Written warning over pollution laws

Northern Ireland could be facing bankruptcy if a raft of European environmental laws are not implemented soon, starving public services such as schools, hospitals and public transport of much needed funds.

A 'Letter of Formal Notice' was issued by the European Commission on 21 January 2003 because the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive had not yet been implemented in Northern Ireland. The IPPC Directive was adopted in 1996 and was due to be transposed into law by October 1999.

The IPPC Directive has since been implemented but the patience of the Commission is beginning to wear thin. There are a number of infraction proceedings in the pipeline, all of which could come with hefty fines. It is feared the fines would be calculated using UK GDP but would be paid out of the Northern Ireland purse and could be in excess of £100,000 per infraction per day.

This is a wake up call for the UK Government. It is imperative that sufficient resources be given to the Department of the Environment to enable it bring Northern Ireland's environmental laws up to date.