Smoky coal ban

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We intend to extend the health and environmental benefits of the ban on smoky coal, currently in place in our cities and large towns, to the entire country.

This process involves consultation with the EU, other departments, residential fuel market operators and the general public.

Legislation

Between 1990 and 2013 the health and environmental benefits of the ban were extended to towns with over 15,000 people and a prohibition on the burning of bituminous or smoky coal was introduced to complement the existing ban on the marketing, sale and distribution.

These improvements were given effect through consolidating regulations - the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012.  These Regulations also incorporate the existing provisions of earlier regulations.

The most recent extentions of the smoky coal ban, in Kildare and Wexford were set out in 2015. These were further amended to provide for relief from the solid fuel carbon tax, subject to a commencement order by the Minister of Finance, and to update the labelling and terminology under the regulations.

Fixed payment notices (or 'on the spot fines') have been introduced for alleged offences relating to the marketing, sale and distribution of prohibited fuels in specified areas. Persons found to be marketing, selling or distributing prohibited fuels in breach of the Regulations are now liable for a fixed payment notice of between 250 euro and 1,000 euro depending on the offence.

Regulations are currently being drafted to standardise the registration requirements for solid fuel suppliers. These should be in place later in 2016.

Benefits

Benefits of a smoky coal ban include very significant reductions in respiratory problems and indeed mortalities from the effects of burning smoky coal. The original ban in Dublin has been cited widely as a successful policy intervention and has become something of an icon of best practice within the international clean air community.  It is estimated that in the region of 8,000 lives have been saved in Dublin since the introduction of the smoky coal ban back in 1990 and further health, environmental and economic benefits (estimated at 53m euro per year) will be realised, if the ban is extended nationwide.

Cross cutting initiatives

The extension of the smoky coal ban nationwide is part of a range of initiatives that the Department is currently examining as part of a programme to produce Ireland's first-ever National Clean Air Strategy.  This Strategy will provide the strategic framework for a set of cross-Government policies and actions to reduce harmful emissions and improve air quality and public health to meet current and future national, EU and international objectives and obligations.

We have been working with our colleagues in Northern Ireland Department of Environment, under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council, to produce a study on the effects of residential fuels on air quality.  The study is now finalised and a link is available below to it. The study’s findings will be used to help inform the National Clean Air Strategy mentioned above.

Background to the smoky coal ban

The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous fuel (or ‘smoky coal ban’) was first introduced in Dublin in 1990 in response to severe episodes of winter smog that resulted from the widespread use of smoky coal for residential heating. The ban proved effective in reducing smoke and sulphur dioxide levels and was subsequently extended to other areas. The ban now applies in twenty cities and towns. Air quality monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown levels of particulate matter (PM10) are lower in these areas than in towns where the ban does not apply.

Research indicated that the ban in Dublin resulted in over 350 fewer annual deaths. An estimate of these benefits in monetary terms put the value at over 20m euro. Additional benefits of the regulations have also been identified through the stimulation for householders to switch from using solid fuels, which generally are less efficient and more polluting, to more efficient and less polluting gas and oil. The associated reduced fuel costs to consumers were estimated at 184m euro per year.

Ban on burning

A ban on the burning of smoky coal and other prohibited fuels now applies in all smoky coal ban specified areas to complement the ban on the marketing, sale and distribution.

There is a range of innovative low smoke solid fuel products, including low smoke coal products, available on the market. Low smoke solid fuel is cleaner as well as more carbon and heat-efficient and,.so can deliver climate benefits as well as improved air quality and human health benefits.

Under the Regulations all low smoke solid fuel products must be clearly labeled as per the Regulations. This allows householders to make an informed choice concerning the products they purchase.

Enforcement

Complaints regarding the marketing, sale, and distribution and burning of prohibited fuels or smoky emissions from the use of prohibited fuels in smoky coal ban specified areas should be reported to the environment section of your local authority.

  • Authorised local authority staff may undertake inspections of premises and vehicles being used for the sale and distribution of solid fuel as well as collect samples.
  • A local authority may bring a prosecution under the Air Pollution Act for breaches of the Regulations.
  • The maximum fine amounts for breaches of the Regulations is 5,000 euro on summary conviction.
  • Fixed payment notices (or ‘on the spot fines’) have been introduced for alleged offences relating to the marketing, sale and distribution of prohibited fuels in specified areas. Persons found to be marketing, selling or distributing prohibited fuels in breach of the Regulations are now liable for a fixed payment notice of between 250 euro and 1,000 euro depending on the offence.

Further information

Air Quality Section,
Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government,
Newtown Rd,
Wexford Y35 AP90
Telephone: +353 (0)53 911 7351
Fax:            +353 (0)53 911 7603
E-mail: airquality@environ.ie

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