A challenge by an environmental activist to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to grant an industrial emissions licence to a chicken-rearing plant in Co Limerick has been dismissed by the High Court.

Justice Conleth Bradley dismissed the action by Peter Sweetman over the EPA’s 6 February 2019 decision to grant an industrial emissions licence under section 83 of the EPA Act 1992 to Michael Noel O’Connor.

The licence in question allows for 74,000 broiler chickens as part of a chicken-rearing enterprise at Rathcahill West, Templeglantine, Newcastle West, Co Limerick.

Legal representatives for Sweetman said their case centred on whether the EPA’s decision should have addressed the consequences of spreading manure and soiled water from the poultry enterprise.

They argued that the only activity licensed is the rearing of poultry in one location.

The lawyers for Sweetman further questioned that the EPA could not be certain the manure and soiled water would be sent for spreading, because it did not know the lands where it would be spread.

Therefore, they said it should be defined as waste as opposed to a byproduct.

The EPA’s legal representation rejected that an appropriate assessment for spreading poultry manure was needed, as O’Connor did not apply for a licence for such.

Judge’s decision

Justice Bradley said, under the EPA Act 1992, a licence would not be granted unless the EPA was satisfied that any emissions from the plant, premises or its methods, comply with legislation. He said he was satisfied this covers the decision-making of the EPA in this matter.

Justice Bradley referenced past legal challenges by Sweetman: “It is at least open to question whether the applicant’s [Sweetman] concerns may in reality be against the competent authority under the Nitrates Regulations, namely the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.”

Justice Bradley was informed at the commencement of the hearing that a case against State parties was dropped and O’Connor was not participating in the proceedings.

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