Smoky coal ban extended but no nationwide ban yet

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

December 18th, 2019

The Minister for the Environment and Climate Action has announced that the smoky coal ban will be extended to all Irish towns with a population of over 10,000.

Richard Bruton said, however, that the State would not be rolling out nationwide ban coal due to what he described as “a serious risk of illegality”.

Mr Bruton said that “unless peat, turf and wet wood” are also included in a nationwide smoky coal ban, the proposed scheme would be unlawful.

“To proceed with a nationwide ban regardless of circumstance would expose people in rural areas, who have traditional sources of logs and turf which they rely upon, to the risk of a sudden ban,” he said.

“I am not willing to do this. To pretend that a nationwide ban does not carry this probable outcome is to be dishonest,” he continued.

Mr Bruton added that he is preparing “the first Clean Air Strategy” and will “come back to the Government in the New Year with further proposals to improve air quality”.

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton at stakeholder meeting Photo: Niall Sargent

In July, Mr Bruton told the Dáil that threats from the coal industry were thwarting the State from introducing a nationwide ban on smoky coal.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD confirmed that the introduction of a smoky coal ban was “delayed” due to threats of legal action from the coal industry, but did not rule out the eventuality of its implementation in the future.

Starting in September 2020, the ban on smoky coal will cover 13 new Irish towns together with Dublin that already has such a ban in place.

The ban on smoky coal in the capital was rolled out three decades ago by then-Minister Mary Harney during her tenure at the Department of State. The ban is reported to be responsible for averting 8,000 premature deaths since its introduction, according to the Department of Climate Action.

Towns with over 10,000 populations in counties Cork, Cavan, Kerry, Longford, Mayo, Meath, Offaly, Waterford and Wexford will be added to the smoky coal ban scheme.

Mr Bruton said that “evidence of poor air quality with seriously damaging effects on health” compelled him to extend the eco-friendly scheme.

Recent air quality reports had indicated that air quality levels in towns including Cobh, Enniscorthy, and Longford town meet EU requirements, but exceed the more stringent World Health Organisation’s (WHO) standards.

Newly appointed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had recently announced plans to revise EU air quality standards to be more aligned with WHO ideal levels.

The Department of Climate Action has also promised to strengthen the enforcement of the smoky ban through preventive measures including the investment of €5 million in improving our air quality monitoring stations.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.