or whatever else to produce drugs to cure our illnesses and to produce sufficient food to feed the world. Much as we would all like to eat organic food, we cannot; it is just not on. There is a need for a balance. Why are pesticides, pesticide control and research on pesticides outside the control of this Bill? In America, the US Environmental Protection Agency have 700 people alone working on the pesticide section. The scale is totally different from what we are talking about there but we have none. We are not even mentioning it; it is not controlled. Surely pesticides should be included and if not, why not? What is the Department's thinking on that? It maybe they have an equally good way of controlling them.

We should get as much as possible for everything that pertains to this area under one central control. Allaying public fears is one of the main purposes and functions of this Bill because all the legislation is covered somewhere else. We will be pulling them together in the central agency if we can have this body of scientific integrity that I envisage us forming.

There was a scare about a pesticide spray used on apples, I cannot remember the pesticide, last year or the year before, and half of the Americans stopped eating apples because they thought they would die. That was a total over reaction and showed total lack of understanding. The public have fears, real or perceived, in relation to the use of pesticides but, apparently, the Environmental Protection Agency does not have jurisdiction over that area. I would like to know if my understanding of that is correct and what the Minister feels we should do.

All our problems started with the apple, did they not?

The Senator is being sexist. He is really referring to Eve but I will ignore it.

I would like to compliment some areas of environmental protection where excellent work is being done. We all have our pet organisations or groups, ones we are interested in or towards whom we feel sympathetic. Many environmental groups are household names. They are the radical or headline-grabbing groups. Some of the groups I like best, that do quiet, solid and good work for the environment rarely come up for mention. I want to mention in particular the Irish Peatlands Conservation Council who are doing monumental work. Mention a bog and 90 per cent of Irish people will think it synonymous with poverty, hard times, a difficult way of life, marginal land and trying to eke a living out of it. We have a unique peatland heritage and this body deserve our compliments for what they are doing to preserve what is left of our intact bogs. They, together with the World Wildlife Fund, and the Dutch Foundation for the Conservation of Irish Bogs — and there is actually a Dutch Foundation for the Conservation of Irish Bogs — are doing wonderful work. We are all one when it comes to the environment; it is a global environment. All these bodies deserve to be commended.

The Irish Wild Bird Conservancy are doing valuable work in the area of endangered species and habitats. When it comes to our coastline and the standard of beaches, the Dublin Bay Environmental Group are doing marvellous work. I have already mentioned Crann for which I have a particular fondness because they are in the background. We never hear about them; they do not look for headlines. They have one objective, and that is to re-tree Ireland with deciduous trees, uncomplicated, apolitical. They are a marvellous group and deserve our support at official and individual level.

One of the best publications in recent years in relation to policy for nature conservation in Ireland was published during the European Year of the Environment by the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants. I want to compliment them on their book on our natural heritage. I can recommend it to my colleagues here. I do not know how many times I have been able to refer to this for contributions on different Bills dealing with all environmental issues. Everything is covered. One can go from that to the specific source if needed. It is a wonderful production by the UPTCS and most people have probably got a copy. In terms of usefulness, it is a beautiful production synopsising where we are coming from and where we should be going. It includes land use policy which is a much under-rated area. We have got to get our act right fast in relation to land use or we will be in trouble in relation to zoning in this country. I would like an update on this publication as it is now four years since it was first published. If the Environmental Protection Agency are going to take on this state of play report in terms of our environment and nature conservation, and if they can produce anything as beautiful as the UPTCS report, we will be very well catered for. It is a most beautiful and simple publication and is to the point.

There are a few miscellaneous but important matters I wish to raise. The Government's environmental action plan promises to implement an environmentally sensitive areas scheme in Ireland during 1991. Will the designation of ESAs be through the Department of Agriculture and Food or the Department of the Environment, or will we have to wait until the Environmental Protection Agency are up and running? Apparently, Minister O'Kennedy has £100,000 in his budget for environmentally sensitive farming practices in ESAs. I would like to know what the procedure will be for selecting farmers/areas that will be funded under the ESAs. It is a very important concept and one we will have to get on with but a sum of £100,000 is nothing; £1 million would be nearer what we would need if we were seriously to consider this.

For example, in Wexford there is an area of pingos. When I first arrived in Wexford 20 years ago I did not know what a pingo was, so I do not mean to pretend I have any special knowledge in this area. They are very interesting hollows in a ribbon-like fashion throughout an area of agricultural land in Camross, County Wexford. They mark the end of the point at which the glaciers ceased to go forward during the end of the Ice Age. In front of them there is a scooped-out hollow with a big heap or mound of clay surrounding them, saucer-like cut-outs in the land. There is a necklace of those pingos in Wexford. They are rapidly, with the help of mechanical diggers, being filled in. Heaps of clay are being shoved into the hollows and being levelled off and we are paying farmers grants for doing this as part of farm improvement programmes. That is an environmentally sensitive area and, I believe, is the only example of pingos in Ireland. They are a very important area. The farmers are doing what they consider right and being urged to do so by Teagasc and so on and are being paid by the State to destroy a very important sensitive area. We need to get our act together fast in terms of our handling of areas of scientific importance and environmentally sensitive. In relation to those, what will be the role of the Environmental Protection Agency? It is very important that we know this.

