Written answers

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Commissioner for Environmental Information

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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136. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Commissioner for Environmental Information sought an order for costs (details supplied) in cases in which it either succeeded or the other party withdrew the appeal; if an order for costs was granted, the amount of legal costs recovered in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30806/20]

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The recovery of costs in respect of matters before the Commissioner for Environmental Information is governed by the special costs rules, as provided for in the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2001. Section 3(1) of the 2011 Act provides that, in certain environmental cases including proceedings concerning the AIE Regulations, the general rule is that each party must bear its own costs.

I am informed by the Commissioner that he upholds the spirit of the special costs rules, which is to allow access to justice in matters relating to the environment. Costs have therefore not usually been pursued, unless the Commissioner believes that section 3(3) of the 2011 Act applies to the circumstances of the case. Section 3(3) provides that in some specific circumstances, a Court may award costs where the Court deems this to be appropriate.

The Commissioner advises that Section 3 of the 2011 Act will not always apply to proceedings instituted by a statutory body or a Minister of the Government. As a result, it may be possible to recover costs where the appeal is brought by such a party to a case. In this regard, the Commissioner’s view is that the payment of costs between statutory bodies and the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information is, generally, cost neutral to the Exchequer. It is also the case that the pursuit of costs in itself incurs expense of time and resource. Bearing this in mind, the Commissioner has sometimes chosen not to pursue costs where it might technically be possible.

In respect of each case cited in the question, the Commissioner has provided the following details:

- NAMA v Commissioner for Environmental Information – High Court reference 2011/357 MCA and Supreme Court reference 159/13: the High Court made an order for costs in the Commissioner’s favour; however, the Supreme Court Order vacated that order and made no order for costs.

- Redmond v Commissioner for Environmental Information – High Court reference 2016/27 JR: This matter was appealed by the Redmonds to the Court of Appeal who found in favour of the appellant therefore the Commissioner did not seek an order for costs in this matter.

- Coillte v Commissioner for Environmental Information – High Court reference 2018/453 MCA: This matter was withdrawn by the appellant following judgment in a related High Court case. The Commissioner agreed to the withdrawal on a “no costs” basis bearing in mind the special rules in relation to costs in environmental related matters.

- An Taoiseach v Commissioner for Environmental Information – High Court – 2019/48: No legal costs were incurred by the Commissioner as it was dealt with by in-house lawyers leading to an early withdrawal of the appeal.

- MCA M50 Skip Hire and Recycling Ltd v Commissioner for Environmental Information – High Court reference 2019/287 MCA: the High Court has not made a final order in relation to this matter.

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