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‘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 20 million 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 184 million euro per year.
Following the improvement of air quality in Dublin, the ban was rolled out to other cities and large towns as follows:
- Cork City since 1995
- Arklow, Drogheda, Dundalk, Limerick City and Wexford Town since 1998
- Celbridge, Galway City, Leixlip, Naas and Waterford City since 2000
- Bray, Kilkenny, Sligo and Tralee since 2003
- Athlone, Carlow, Clonmel and Ennis since 2011.
On 12 April 2012, Minister Hogan announced a public consultation to inform and assist a review of the ‘smoky coal ban’ regulations. The purpose of the review was to ensure that the regulations remain fit for purpose in safeguarding air quality by limiting harmful emissions of air pollutants arising from the use of residential fuels. The consultation paper reviewed the regulations to date and identified relevant considerations relating to their effective implementation in the context of developments over the two decades since the ban was first introduced in Dublin.
- Smoky Coal Ban Regulations Consultation Document (pdf, 821kb)
- Smoky Coal Ban Regulations Consultation Annex (pdf, 190kb)
Following the review of submissions received under the consultation process, several proposed enhancements and new initiatives were identified to improve the effectiveness of the existing legislation so as to consolidate air quality benefits to date, and deliver further improvements across the country into the future.
- Boundary modifications and extensions to most existing smoky coal ban specified areas, in line with Census 2011 data;
- The extension of the ban to all of Dublin County, including suburbs and satellite towns;
- The ban will be applied in six new provincial towns (with effect from 01 May 2013) because they have populations over 15,000 people - Greystones, Letterkenny, Mullingar, Navan, Newbridge and Portlaoise; Wicklow Town is also to be included following requests from members of the public, Wicklow County Council and local representatives;
- A prohibition on the burning of bituminous or smoky coal is also being introduced to complement the existing ban on the marketing, sale and distribution.
These improvements have now been given effect through new consolidating regulations - the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 326 of 2012) (pdf, 206kb). These Regulations also incorporate the existing provisions of earlier regulations.
Under the new Regulations the smoky coal ban will be applied to the following towns with effect from 01 May 2013.
- Wicklow Town
The lead in period will allow time for local authorities and solid fuel retailers to prepare for the switchover to smokeless fuels. Maps of the specified areas in these towns
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 smokeless solid fuel products, including smokeless coal products, available on the market. Smokeless solid fuel is cleaner as well as more carbon and heat-efficient.so can deliver climate benefits as well as improved air quality and human health benefits.
Under the Regulations all smokeless solid fuel products must be clearly labeled as “SMOKELESS FUEL”. This allows householders to make an informed choice concerning the products they purchase.
The Regulations continue to be enforced by local authority authorised persons. Authorised persons 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 section 11 of the Air Pollution Act 1987 for breaches of the Regulations. Under the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 the maximum fine amounts for breaches of the Regulations have been increased to 5,000 euro on summary conviction. Fixed payment notices (or ‘on the spot fines’) were also 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 1,000 euro.
Local authorities submit reports of inspection activities to the EPA Office of Environmental Enforcement, which has an oversight role.
Complaints regarding the marketing, sale, and distribution 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.
Environmental Compliance and Air Quality Section,
Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government,
Telephone: +353 (0)53 911 7351
Fax: +353 (0)53 911 7603
- Agreement between the Solid Fuel Trade Group and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (October 2008) (doc, 2,363 kb)
- Agreement between the Solid Fuel Trade Group and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (April 2006) (pdf, 58 kb)
- Agreement between the Solid Fuel Trade Group and the Minister for the Environment (June 2002) (pdf, 47 kb)
- Consultation Document on the Proposal on the Use of Bitminous Coal; and Petcoke (pdf, 98 kb)
- National Programme on Transboundary Pollutants (doc, 143 kb)
- Discussion paper on Strategy to Reduce Emissions on Transboundary Air Pollution by 2010 (pdf, 340 kb)
- more publications
- 03/09/12: New Smoky Coal Ban Regulations will bring Cleaner Air, Fewer Deaths and can help efficiency
- 09/07/12: Extensions to Smoky Coal Ban will bring Cleaner Air, Fewer Deaths and can help efficiency
- 12/04/12: Hogan announces review and public consultation of the smoky coal ban
- 09/06/11: New law for low sulphur standard for coal will reduce air pollution – Hogan
- SI 566 of 2012 - European Union (Large Combustion Plants) Regulations 2012 (pdf, 290 kb)
- SI 565 of 2012 - European Union (Installations and Activites using Organic Solvents) Regulations 2012 (pdf, 347 kb)
- SI 564 of 2012 - European Union (Paints, Varnishes, Vehicle Refinishing Products and Activities) Regulations 2012 (pdf, 245 kb)
- SI 176 of 2012 - European Communities Act 1972 (Environmental Specification for Petrol, Diesel Fuels & Gas Oils for use by Non-Road Mobile Machinery including Inland Waterway Vessels, Agricultural & Forestry Tractors and Recreational Craft (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (pdf, 113 kb)
- SI 687 of 2011 - European Union (Stage II Petrol Vapour Recovery during Refuelling of Motor Vehicles at Service Stations) Regulations 2011 (pdf, 182 kb)
- SI 119 of 2008 Sulphur Content of Heavy Fuel Oil, Gas Oil and Marine Fuel Regulations 2008 (pdf, 118 kb)
- SI 147 of 2007-European Communities Control of Emissions of Gaseous and Particulate Pollutants from Non-Road Mobile Machinery- Regulations 2007 (pdf, 129 kb)
- more legislation