State-wide ban on ‘smoky’ coal to be revealed

Announcement due on Monday to coincide with 25th anniversary of Dublin prohibition

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

A State-wide ban on the sale and use of bituminous or “smoky” coal is expected to be announced by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly on Monday.

The initiative is due to be revealed at a clean-air conference organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the ban on the sale of smoky coal in Dublin.

The ban was introduced in the capital in September 1990 after several years of severe winter smog resulting from the use of coal for home heating.

The ban, introduced by then minister of state for environment Mary Harney, significantly reduced smoke and sulphur dioxide levels and improved public health, particularly for those with cardiac or respiratory conditions such as asthma.

It was extended to Cork city in 1995 and is currently in force in 26 urban areas, including all towns with a population greater than 15,000. Researchers have estimated 8,200 lives have been saved as a result.

Under review

The regulations have been under review since 2012 and extension of the prohibition to towns with a population of more than 7,000 was under consideration.

However, Mr Kelly is understood not to be in favour of a piecemeal approach.

“Monitoring by the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] has shown that air quality is poorer in towns where the smoky coal ban does not apply, although there is evidence that smaller smoky coal ban areas tend to be less effective,” he said.

He said it was also recognised that having different regulations between urban and rural locations was “not ideal, as it results in different levels of environmental protection and clean air benefits for citizens in different locations”.

An all-island ban is also under consideration. A final report is expected to be presented to the North South Ministerial Council later this year. However, the impasse in the North is expected to delay agreement.