A number of regional towns in Cork will be included in the so-called “smoky coal ban” from September 1, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan has confirmed — with a full ban nationwide during the lifetime of the current Government.
Minister Ryan said the ban on the sale, marketing, distribution and burning of bituminous coal, or the smoky coal ban as it is commonly known, is being extended to include towns such as Mallow, Midleton and Cobh in Cork.
Other towns included in the ban are Killarney and Tramore in Munster, and the likes of Ballina and Castlebar in Mayo, Cavan and Longford towns, Enniscorthy in Wexford and Tullamore in Offaly.
In response to a query from Labour TD Duncan Smith, Minister Ryan said the geographical boundaries of the new areas were set following “extensive consultation with the relevant local authorities”.
He added he would introduce the “necessary measures over the term of Government to move towards the implementation of a full nationwide ban”.
According to the Department of the Environment, a ban on the burning of smoky coal and other prohibited fuels now applies in designated “low smoke zones”, to complement the ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of those fuels in those areas.
This means even "smoky" fuels bought elsewhere cannot now be burned in such a zone, the Department adds.
Minister Ryan said the existing Cork “low smoke zone” is now being extended to include Carrigtwohill and certain surrounding townlands.
The smoky coal ban, according to the Department, “allowed significant falls in respiratory problems and premature deaths from the effects of burning smoky coal in the existing low smoke zones”.
It cites the original ban in Dublin 30 years ago as becoming “something of an icon of best practice within the international clean air community”.
Approximately 8,000 premature deaths have been averted in Dublin since the introduction of the smoky coal ban back in 1990, according to the Department.
The ban came in response to “severe episodes of winter smog” that were a direct result of smoky coal being burned in family homes, the Department said.
The ban is in place in 26 cities and towns, while air quality monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown lower levels of harmful air particles than towns with no ban.
According to the Department’s figures, the ban in Dublin has resulted in at least 350 fewer annual deaths, or €20m in health costs. Reduced fuel costs to consumers are estimated at €184m per year, it said.
Minister Ryan said the Department is currently working to finalise Ireland’s first National Clean Air Strategy, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.