The government are committed to making Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. Transitioning to low carbon fuel sources is crucial to achieving that ambition. These new Peat Regulations will ensure that, for the first time, all commercial peat extraction in sites over 30 hectares will now be subject to licensing by the EPA, which will include a mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment.
Under the old rules, EPA licensing was only required for peat extraction on sites of larger than 50 hectares. Sites that were under 50 hectares were subject to a different regime i.e. planning permission through the local authority and an environmental impact assessment carried out where required, rather than a mandatory requirement as provided for under the new EPA licensing regime.
Because of the EPA’s new role as the single licensing authority for all sites over 30 hectares, it is no longer necessary for local authorities to have a role through the planning system.
The EPA has built up significant expertise in this area and will be well placed to act as the single authority overseeing environmental impact assessment and licensing of these sites.
The publication of these regulations will meet the requirements of Action 19 of the National Peatlands Strategy published in 2016 which stated that: The existing legal framework relating to the regulation of peat extraction in terms of planning, environmental protection and habitats protection will be reviewed, and recommendations developed to bring about a clearer, proportionate and enforceable system of regulation that also ensures compliance with appropriate EU environmental legislation and to ensure best practice in peat extraction operations. As also stated in this Strategy, research on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands is on-going.
The publication of these Regulations do not alter Bord na Móna’s plans to wind down the production of peat over the next decade in line with their recently launched “Brown to Green” strategy.