Independent EPA 'back on agenda'
An independent environment agency is back on the agenda, Alex Attwood said.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK without an autonomous unit and the Environment Minister is considering reversing the Government`s position.
Campaigners like Friends of the Earth have vociferously supported such a move.
Mr Attwood said: "The time is now right to revisit this issue and I am calling on key interests to let me have their views on options for a new Independent Environment Agency."
He said it was not a formal consultation: "What I want to do is to test the water to establish what appetite there may be for complete structural reform leading to a truly independent agency, with the necessary powers, to manage our environment.
"The issue of who manages our environment is not a dusty bureaucratic matter but is important not only for us but for generations to come, it is crucial that we get it right."
Options being considered include improving Northern Ireland Environment Agency regulation, transferring all its functions to an independent agency or moving responsibilities from other departments to the agency. It could involve devolving regulating air, water, land, waste and environmental crime working within a policy framework set by the department.
DUP peer Lord Morrow said: "As with every government department, there are a huge number of important issues facing the Department of the Environment.
"In the face of all these issues, combined with an increasingly tight financial framework, it is difficult to understand why the Environment Minister is looking at the possibility of revisiting an issue which was decided upon only a few years ago."