Tuesday, 13 July 2021
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
213. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will lift the restrictions on peat harvesting for 2021 to avoid a shortage of supply in 2021 and reduce the further importation of peat from abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37986/21]
There is no restriction on peat extraction other than the requirement that operators have the necessary consents in place. For peat extraction, in the first instance this involves gaining the necessary permissions under the Planning system, in relation to which I have no function.
214. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will introduce a fair and workable licensing system to allow for the phasing out of horticultural peat harvesting while ensuring there is a secure supply of growing media in order that the sustainable horticultural sector is not jeopardised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37987/21]
I consider the current consent system for peat extraction to be both fair and workable. Commercial peat extraction is subject to a dual consent process requiring planning permission and, for sites over 50 hectares, an Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) licence from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, there has been a history of widespread non-compliance with this dual consent process, with many operators in the sector lacking planning permission and / or an IPC licence.
Following a 2019 High Court judgment which re-affirmed, inter alia, that commercial peat extraction absent planning permission constitutes unauthorised development, the onus has been on operators to first regularise their activities via the planning system and then secure the necessary licenses before any recommencement can take place.
It is not open to the State to simply remove the requirement for operators to regularise their past unauthorised development, as this requirement is derived from EU law, and I believe the quickest route to regularisation is through engagement with the existing consent system rather than through the establishment of a new one.
Insofar as the availability of supplies for horticulture use is concerned, this matter is being considered by a multi-stakeholder working group established earlier this year by Malcolm Noonan T.D., Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. In addition, officials from my Department are engaging with their counterparts in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, to help identify all feasible options to support the supply of horticultural peat for the 2021 and 2022 seasons in particular.
215. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if it will be ensured that peatlands are harvested in such a way that they are in the best possible condition for a planned and structured restoration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37988/21]
I have no function in relation to setting such development conditions for peat extraction. In the first instance the regulation of peat extraction takes place via the Planning system, in relation to which I have no function. Where a development additionally requires an Integrated Pollution Control (IPC) license, this is a matter for the Environmental Protection Agency. The Agency is an independent statutory body and I have no role in relation to the exercise of its licencing and/or enforcement functions.