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Government moves to introduce nationwide ban on smoky coal

The sale of other solid fuels like unseasoned wood or wet wood could also be banned.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan
Image: Sasko Lazarov

A NATIONAL BAN on the sale and burning of smoky coal are among proposed new regulations announced by the Government today. 

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan announced the measure on the further regulation of solid fuel use for domestic home heating as part of a public consultation.

The smoky coal ban was first introduced to Dublin in 1990. It was later extended to other areas around the country, but there have been calls for a nationwide ban to be rolled out over the years.

The sale of other solid fuels like unseasoned wood or wet wood could also be banned, Ryan said today.

Under current regulations the sale, marketing, distribution and burning of bituminous (smoky) coal is not permitted in specific low smoke zones (LSZs) across the country.

These apply in cities and all towns with populations in excess of 10,000 people.

The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications said today there should be measures to help people to move towards less polluting ways to heat their homes, and pointed to the commitments to a retrofitting programme for home insulation included in the Climate Action Plan. 

“I am conscious that for some people burning solid fuel is the main or only way they have of heating their homes,” said Ryan.

“Our goal over the lifetime of this government is to provide support to retrofit many of these homes, but in the meantime we want to ensure they can be heated in a way that improves public health.”

While his government colleagues in Fianna Fáil are in favour of the ban on smoky coal, they spoke out at last night’s parliamentary party about any move towards a ban on turf or timber. 

Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen thanked his colleagues in the party for confirming it will not agree to a ban on turf cutting/burning.

“Smokey coals yes but will not support Eamon Ryan’s call in consultation document to do so. Country will move to alternatives when households afforded opportunities/incentives/grants,” Cowen tweeted. 

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It is understood Cowen was supported by Senator Eugene Murphy, Senator Timmy Dooley as well as Cathal Crowe and Dara Calleary. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Dooley said his party recognises that smoky coal is a “big issue, but said “in my view, to go to the next step [banning burning of turf and timber] would be disproportionate”. 

He said smoky coal tends to be used in urban areas, while timber and turf is largely used in rural communities, where the particles can be dispersed effectively. He said it is important to take people with you, and doesn’t believe that such a ban on timber burning or turf burning would do that, he said.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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