During our Presidency of the EC last year the Taoiseach labelled it the "Green Presidency" with particular concern for the environment. I will not go into the politics of that but some good did come of it for the environment. During that time the Commission submitted to the Council a wide range of proposals on a number of matters, including waste, air pollution from motor vehicles and the ozone layer generally. Two notable pieces of legislation were passed during the Irish Presidency. The first, in May 1990, was the regulation on the establishment of the European Environment Agency. What will be the relationship of our Environmental Protection Agency with the European Environment Agency? How do we fit into the European Environment Agency? When will we see it on the ground? The second was a directive on the freedom of access to information on the environment adopted by the Council of Ministers in June 1990. This goes back to the section of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill in relation to freedom of access to information. I do not know what is in the directive on freedom of access to information — I am sure I could find out if I went to the trouble — but I would like the Minister to tell me in the reply to Second Stage. Can the Minister confirm that access to information that will be allowed in the Environmental Protection Agency as it now stands, complies with the directive on the freedom of access to information on the environment? I am not so sure it does and concerns have been expressed by other Senators. It is far less than the freedom of access to information in the US in relation to environmental matters.

Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

I was reaching the conclusion of my contribution on the Environmental Protection Agency Bill. I welcome the Minister back to the House.

I had raised various points concerning certain areas which, in my interpretation, were outside the ambit of the Bill. I hoped that they could be brought within it. I mentioned the different areas to which I am sure the Minister will respond later. Might I also include in that list responsibility for coastal protection? At the moment the maritime local authorities are responsible for the funding and carrying out of coastal protection works, capital schemes or any maintenance schemes. Quite frankly, with the structure and financing of local authorities at the moment, they are not in a position to raise the moneys necessary to do the work. I, and indeed many councillors, and the General Council of County Councils for some years now, have been calling for the financing of coastal protection works to be centrally funded. The coastline does not belong to the maritime counties. The people of Wexford do not, and would not, prevent Carlow and Kilkenny people from enjoying their beaches, even though they are burdened with potentially enormous bills for protecting a much eroded coastline which has deteriorated very badly in the last few years, as indeed, has been the case in other parts of the country.

If we are serious about environmental protection, the whole area of the funding of maintenance and capital schemes in relation to coastal protection works must be taken under a central umbrella and be funded by the central Exchequer. I would ask that that also be considered as part of the remit of the Environmental Protection Agency. It would be very useful. I am sure there would be all-Party support for such concept. It was virtually negligent not to include the funding of coastal protection works as part or our national plan submitted to Brussels for Structural Funds. That was a major omission in the national plan which afforded us a once-off opportunity to get relatively large sums of money for capital schemes such as this. I would like the Minister's view on the inclusion of coastal protection — the funding of coastal protection and capital schemes — to be taken away from the Department of the Marine and brought in under the Environmental Protection Agency, or left with the Department of the Marine but centrally funded. The Environmental Protection Agency should have a role in terms of the environmental threat and difficulties posed by ongoing uncontrolled erosion around our coastline.

I am concerned about the medical-public health advice that will be available to the Director General and his or her four, plus the advisory committee. From a layman's reading of the Bill, unless you intend to cover this point specifically in terms of some of the appointments, apparently there will be no medical — public health expertise input there. Surely environmental protection must have high on its list human and animal health environment and dangers to some in certain situations. I would like specific assurances, from the Minister in relation to the medical and health expertise that will be available to the Environmental Protection Agency. I do not see any specifics in relation to that in connection with the different groups or representative bodies to which you have referred in terms of your selection of personnel for the committee.

With regard to licences and the retrospection that may be allowed in relation to the operation of the Bill, at the moment we have Merck, Sharpe and Dohme going through the process of getting their licence procedure in place. That is, perhaps, one of the more well known cases in terms of a specific industry where there were difficulties with some members of the local community. I understand that licence is at the appeals stage with An Bord Pleanála. I am a little concerned — and I say this with discretion — that some industries may try to get licences processed very quickly in the next six months, before the Environmental Protection Agency is up and running. I am not saying that Merck, Sharpe and Dohme are doing this because theirs was in train before the Environmental Protection Agency proposals came to this House or was published. They are now with An Bord Pleanála. If I were in management in Merck, Sharpe and Dohme I would be trying to get it through An Bord Pleanála before the Environmental Protection Agency can get their teeth into it.

I am sure there are plenty of others who are in the process or are about to apply for licences or controls of one kind or another. Is there a case for saying that anything in the pipeline now should either be frozen or should be produced to the Environmental Protection Agency when it is statutorily operational? Perhaps we should look at that to see if it would be in the best interests of environmental protection in the widest sense of the word and in the best interests of industries which we want to locate here — the sustainable industries that are environmentally friendly. We should check that there will be no "fast-tracking" through before the Environmental Protection Agency comes into being. Anything that the Minister knows is in the pipeline should be looked at now critically to see if the Environmental Protection Agency would not be the best place for final decisions on them. I put this to the Minister as a suggestion to see what response there might be to it.

For example, the situation with regard to Merck, Sharpe and Dohme is well known. Merrill Dow and Sandoz, too, are well known and were well highlighted. There were difficulties, toing and froing, and the public reaction and perception of problems as distinct from what were real problems. There was the sorting out of the problems in relation to the location of the chemical industry in green field sites. This is a very difficult area. Why were the conditions attached to and required of Merrill Dow in relation to the licence so much more comprehensive than the conditions in respect of the application of Merck, Sharpe and Dohme which is being dealt with at the moment? Are there no standard procedures or standard official requirements of these similar companies in terms of the type of product they are making? Merrill Dow's licence is very detailed, very well done and very scrutinised, covering every angle. The Merck, Sharpe and Dohme one is not as detailed. It is now with An Bord Pleanála.

