The NewsLetter reports that the Environment Minster, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, will today set out reasons to the Assembly as to why she believes it is not necessary to create an independent Environmental Protection Agency – as is already in place in England, Scotland, Wales and in the Republic of Ireland. The BBC reports that environmental lobby group, Friends of the Earth, are threatening to pursue their previously reported complaint to the European Commission – following a High Court ruling that the Environmental Heritage Service was not sufficiently independent to comply with EU directives on environmental governance. A rejection of an independent EPA would also mean rejecting the recommendations of the Review of Environmental Governance which reported to the Minister in June 2007 in unambiguous terms [pdf file]
“Responsibility for environmental regulation in Northern Ireland should be transferred to a new independent Environmental Protection Agency.”
[Arlene Foster] said: “I and my party take the role of environmental governance too seriously to externalise the organisation into an outside agency.”
The Review of Environmental Governance recommended an Independent Environmental Protection Agency in this form
The new Agency should have the following structure:
a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department of the Environment,
the duties and functions of the Agency should be embodied in statute,
governed by a Board of no more than 12 members,
the Board should comprise the Chair, the Chief Executive and members providing specific expertise in relevant areas,
members of the Board should be appointed by the Minister of the Environment in accordance with the principles and procedures of the published guidance from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments for NI,
a Chief Executive should be appointed and should be responsible to the Board for the day-to-day running of the proposed Agency,
the staff of the proposed Agency should be employees of the Agency and not the Northern Ireland Civil Service,
the proposed Agency should issue an annual report on the conduct of its statutory duties, and
the proposed Agency should be located in an iconic historical building or a state-of-the-art new building reflecting best practices in sustainable building.
The Environment Minister instead proposes
The Minister also said there would be restructuring and a change of culture within DOE. EHS will be retained and reorganised as an Agency of DOE, two independent Board members will be appointed and open Board meetings will be held.
The Minister said: In EHS we have an impressive pool of intellectual capacity, practical ability and determination to get things done. This is a valuable and irreplaceable resource of which we can all be proud. I will retain it as a DOE Executive Agency and will launch it as the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.