I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I welcome the opportunity to introduce Second Stage of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014. The Bill provides for a number of important legislative amendments, corrections and updates to a range of policy areas across the environmental field and is important in introducing new streamlined procedures that will help to reduce the administrative burden on enforcing authorities, as well as companies and individuals. It also provides for a more responsive system to changing environmental pressures and priorities.
This included provision for fixed payment notices - or on-the-spot fines - for certain alleged offences under existing environmental regulations. Fixed payment notices have proved an effective deterrent against breaches of environmental regulation. They also provide local authorities with an additional enforcement tool that is less costly and resource-intensive than prosecutions in the Circuit and District courts, especially for relatively small-scale offences. The Bill also proposes to extend regulation-making powers providing for payments to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, for areas that are generating a large volume of work and providing a significant service to industry while not currently generating any fee income. These amendments will strengthen the agency's own income strand.
The Bill makes provision for several items, the first being the transfer of powers and functions under the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Act to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. In effect this will transfer ownership of the core of Killarney National Park to the Department of the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys. Second, it provides for the reinstatement of existing fixed payment notices, FPNs, for certain offences relating to the marketing, sale and distribution of solid fuel by referring to the updated consolidating regulations, namely, SI 326 of 2012. Third, it provides for the extension of FPNs to a range of other existing offences in the areas of air quality and waste management, in particular with regard to waste electrical and electronic equipment, WEEE, batteries, waste packaging and end-of-life vehicles. Fourth, it extends the scope of the EPA to impose licensing fees for new and expanding areas. Fifth, it extends the deadline for the making of a declaration of non-use in the case of registration of a new vehicle and on change of ownership of a vehicle and sixth, it amends some minor typographical errors in existing primary legislation.
There are 35 heads in the published Bill and my Department has worked closely with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to advance the Bill for publication. Legal advice was received from advisory counsel on several heads and in particular on the conditions that allow for the application of fixed payment notices to certain offences. The Bill is divided into seven parts. Part 1 deals with preliminary and general matters. Part 2 covers the amendments to the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Act 1932. Part 3 addresses amendments to the Air Pollution Act 1987. Part 4 deals with amendments to the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. Part 5 covers amendments to the Finance (No. 2) Act 1992. Part 6 provides for amendments to the Waste Management Act 1996. Part 7 deals with amendments to the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 and the Control of Dogs Act 1986.
I will now give Members a more detailed overview of the Bill. Part 1 is a preliminary and general part and contains two sections. Section 1 sets out the Short Title of the Bill on enactment and allows the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Acts 1932 and 2014 to be construed together as one Act. Section 2 defines the use of key terms and phrases upon enactment.
Part 2 concerns amendment of the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Act 1932. It deals with the transfer of functions under the Bourn Vincent Memorial Park Act 1932 from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. In so doing, it provides specifically for the transfer of ownership of the property forming the park. Part 2 consists of four chapters. Chapter 1 consists of one section, section 3, which defines key terms the use of which is specific to Part 2. Chapter 2 consists of two sections. Section 4 provides that the functions identified in it will, on the commencement of Part 2 in its entirety, transfer from the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The functions that will so transfer include all those functions which, under the 1932 Act, were exercisable by the Commissioners of Public Works.
The transferred functions will also include most of the functions which, under the 1932 Act, were exercisable by the Minister for Finance. One function under section 3(2) of the 1932 Act relating to the disposal of moneys received under the Act, which is currently vested in the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, will remain with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Section 5 clarifies that references to any Minister or to the Commissioners of Public Works contained in any other enactment and relating to functions transferred by section 4 will mean the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Chapter 3 consists of four sections which deal with matters consequent on the transfer of functions brought about by chapter 2. Section 6 provides that all the property currently vested in the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government under the 1932 Act will transfer to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Section 7 provides for the transfer of rights and liabilities arising from the exercise of the transferred functions and for the continuation of leases, licences and permissions granted under the transferred functions. Section 8 clarifies that following the transfer of functions, a claim for loss or injury arising out of the exercise before that transfer of any of those functions will lie against the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Section 9 contains a number of miscellaneous provisions intended to ensure continuity in the management of the park following the transfer of functions.
Chapter 4 consists of seven sections that amend the 1932 Act. For the most part, these amendments are intended to revise the 1932 Act to ensure clarity that there will be one statutory authority managing the park, namely, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The 1932 Act, as enacted, provided for some functions to be exercisable by the Minister for Finance and others to be exercisable by the Commissioners of Public Works. The management of the park by the commissioners was subject to the general directions of the Minister for Finance and certain other functions required specific ministerial sanction or approval. It is important to understand that the commissioners have not been involved in the exercise of any of these functions since 1996 and they all have been exercised as ministerial functions since that time.
Section 10 amends section 3 of the 1932 Act, concerning expenses and receipts, by inserting a requirement that expenses incurred in the administration of the Act be sanctioned by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. This brings the section into line with current standard procedures. Section 11 amends section 11 of the 1932 Act to remove the redundant requirement that management and control of the park be carried out in accordance with the general directions of the Minister. It is appropriate to do this, given that the management of the park is now a ministerial function. Section 12 amends section 12 of the 1932 Act by deleting the reference to ministerial sanction regarding aspects of the management of the park, such management now being a ministerial function.