Perhaps it will be the role of the Environmental Protection Agency to bring some sort of order into this area and to rationalise it. Each one will be different and will require different conditions. I do not doubt that, but there seems to be a far greater onus on some companies to comply with the various conditions while others seem to be treated differently. Is it because in one case we were retro-fitting, as it were, applying a licence to something that has been up and running for 12 or 14 years? Is there a special consideration there or will there be special consideration for retrospective application of licences? Will they be required to bring their plans up to state-of-the-art as if they were building from scratch now? To what extent will the Environmental Protection Agency enforce existing industries to retro-fit their plants to meet requirements we would now expect of a green-field plan? That whole area needs to be explained.

What is the extent of the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency to go back after industries that are up and running? We welcome 99 per cent of the industries in this country. God knows we need the jobs. We need the medicines and the drugs they are producing to control tuberculosis and all the other infectious and contagious diseases. We need the pesticides and fertilisers for our land in order to produce enough to feed not only our own people but the people of hungry nations but there is a balance here in relation to a sustainable development in the environment generally.

Will the Environmental Protection Agency be the agency that the John Hanrahans of the future will be able to turn to, to have their fears allayed or investigated and any problems or difficulties in their immediate environment, be it human health, animal environment or plant environment, or suffering, immediately resolved? Can the Minister state categorically that the John Hanrahans of the future will not have to go through what that man and his family went through because there was no Environmental Protection Agency type body? He was pushed around from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of Health and to the local authority concerned. Reports were heaped upon reports. There were conflicting reports, none of which really tallied with eye witness accounts of the problems he suffered. People may say: "It was John Hanrahan alone; nobody else had these problems". For ten years we were listening to that type of remark.

I want to put on the record that there were 227 odour complaints to Merck Sharp and Dohme over the ten years there were problems. Only 34 of those were from the Hanrahan family. I will go back to the point about the lack of specific inclusion of the word "smell" in our legislation concerning odour complaints. Some smells are innocuous; others really are a warning sign that something awful is being emitted. So 227 odour complaints were made to Merck, Sharp and Dohme and only 34 of those were from the Hanrahans. The 227 who complained were by no means the only people concerned as there were well attended public meetings in the early eighties — 20 February 1981, September 1981, December 1981, May 1982, June 1982, July 1982 — people from far and wide in the area who were concerned were afraid, panicking, maybe some unduly and others reasonably concerned because of the effects of what was happening. Will the Environmental Protection Agency be able to allay the fears that in the future people will not have to suffer the trauma others went through in the early eighties — and I use that word in its broadest sense — to even get authority to accept that there really was a problem and that it needed looking into?

Will the Environmental Protection Agency be able to insist that the monitoring of the conditions laid down in licensing and in granting a planning permission will be enforced? It did not happen in the Merck, Sharp and Dohme case in relation to the planning permission conditions. Will the Environmental Protection Agency be able to get to grips with the major problems that arose in relation to that case? We have a lot to learn, but unfortunately not quite enough, because even though the judgment of the Supreme Court finally went in favour of John Hanrahan and his family, I do not think we can extrapolate from that sufficient material to use as a headline in other cases. I wish we could, but I do not think with the judge's summing up that we can, even though it was complete vindication of John Hanrahan and his wife and, indeed, his mother, Mary, and their persistently held view that they and their farming practices were not to blame in any way for the enormous deterioration in the conditions of their particular environment from the late seventies onwards.

Eyewitness accounts at that time indicated that there was something in the air causing at the very least burning and irritation of eyes, nose, throat, running eyes and noses, coughing, wheezing, chest pains, nausea, headaches and drowiness in humans. There was something in the air or on the grass causing similar overt symptoms for cattle — running eyes and noses, coughing, stampeding, erratic behaviour, sore udders and refusal to eat grass and silage. At a more serious but less definitive level in animals there were deaths, lung damage, birth defects, reproductive disorders, wasting, liver and kidney damage and blood abnormalities. The Hanrahan family suffered serious health consequences which I will not go into here, but they have been well documented elsewhere.

John Hanrahan had a model farm and was a model farmer. His farm was used by ACOT and the IFA and all the other farming bodies for open days. People were invited and paraded around the Hanrahan farm to see how they managed their farm and their animal husbandry. They were the model farmers in the area. How would there be a total change, as we were led to believe at the time by authorities, in their practices that could have caused this situation? There was 227 other complaints and eight or ten major public meetings extremely well attended. It is amazing the effort and the extent to which John Hanrahan had to go to prove his case. I hope the Minister can assure us that with the Environmental Protection Agency properly funded, truly independent and with its scientific integrity above approach that that could never happen. I hope that if a person had to proceed to the High Court and was not as well off as John Hanrahan, he would be able to do so. John Hanrahan was prepared to sell out everything — he had to sell out a lot — to vindicate his own view and his family's view, to prove that he was not mad, paranoid or a bad farmer. How many individuals would have their own personal resources to take on the might of the multinationals, particularly now that they can go to the High Court? I just put it to you that I am a little bit worried.

Tipperary determination.

Yes, and it is to be commended. There were many in Tipperary, public representatives of all colours, officials in the local authority and in the health authority who still thought he was "mad". Thank God, he was vindicated. The officials might look into their own souls and look at their own practices and how they reacted individually. The Department of Agriculture officials, both locally and in Dublin, must look at how they handled that case.

