01 October 2005

Ireland on a boggy patch in peat row: EC imposes daily fine of £15,000

Belfast Telegraph

By Treacy Hogan
newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk
01 October 2005

IRELAND has been hit with a whopping €21,600 (£15,000) a day fine by the European Commission because of a row over peat.

The massive fine which could eventually add up to millions of euro is being imposed by the EU which feels the government has failed to honour a judgment by the European Court.

Taxpayers will be hit with a bill of €669,600 (£420,000) for every month the Government fails to implement a directive over the effect of peat extraction on the environment.

The European Court of Justice found that Ireland was in breach of a number of provisions in the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, particularly in relation to the extraction of peat for commercial use.

In a tough judgment it ordered the country to bring in the directive. But the EU is unhappy with Ireland's response.

It has asked the court to impose a daily fine of €21,600 until it complies with the ruling and implement the directive. The State will have to hand over the cash every day until it becomes compliant.

The government has been summoned before the Court of Justice on October 11 when the EU will ask the court to impose the fine until such time as environmental impact assessments are introduced for peat extraction.

The EU began its action as far back as 1999. But it went to the European Court in July, 2003. EU sources said that the concerns related to certain peat extraction projects.

Ireland is also in the European dock over failure to introduce a raft of other directives including actions over drinking water quality, habitats and illegal waste.

In its 1999 judgment the court said: "Peat extraction has significant and irreversible environmental effects."

It also pointed out the failure of Irish legislation to take account of the significant environmental effects which afforestation projects might have in areas of active blanket bog. "Since afforestation entails ploughing, drainage, the use of fertilisers and a radical change in vegetation, it transforms the peatland ecosystem so fundamentally that it is effectively destroyed."

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