There was an understandable focus in today’s StormontLive on the Environment Minister’s rejection of the Review of Environmental Governance’s recommendation for an Independent Environmental Protection Agency. One of the authors of that report, Environmental Law specialist, Sharon Turner of Queen’s University [pdf file], responds in this clip along with Aidan Lonergan of the RSPB – she accuses the Minister of “precisely missing the point about the recommendation to have an independent agency.”
And there was an interesting point in the studio discussion with Arlene Foster [below the fold] when Mark Devenport asked the Minister why we’re still the only region of the archipelago not to have an independent EPA. Her response was to reference an “interesting conversation [she had with her] Scottish counterpart, in relation to the workings of the Scottish EPA”, “I think they are reviewing the workings of that as well.” The implication – that the independence of SEPA would be under review – might come as news to the Scottish EPA.. since they’ve just published their draft Corporate Plan for 2008-2011.. However, there have already been instances where the Scottish First Minister, the SNP’s Alex Salmond, has been accused of interference in planning matters. And this March 2008 Scotsman article illustrates that the Scottish Parliament recognises the importance of an independent EPA. That doesn’t mean that the NI Environment Minister’s “Scottish counterpart”, the SNP’s Richard Lochhead, wouldn’t want to change that if he could..The StormontLive coverage started with the Environment Minister, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, announcing her proposals to the Assembly followed by a studio discussion involving the Minister, the Chairman of the Assembly’s Environment Committee, the SDLP’s Patsy McGlone. The Minister’s reference to her “Scottish counterpart” comes around 5min 40sec in.
Then the Green Party’s Brian Wilson and the UUP’s Roy Beggs.
The last political representatives in discussion were Alliance Party leader David Ford and Sinn Féin’s Daithí McKay.
Finally, BBC NI’s political editor Mark Devenport makes a couple of important points, on the reluctance to devolve power beyond the Executive, and, in light of the Scottish examples noted above, the difference between an Independent EPA and the in-house version the Minster proposes.