We can learn so much from that case and, hopefully, give ourselves comfort through what the Minister is now proposing — that it could never happen again to an individual and his family. The High Court case is well documented. The transcripts are widely available. We learned from that that there were four main sources of emission from Merck, Sharp and Dohme, the scrubber stack on the process building emitting acid and organic vapours, supposedly subject to strict limits set out in the planning permit — they were breached many times; almost 300 vents in the process building and the solvent recovery unit which can release an unpredictable and unknown variety of what they call fugitive emissions — these have never been monitored; the incinerator stack was operating at about 10 per cent of the time and again was supposedly subject to strict planning permission limits. The temperature in the incinerator stack was a major bone of contention in the court case all along. It is beyond refuting at the moment that the vast majority of the time it was below acceptable limits to have complete incineration and hence emissions which caused problems were allowed. The fourth source of emission was the boiler house stack which emitted mainly sulphur dioxide gas and, again, was supposedly subject to strict planning permission.

Because of the geographical layout of a valley within a valley the Hanrahan family was most adversely affected, but, many other farmers were affected also. The evidence was there. I will not say that there was a deliberate official cover up, but when one reads the reports of the last ten years, and the abridged reports to the local authority — when an official report is submitted to the local authority a report is done on that by the local authority officials before the councillors get it — one wonders what the mentality at the time was. Perhaps any local authority or any Government body, whether in Wexford or anywhere else at the time might have done the same. I do not know. The Hanrahan family had the appalling experience that their case went right up to the High Court, and it went against them. They then sold everything they could to fund an appeal to the Supreme Court. Their faith in themselves and in their own integrity made them pursue it. They would have gone to the European Courts, if necessary. Thankfully, in the Supreme Court, justice was done and was seen to be done. Can the Minister tell me that the procedures she is now putting in place in the Environmental Protection Agency Bill will ensure that that can, and will, never happen again? We need that type of assurance. If we do not have a body of scientific integrity to allay the fears of the public — grounded or ungrounded fears — we are at nothing here.

Since 1900 the population of the world has increased three times. Fossil fuel consumption has gone up by a factor of 30. Mankind has interfered with every part of nature. Our world is a patchwork of habitats and eco-systems. The climate that sustains them depends on the environment in the surrounding areas. The most graphic effect — one that was highlighted recently through the Voyager discoveries sending back satellite pictures of the environmental damage that is being done globally from the coral reefs to the rain forests — is the whole scenario of interfering with the environment in the rain forests. Those areas eventually become grassland when the timber is felled. The whole balance of rain in the area is affected. Finally, it goes on to a desert situation when even the grassland cannot be sustained by the local environment any longer. The whole tragedy in relation to the coral reefs is the main dip stick or indicator as to the impact mankind is having on our environment.

Clear national and international targets for the environment are required to allow sustainable development. The state of the environment is shaped by the pressures on it from a range of human activity in such sectors as agriculture, industry, transport and energy, as well as from our lifestyle and our consumption rates generally. In turn, these activities depend on the environment for sustained development. All governments are now adopting much broader approaches. Integrated pollution prevention and control, "cradle to grave management" and a firm insistance on the "polluter pays" principle are expressions and words that should be, as policy makers and legislators, part of our everyday vocabulary.

This generation of Irish children will not forgive us if we carelessly squander the richness of their heritage. Even though Margaret Thatcher was a late convert to environmental issues, she stated recently at an environmental conference that we cannot live at the expense of future generations. That is effectively what this is all about. The late John Kelly made a statement in relation to fiscal rectitude but it also applies in a very real sense to what we are talking about today — the general management of our environment, alongside sustainable development. Professor Kelly stated that we cannot spend on today's generation what will have to be paid for by tomorrow's. Again, he was reiterating. He said it before Margaret Thatcher did. Quite frankly, we cannot live our lives at the expense of future generations.

I look forward with interest to a detailed discussion on Committee Stage on an interesting Bill. It is limited. There are some omissions; there are some inclusions that we do not quite agree with, but I congratulate the Minister for bringing the Bill to the Seanad. I hope she will be able to include an Oireachtas environment committee as part of her recommendations.

Fine Gael had an Environmental Protection Agency Bill published a year before this Bill was published. I have deliberately not referred to it because I do not want to be politically provocative on an issue that transcends all politics. It transcends all boundaries in the real sense of the word. This is one area in which we should have a very effective Environmental Protection Agency and an all-party Oireachtas committee on the environment where we can thrash and tease out problems, highlight public concerns and feed the information back through the Department to the Environmental Protection Agency. An Oireachtas environment committee would be a tremendous support and back up to the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental issues are with us forever. We have to go hand in hand with sustainable development along with the environment. That, as policy makers and legislators, will be our principal role in years to come.

Mr. Farrell

I dtús báire déanaim comhghairdeas leat as an Bille tábhachtach seo teacht go dtí an Teach seo ar dtús.

We are delighted to have a first discussion on this very important Bill. It is rather sad that we have to bring in a Bill like this before the House when we consider that generations and generations before us — plain, simple, humble people — lived on this island and handed it over to us ecologically and architecturally 100 per cent environmentally sound. In the last 25 years in modern Ireland we are supposed to have had all the experts and people who knew everything. They instructed us on how to intensify and how to do a lot of things, but the end product has been a disaster for the environment.

The Minister said that local authorities will continue to be extensively involved in environmental monitoring and control activities and it is desirable that a mechanism should exist to guide standards of local authority performance and to encourage the consistent application of control procedures throughout the country. When environment was not very fashionable, the county councils were discussing the problems. I have heard a number of speakers saying that some councils did not do their job properly. I contradict that. Every council had it right. Every council got out a very good development plan. A lot of work was put into it by the officials and by the local councillors. It was discussed in detail. The county councils were the first to sound warning bells about environmental problems and to ensure that in many areas we did take the necessary steps. When we consider the amount of industry that started here through the sixties and seventies, the number of housing estates that were built and the number of developments that have taken place, all under local authority direction and planninng conditions, it must be said that the number faulted are very few.