Section 13 amends section 13 of the 1932 Act by deleting requirements for ministerial approval and sanction in respect of appointments made under the Act, as the making of such appointments is now a ministerial function. Section 14 amends section 14 of the 1932 Act by deleting the requirement for by-laws made in respect of the park to be approved by the Minister, given that the making of such by-laws is now a ministerial function anyway. Section 15 amends section 21 of the 1932 Act by deleting requirements for ministerial sanction in respect of aspects of the management of the chattels, that is, personal property, acquired under the 1932 Act. As with previous amendments, the management of this property is now a ministerial function. Finally, section 16 repeals section 20 of the 1932 Act. Section 20 provides that the management of the chattels acquired under the 1932 Act would be carried out in accordance with the general directions of the Minister. This is no longer necessary as such management is now a ministerial function.
Part 3 deals with amendments to the Air Pollution Act 1987. Section 17 inserts a new definition for the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, established in 1992, some five years after the Air Pollution Act had been given effect. The agency has an integral role in air quality monitoring, air pollution prevention and control, as well as enforcement. Definitions are also inserted in the section relating to fuels registers and activities. The EPA already maintains registers for certain upstream activities in the supply of bituminous coal - smoky coal - for the residential heating market.
Section 18 amends the penalties provision in the Act with regard to fixed payment notices, or on-the-spot fines, for alleged breaches of certain designated offences. This amendment will remove the option for indictable prosecutions against fixed payment notice offences.
Section 19 sets out fixed payment notice offences for alleged breaches of the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012, SI No. 326 of 2012. The regulations provide for the ban on the marketing, sale, distribution and burning of bituminous coal inside certain designated areas - the smoky coal ban as it is more commonly known. There are 26 areas where the ban applies, including all urban areas with populations greater than 15,000. The amounts of the fixed payment notices range from €250 to €1,000. The offences relate to the distribution and-or sale of bituminous coal and other prohibited fuels within ban areas. These fixed payment notice offences were previously provided for under section 10 of the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011. However, the regulations have since been consolidated. This requires references to the fixed payment notice offences to be updated accordingly. It is important to note that no new fixed payment notice offences relating to solid fuel are being introduced. However, fixed payment notices have proved to be resource-efficient enforcement tools, as well as effective deterrents. As such, the EPA has recommended extending fixed payment notices to other areas relating to the wider protection of air quality.
Section 20 introduces two new fixed payment notice offences under the European Union (Paints, Varnishes, Vehicle Refinishing Products and Activities) Regulations 2012, SI No. 564 of 2012. The first offence concerns the sale or supply of prohibited paint products and the amount of the fixed payment notice is €1,000. The second offence concerns the operation of an uncertified vehicle refinishing installation. The amount of the fixed payment notice is €500.
Section 21 introduces a new fixed payment notice for a designated offence under the European Union (Installations and Activities Using Organic Solvents) Regulations 2012, SI No. 565 of 2012. The offence concerns the operation of an uncertified solvents installation and the amount of the fixed payment notice is €500.
Section 22 amends the powers of authorised persons under the Air Pollution Act. As certain activities regulated under the Act such as the distribution of solid fuel are carried out from vehicles, the powers of authorised persons are being strengthened to allow for the stopping and searching of such vehicles.
Section 23 introduces a new Part 1A to the Act that provides a legal basis for the EPA to establish and maintain a fuels register. The persons and activities required to register with the agency will be set out separately by way of regulation. The EPA already maintains registers of coal bagging operators and certain upstream solid fuel suppliers trading in bituminous coal under the Environmental Protection Agency Act (Registration of Coal Bagging Operators and Solid Fuel Suppliers) Regulations 2012, SI No. 454 of 2012. Persons supplying bituminous coal to the residential market are required to demonstrate that their product contains no more than 0.7% sulphur content and to be registered with the EPA. The Bill’s provisions will strengthen and clarify existing provisions relating to registration, in particular the circumstances in which the agency can refuse or revoke registration, as well as provide for an appeals procedure relating to such decisions.
Section 24 will replace An Bord Pleanála with the EPA as the appeals body for decisions made by local authorities for the licensing of certain small-scale industrial activities under the Act, given the agency's particular expertise in this area. This will give effect to a recommendation of the independent review of the EPA carried out in 2011.
Section 25 amends and clarifies the scope of the regulation making powers of the Minister under section 53 of the Act. This will allow for the regulation of the storage of fuel alongside the existing powers to regulate for the placing on the market, distribution or sale of fuel. Further provisions will provide for the designation of persons involved in commercial fuel activities who are required to be registered with the EPA, the conditions that must be satisfied prior to registration and allow for the charging of fees relating to registration. The activities envisaged all relate to the supply of solid fuel, in particular bituminous coal.
