I propose to take Questions Nos. 366 and 375 together.
I signed the European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Peat Extraction) Regulations 2019 (S.I. No. 4 of 2019) on 25 January 2019, with the objective of making the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the sole competent authority for peat extraction of over 30 hectares in Ireland, and making Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for such activity mandatory.
In conjunction with the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) Regulations (S.I. No. 12 of 2019), which were signed by the Minister for Housing Planning and Local Government on the same date, these Regulations exempted large-scale peat extraction from planning permission and made the EPA the single competent authority for monitoring large-scale peat extraction through its Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) licencing process.
It was my intention, in bringing forward S.I. No. 4 of 2019, to put in place a robust, streamlined system of regulation for peat extraction, which would provide both high standards environmental protection and certainty for the sector regarding the applicable regulatory requirements.
However, both sets of Regulations were the subject of a Judicial Review brought by Friends of the Irish Environment in April 2019. On 20 September 2019, the High Court set aside both the above referenced Regulations, on the basis that they were incompatible with EU law and were ultra vires under national law.
The judgment, and potential responses on the part of Government, is being given detailed consideration by my Department and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, together with the Attorney General's Office.