In my own county of Sligo, about 18 or 19 years ago a very big factory called SNIA was established. There were all types of objections to it because it was being sited on the shores of Lough Gill. We were told by all types of protestors that Lough Gill would be green with algae and that there would be no fish life in it. Yet there were 500 people employed in that factory. Many thousands of people have gone up Lough Gill, have come round Sligo and around the lakes, and they never even saw the factory it was so well sited environmentally. Its colour schemes blended with the forestry and with the whole terrain around it. It was not noticeable. It was handling very difficult material in synthetic clothing. Yet no pollution was ever caused to Lough Gill, although it was as near to Lough Gill shores as I am to Kildare House.

That is what county councillors did and they were proven right. We never hear when the councils were right. In any of the cases where there were problems in council areas it was the councils who first detected them and brought the people to court. People lost view of that and criticised the council for giving planning permission in the first place, instead of criticising people who did not keep to the conditions. They did not give the council credit for ensuring that they must adhere to those conditions, or for bringing them to court if it was necessary.

We are expecting a lot of this agency. I hope it lives up to it, because it will consist of human beings too. The councils did their work very successfully on a shoestring budget. They blended and married industry and the environment very well. Everyone admits that Ireland has the cleanest environment in Europe. It is amazing now, with the Greens and other organisations, that when poor old Seán Dublin Bay Loftus, 20 years ago, was talking about the environment people regarded him as "way out", not with it, offside. He was a local authority member. He came to more prominence but he never got the credit he was entitled to for making peole aware of their environmental surroundings. We could have a very nice environment and have no people. That happened in this country before. It inspired Thomas Davis when he wrote the poem, "The Silence of Unlaboured Fields":

The silence of unlaboured fields lies like a silence in the air,

A human voice is never heard, the sighing grass is everywhere.

Where are the lowland people gone?

Where are their sun dark faces now?

The ones that kept the quiet hearth, the hands that held the sturdy plough.

Without people we can have a lovely environment but we must keep people. People are part of the fauna of this country and we should never forget that. We are inclined not to allow them to build houses. I think we are too regulatory at times. If we do not have people we have nothing. We talk about emigration if we do not have work. It is sad at present to see so many industries being deliberately stopped by protest. I hope this new agency will allay those fears because we must have work and industry, we must have a way of life. At the moment the protestors seem to be winning the battle. I certainly will give this all our support. It is well due.

For years An Bord Pleanála have worked well. Their decision was final, it was sacrosanct, that was it. Now they are being challenged in the High Court and the Supreme Court. If the body we are establishing here cannot convince people and if they are taken to court and defeated then this Bill will not have succeeded in doing the job which we have set out for it.

In my own village of Grange I started a little industry and it blossomed out into an industrial estate; there are six factories involved and 130 people employed there. If the same stringent rules we are going to have in the future had applied then I do not think I would have been able to get it off the ground. Everyone who passes through our village says the development has enhanced the environment. Ours is a nice clean village and we are proud of it. I suppose the opposition to such a venture today would be so huge that we would not be able to have it. My fear is that we will go overboard. We have been going overboard but we can get the balance of employment on the one hand and the environment on the other. I think it can be done. It will take great work and ingenuity by this new authority to work that out. It will be a very difficult job. We will have this organisation, the IDA, the local authority and An Bord Pleanála. That means four groups have to come together and try to knit all of that together so that they all work in the interests of the good of the community. That is what it is all about; working for the good of the country. That will be a very difficult job indeed.

Another problem we are going to have and we had it already in Sligo is in relation to dumps. In the last couple of years we have started to change words. When I was a garsún you would hear a fellow saying: "He is out of work"; now it is: "He is unemployed" and the last buzz word is "redundant". It is the same thing. He is still out of a job. It is just the way we play with words. Years ago places where rubbish was dumped were called dumps. Now they are called landfill sites. It is the same rubbish you are putting into them. I do not think it is going to cure the problem. It is something that will require much research. It will be impossible to get a landfill site.

I remember when I became a member of the county council, at the first meeting I attended was a proposal to fill in an old quarry. The public gallery was full of objectors. However, in those days they were not as tough as they are now; they did not go as far as taking the matter up with the law. Now they are getting very good at it. I have seen cases where they put up what is known as a "man of straw". Then if he loses, the people who are defending have nothing to get and generally the council are the people who are defending. It is a great idea. It is another thing that has happened in our society but I will not dwell on that today. In the event we filled that dump and it was sold recently as a beautiful green field, a great advantage to the environment we went to fill another one ten years ago which is an ugly scar on the landscape. We had brought in all the experts that could be got and spent a lot of money on research but the proposal was objected to. The case went to the High Court and we won; then it went to the Supreme Court and we lost. It cost the taxpayers of Sligo over £500,000. When our present dump is full in another four or five years I do not know where we will find more dumps or as we prefer to call them, landfill sites, because they will not be available anywhere. A lot of money should be put into research to get rid of our waste. We are not allowed to burn it because it gives off toxic gasses, Every town in Ireland will have a huge problem with dumping its refuse. That is going to be one of the problems over the next ten years. There will be a problem in finding the money.