Part 4 amends the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 to extend the fees base of the EPA. On the matter of environmental licensing fees, the EPA provides several licensing services without charge as it does not have the statutory authority to levy an appropriate fee. In many cases, work to assess and license these activities can be resource and time-consuming, as well as costly. These costs are often borne by other revenue generating activities carried out by the agency, which is inappropriate. The proposed amendment of section 99A of the 1992 Act will extend the powers of the Minister to make fee regulations in respect of these EPA services. Such regulations will also require the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
It is also proposed to make required minor technical amendments to the 1992 Act following transposition of the Industrial Emissions Directive 2010/75/EU. Section 26 proposes to extend the definition of an integrated pollution control activity to include the industrial processes involved in certain wood-based production systems.
Section 27 proposes to extend the application of section 82A(5)(e) of the 1992 Act to independently operated wastewater treatment activities in compliance with the terms of the industrial emissions directive. The effect of this amendment is to underpin the requirement that, with effect from 7 July 2015, operators of independently operated wastewater treatment plants must hold the appropriate licence from the EPA.
Section 28 proposes to amend section 99A of the 1992 Act which empowers the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to make regulations providing for the payment of fees in respect of a range of environmental licensing services. The proposed amendment will allow the Minister to make regulations to set charges for the licence reviews instigated by the EPA - licence reviews necessitated following publication of a decision by the European Commission on best available techniques, BAT, conclusions under the industrial emissions directive; licence reviews, instigated by the EPA, in response to improved environmental protections, safety concerns, legislative change or substantial changes in the nature or extent of emissions or the local environment; licence reviews, in specified circumstances, of licences issued in respect of air, water or noise pollution; where new environmental standards are prescribed; and to make technical amendments under section 96 of the 1992 Act.
The proposed amendment will require the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to obtain the consent of the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation before making the aforementioned fees regulations. The proposed amendment within this section will empower the EPA to pursue fees owing as a simple contract debt before an appropriate court.
Section 29 proposes to amend the First Schedule to the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992. The First Schedule defines industrial activities as either "industrial emissions directive" activities or "integrated pollution control activities" for licensing purposes. The effect of the proposed amendment will be to refine further certain definitions to ensure full compliance with the terms of the Industrial Emissions Directive.
Part 5, Sections 30 and 31, contain two amendments to the Finance (No. 2) Act 1992, which provides for the making of a declaration of non-use of a motor vehicle. Amendments to the 1992 Act were made last year in the Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Act 2013 to introduce a system of prospective declarations if a vehicle is temporarily not being used in a public place. This was intended to replace procedures which had allowed non-use to be declared after the fact, which was unverifiable, and which were estimated as leading to losses of some €50 million annually.
The new system has, in general, been working well. In 2014, revenue, at €1.159 billion, was up €41 million on 2013, despite the fact that there had been no increase in motor tax since the new measures took effect, and where losses of the order of €20 million would otherwise have been expected given the ongoing changeover of the car fleet to the CO2-based system which carries a lower average car tax. However, under the new system, owners have ten days from change of ownership or from registration to make a declaration of non-use if it is not intended that the vehicle will be in immediate use. This has proven to be quite a tight deadline, particularly on change of ownership of a vehicle. Accordingly, it is proposed to extend the ten-day deadline to 21 days. While delays are not proving problematic on registration of a new vehicle, it is proposed, for consistency of approach, to apply the same 21 day deadline. These are both minor technical changes intended to provide additional time to allow owners of newly purchased vehicles to comply with the legislation.
Part 6 amends the Waste Management Act 1996. Section 33 inserts a new section 10A in the Waste Management Act to provide for the introduction of a range of fixed payment notices, ranging from €100 to €2,000, in respect of specified offences under regulations concerning producer responsibility initiatives, PRIs. PRIs are based on the producer pays principle and have been developed over a range of waste streams, including waste electrical and electronic equipment, WEEE, batteries, packaging, and end-of-life vehicles, ELVs. There are a range of administrative-type obligations, most of which are required under EU law, in the producer responsibility area, such as registration and reporting requirements. Non-compliance with these provisions represents breaches of national and EU legislation. In such instances, the introduction of fixed payment notices will be a less costly and less resource-intensive enforcement route than initiating court proceedings against the offender and will also serve to build on the successful implementation of the PRI system in Ireland, tackling free riders and increasing compliance at local level.
Under Part 7, section 34 amends the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010 by making two minor typographical corrections to existing provisions and clarifying one existing provision. There are no new or changed policies being introduced as a result of the proposed changes, which are intended to simply clarify what is required under the 2010 Act and minimise any policy confusion if these matters were raised as part of a court action. Section 35 amends the Control of Dogs Act 1986 to ensure that establishments which are registered as dog breeding establishments, DBEs, but which are exempt from dog breeding registration fees, do not also have an exemption from paying for a general dog licence fee.
While I appreciate that this Bill proposes to address a wide and diverse range of issues, it is nonetheless an important technical Bill with a number of broad-reaching provisions ranging from the transfer of certain State-owned assets through to measures which will serve to enhance the protection of the environment. I commend the Bill to the House. Go raibh maith agaibh.