We have another big problem, too, which is the damage to the environment by natural causes and storms. Another group we are involved in the environment and who are very often not spoken of very highly are the members of golf clubs. Golf clubs have done a lot for the environment because they have kept their courses and have let wildlife develop. Golf courses are unused except for fairways and the greens and you have a lot of wildlife in those areas. The areas that are commonage have been grazed so much that there is really nothing left. We will have to get money and I do not know where or how we are going to get it but we need it to do research. Unless we bring back the marram grass to our coastline from Buncrana to Kerry the whole coastline will be destroyed.

Many years ago Lord Palmerston was the first to introduce the marram grass to north Sligo and from there it developed along the coast and it kept the sand dunes because it is the type of grass that will grow in sand and only in sand. We have discovered now from some research we have done that it grows from reseeding. It has grown so old now that it is unable to reseed itself. Some experiments have been carried out in Kerry, and we have done some in Sligo too, where marram grass was transplanted from one area to another. With a change of soil and a change of area it has started to reseed again. However, to reseed the whole job will be one huge task. Unless and until we get some modern way to update how it was done in the late 1700s or 1800s sand dunes will be a thing of the past. Any of you who have travelled along the West of Ireland will know that those sand dunes are part of the landscape and very important but they are disappearing rapidly. As you study the ground you will notice the grass has ceased to seed. That is the problem. The Minister said at column 693 of the Official Report:

The agency will, therefore, co-ordinate environmental research and related programmes by public and other bodies and will prepare and publish registers of environmental research projects or operations. The agency will have power to carry out research directly, or to do consultancy or commissioned work. The agency will, as a matter of priority, liaise with the EC Commission and other international organisations so as to secure maximum funding for, and participation in, environmental research work in Ireland.

That could not be got going quickly enough because we must get money for research on protecting our environment along the coastline.

We talk about agricultural pollution. Agricultural pollution has been a problem but who started it? We blame the farmers. They are first in the line of fire, simple to get at, but who instructed the farmers to be intensive? Who put all the chemicals on the markets and told the farmers to buy them? No Johnnie Murphy or Peter McGuinn or Harry Feeney down the country thought of all this. Who came along and told them this is what you do?

The farming community were the quickest to clean up. We see that in the Cavan area where there was a lot of talk about Lough Sheelin. They were the quickest to clean up because something that happens through human error can be cured but what is happening from natural causes and storms is not as easy to solve. This is where real damage is being done to our environment today. I feel very strongly about that. Unless we get our act together to preserve our coastline, we will lose land and end up with a much smaller country. We are trying to promote tourism. Our seasides and seaside villages are the tourist attractions but they will disappear unless we put work, money and research into dealing with the problem.

For generations to have been able to feed society and the world without any of this high tech stuff. What is the end result of all the high technology? We are spoiling the environment by producing something we do not want. I see a farmer on my way to Dublin who has gone into pigs in a big way but in the old traditional way, keeping his animals out in the field. He has 50, 60 or 70 acres and the pigs are out on open range. Down the centuries that is the way animals were, out in the open, and there was no such thing as slurry or pollution from slurry. Maybe it is time we stepped back again to that type of intensification, intensification on a different model in a way. That farmer would have a large number of pigs but absolutely no slurry, no smells or no problems. We should encourage that type of traditional farming.

Silage is another thing that comes in for much criticism. We got involved in silage because of the bad years and bad weather. In the early days, silage was put into a pit and kept well contained. Then, of course, farmers were told they did not need any of that. They were told to have the silage in a corner of a field and throw a bit of black plastic over it. When it started to seep into the rivers and waterways it was the poor farmers who were blamed. There was nothing at all about the fellow who gave him the advice and who did not do his research beforehand. I wonder how much of this research is really research. It takes so long.

A few years ago we were talking about all those great commodities that were on the market. The main selling point was that it saves time, cleans in a flash, washes whiter than white. Everything was instant. Then, all of a sudden we discovered that those products caused a lot of damage to the environment. Now we are told there are some products that are environmentally friendly. What does that mean? How do I know that the green substance I squeeze out of a can is anything different from what was squeezed out of a can five years ago? I do not know. I am taking someone's word for it. In five or ten years time we may be told: "The base substance is wrong, we have discovered it now. There is no guarantee that the products we are using now are perfect, We may still be polluting the environment.

Another area that will be the cause of pollution is septic tanks. I believe there should be research done there. There must be some way in this modern age that we could get small sewerage disposal units that would service ten or 15 houses in an area rather than having ten or 15 tanks. Septic tanks were perfect and are perfect if they are used as they were intended to be used, namely, to deal with the waste from toilets. The bacteria that works within it would dispose of the substance and it would work perfectly, but now with all those powders and with automatic washers and dishwashers, showers, baths, etc., and water going all the time, the septic tank has now become non-septic because every chemical possible is put into it to ensure that it does not go septic. The problem is that it fills over. I believe it is time that we started to deal with that problem.

I have for years been advocating that we should have some type of communal tanks. We should look to Europe or elsewhere for money to research how we can reduce the number of septic tanks in every village area and outside the villages. I do not think we can have every part of the country designated a serviced area but we should be able to provide some services. It is not impossible to work on that at this stage. I must defend councils here. People say there are different conditions in different council areas. I do not believe that is true. All the councils and planning officers have a fair good relationship with one another. This is something that is said and added to and no one contradicts it. County councils have done a magnificent job. If they could get more money to help them in their environmental studies they would do an excellent job. Unfortunately, councils have not got the money.

We have a big problem with people dumping indiscriminately. How this agency or any law will come to grips with that I do not know. It is terrible. In my county we provided skips out in the country — one of the few counties that provides skips; it is a pretty expensive service — I have seen dumping on laybys within 200 yards of the skip. How does one come to grips with that? I have seen rubbish dumped between Dublin and Sligo on the roadside and in woods. People just throw out bags of rubbish. The trouble with most of the rubbish today is that it has a lot of plastic which will last forever. In years gone by every substance on the market was disposable because it was not made from manmade fibres, it was made from all natural products such as paper and wood. Everything rotted away, even iron in time rusted and rotted away with the air; it came from the land and went back into the land. Now we have plastics and aluminium and other substances that will never rot. They are the cause of the continuous pollution and the build-up of waste. It is something we will have to come to grips with.

I am delighted with this Bill. I wish it the best of luck, I hope it will be successful. We all look forward to its success because if it is not I fear that the chances of industry working here will be nil. At the moment it is very difficult because the general public do not trust the local authorities. No matter how good the experts we get to give us advice their mob knows better and, by and large, we are beaten in the courts. We do not even have the law on the local authority's side. It is a foregone conclusion that if they go in they will be beaten.

I would like to see the Environmental Protection Agency being so well tied up that it would be sacrosanct and that when it made a decision it would be binding and no law or anybody would have a right to question it. I appeal to the Minister to tighten it that tight. I do not think anybody minds an industry being set up if it gets the okay from someone, up to now it was An Bord Pleanála. Now that no longer works because An Bord Pleanála is not trusted. We know what litigation costs, we know what delay costs and people with money who are going into industry are not going to hang around for years.

One could spend two or three years arguing over planning at present. There was much ado about Arigna Coalmines when it closed and rightly so. Many jobs were lost. If Arigna was starting today it would not be allowed. We would be told about all the pollution it would cause. It has been operated for 100 years or more and it has caused no environmental problems. Could one start mining any mountain in Ireland today? We had in my county the Sparmills worked for over a half a century. Did anyone ever hear of a complaint about beautiful Benbulben? That Sparmills worked for years and gave a lot of employment in that area. If somebody came in today and said there was some mineral in Benbulben, or any other mountain one cares to mention, and that they were going to mine it there would be an uproar. It would not be allowed to start. It would not even be given a chance to get off the ground, the egg would not get out of the shell.

We have had many cases where this type of industry has been stopped. There was a case in Leitrim recently of a man who tried to open a sawmill in a little country town in Leitrim. He was stopped and he has left. He could not operate it because of objectors. Yet sawmills have been in every town in Ireland down the centuries. This is what we are getting into. I would like that this agency would be able to say to that man: "You have complied with the regulations and you can build and no objectors can stop you." A fine industry that was going to Wicklow now has gone to Derry. It is going to cause no environmental damage problem in Derry and we were told it would in Wicklow. We have people asking what we are doing about emigration but when we try to create jobs there were objections. It is like trying to house the itinerants, they should be housed but not here. We are told to create jobs but not here or that is a dirty industry, give us a clean industry. What is a clean industry?

Congratulations to the Minister and all concerned who brought in the Bill because our hope for the future depends on the satisfactory and successful working of this Bill. If it does not work we can forget about creating employment. There are too many fears. I gave Snia as an example. In the words of the poet:

Our feet on the turn's brink,

Our eyes on the clouds afar,

We fear the things we think

Instead of the things that are.

This is what is happening but we are not able to allay the fears of the people who are so vociferous and tough that they will go to the district court, the High Court, the Supreme Court and even the European Court.

I hope this Bill will have that grip, that bite and the sole authority to say: "We have examined this and we are giving it a licence. It is environmentally friendly." Unless that is in the Bill it will not be any help. It will have to be. If we did not bring in this Bill we could forget about work in Ireland, we could forget about industry in Ireland, we could forget about any future for our country.

I wish the Bill every success. The local authorities will be happy with it. I would like to see some discussion about it with the local authorities. It would be a good idea if public relations work was done through the various councils because unless the local authorities and this new body work hand in hand it will not be a success. It is important that we have all involved working in unity and in co-operation. It is all for the good of our community. The Department would be wise to do some public relations work with local authorities and have discussions with them about the Bill because unless this body is totally trusted, one whose views will be respected and accepted by all and sundry, then we will be back to square one.

I would like to welcome Minister Leyden to the House and to welcome the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1990. It is unfortunate that the Shatter Bill which was introduced last year was not accepted and amended by the Government, if they were not happy with it, because we would be further on the way to the introduction of the Environmental Protection Agency. I fail to see why Government — and all Governments are guilty of this — would not accept worthwhile propositions and Bills from the Opposition, amend them if they feel they are not adequate in their view, and allow the Opposition parties to devote some of their time to positive legislation rather that reacting to legislation introduced by the Government. I am not being political in this. All Governments have been guilty of this.

Issues dealing with the environment have grown in importance over the past ten years, as many previous speakers have said. This is inversely correlated with the deterioration of the environment. Our generation inherited a clean pollution free environment. It is our duty to pass this on to the next generation. This Bill will help in doing this.

Over the past 15 or 20 years we have seen almost a destruction of environmental quality. Our pollution free fish rich rivers are quickly being turned into sewers. Our lakes are polluted. There is growing concern at this. The politicians are now responding and reacting to that concern. The public are very much aware of the need to stop the deterioration of the environment and to improve the conditions of our lakes, rivers and environment in general.

The Department of the Environment are a bit negative in this in that they were heretofore accepting a situation that the environment will deteriorate. For example, the Department, rather than ensuring that our waterways remain clean, are now adjusting policies to cater for future pollution of our lakes and rivers. This is a wrong attitude in the Department's approach. A town in my own area, Pallaskenry, County Limerick, has enjoyed fresh water for over 20 or 30 years. When there was a proposal to extend the scheme the local authority advised that the Department will not accept the present source — a spring fresh water lake source — because of the future danger of pollution. The people have been quite happy over the last 20 years and for many thousands of years this source has remained unpolluted. Now the Department say it is their view that there is a danger of pollution. They will not accept the present source and insist that the new source shall be from the river Deale. While I accept the treatment this water will get through the environmental section of Limerick County Council, I think it is a sign of the Department of the Environment's attitude that they are now planning for pollution rather than introducing effective measures to ensure that such pollution does not take place. The Department should have confidence in the preservation of the present source and that we will have an improvement rather than a disimprovement in the environment. If they are not confident that that would be the case they should introduce protective measures to ensure that it is the case.

I hope that the Bill and the new Agency will change the Department's attitude towards this. No doubt we do need a watch dog to protect the environment and we need a body to co-ordinate environmental protection. I believe that the proposals as outlined by the Minister, with some amendments, will do so.

While I have been critical of the Irish situation and our environment generally, we must recognise that we have a much cleaner environment than many parts of industrialised Europe, particularly Eastern Europe. We should ensure that this is protected and improved. We do not make enough use of this in marketing our products, especially food products, and tourism abroad. CBF and An Bord Bainne have tried to do this but we should market and use our relatively pollution free environment to that effect to attract customers to our food products and to our tourist enterprises.

At this stage I would like to pay tribute to local authorities for the work done over the years, often with limited resources, to police the situation. They did it at a time when it was not very popular to do so, at a time when it was not high on the agenda of the people as it is at present.

The previous speaker mentioned the problem of litter. Limerick County Council have improved the situation considerably following the appointment of an environmental officer whose sole work it is to police on the ground these types of complaints. There is a considerable improvement in that area.

I have already mentioned our tourist products. There is no doubt that the tourist is attracted by a pollution free environment. Especially with the new approach to tourism, they like outdoor, active tourist products. They want clean air, clean waterways, a green, fresh environment, rivers rich with fish and food available grown without intensive fertilisation — in other words, an organic type of food production facility. We should try to encourage and reward people who move towards a more organic type of food production.

I would like to highlight one anomaly that I see in the law relating to the spread of contamination on land. At the moment if a farmer has what is known as a locked up herd with a disease problem he is not allowed to distribute slurry from that to any other person's land. But this does not apply to the meat factories. The meat factories can distribute anywhere offal, offal products, slurry, or blood, even though the meat factories are slaughtering diseased animals. This would have a higher risk rate than locked up farms. I have discussed this with people in Teagasc and they accepted there is an anomaly and that a change should be made.

I have personal knowledge of a meat plant where they are killing diseased animals, as most meat plants are, whether it is brucellosis or tuberculosis. They are taking the offal products and the blood, which is contaminated blood, to land ten and 20 miles from the factory and spreading it on farmers' land. This is something which contradicts all the rules which apply to the farming community.

Previous speakers have dealt in great detail with the Bill and I do not propose at this stage of the debate to repeat everything that was said, particularly since Senator Doyle made a very thorough analysis of the Bill, as indeed did Senator Naughten earlier. They were the two Senators to whose contributions I paid particular attention. I would be concerned that the appointment of the Director General would be seen to be totally objective and that there should be no hint that his independence should be brought into question. The Fine Gael Bill, the Shatter Bill, proposed that the appointment of the Director General would be by way of a resolution of Oireachtas Éireann and I think the Minister should reconsider the proposal and look at this. We hope to discuss this on Committee Stage. I would like to urge the Minister at this stage to consider it for Committee Stage.

I would also like to ask the Minister about the system envisaged for the operation of the regional environmental units and how they will relate to local authorities, or if the local authorities themselves might not be regional environmental units. It will be very important that adequate resources are allocated to the board. I would give the example of the Garda Complaints Board, where such a system has broken down. At the moment the whole system has broken down and there are 1,000 complaints awaiting consideration by the board. No complaints have been considered since 1988 due to a lack of resources, a lack of manpower. Therefore, it is going to be very important that this organisation be given the resources to operate quickly and effectively and to hold the credibility of the people for its work.

I would like briefly to reiterate some of the things Senator Farrell said in that people are very important. It is important that we have an objective approach to the establishment of industry in Ireland and that we do not get overprotective of the environment with the loss of badly needed jobs in 1991. There is no point having a pollution-free, absolutely clean environment if there are no people to enjoy it. I do not propose to say anymore except to again welcome the Bill. We look forward to Committee Stage and hope to improve it.

I welcome Minister Leyden to this House when we are discusing this important legislation. This may well be one of the most important Bills to be taken in this House since I came here in 1977. I say this because it affects everybody in this nation and will do so in the years ahead. We know the effect it will have on our existing local authorities from now on. The people are waiting for this legislation and regard it as most important to them and to future generations. The European Community and all its member states, including Ireland, have a special responsibility to encourage and participate in international action to combat environmental problems. The capacity to provide leadership is needed and we have it today with our Ministers and Government.

A Bill with 109 sections and two Schedules looks good. If it takes us as long as it took us to get the Companies' Bill and other important Bills through this House, so be it. I think we have proved down the years that because we have less party politics this is the place to bring important legislation of this kind. I see this Bill as of the greatest importance.

Debate adjourned.