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Mixed views on smoky coal ban


THE plan to ban smoky coal in Ennis must be introduced on a phased basis if it is to work, according to local coal merchant and Ennis Town Councillor, Frankie Neylon, who has also called on the Government to make domestic fuel exempt from carbon tax.
Meanwhile, Green Party Councillor Brian Meaney has welcomed the smoky coal ban, describing it as “necessary” and is adamant it will benefit the town and the health of locals.
Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan last week announced that from August 1, Ennis will be added to the list of towns and cities covered by the Smoky Coal Ban, under which it is illegal to market, sell or distribute bituminous or ‘smoky’ coal.
However, according to Councillor Neylon, the ban will not solve problems with air pollution in the town and could lead to hardship for vulnerable people.
“This will have to be phased in. Six or seven years ago we were promised it would be phased in and it didn’t happen,” he said.
“The huge problem I have with this is that most of the people we deal with would be elderly people who survive on a bag of coal and a bale of briquettes.
“Traditionally, they would collect a bit over the summer to take them through the winter and now they are in a position where they are afraid to buy coal because they don’t know if they can burn it after August 1.”
He went on, “Going smokeless is not going to solve the problem. If you can’t buy the smoky coal in Ennis, can people buy it from outside and then burn it here? There are people outside of Ennis coming in and selling coal, which isn’t really coal at all, it’s a kind of slate and they are selling it for less. They are paying no VAT or tax and coming from outside town. That’s why the EPA had a problem with Ennis because of this coal being burned.
“This problem won’t be solved by banning the sale of bituminous coal in Ennis.”
He also commented, “With the carbon tax it will be even more, so you’re looking at vulnerable people having to pay another tax they can’t afford.”
At last week’s meeting of Ennis Town Council, Councillor Neylon called on the local authority to contact the ministers for finance, environment and social services to ensure domestic fuel is exempt from carbon tax. This was agreed at the meeting.
Supporting the ban, Councillor Meaney said, “This is necessary for the long-term respiratory health of the people of Ennis. It’s going to control the sale of poor quality cheap coal that is being dumped in Ennis since the introduction of the smoky fuel ban in Galway and Limerick.
“Ennis is one of the last remaining large population towns still without a smoky ban and it should have been done a number of years ago. It has worked in other large urban areas and there is no reason why it can’t work in Ennis.”
He continued, “I would hope that the smokeless fuel allowance, which is available to people in receipt of fuel allowance in other towns and cities where the ban is in place, that the people of Ennis will be able to avail of this extra funding resource to ensure they can fund the extra costs associated with buying the smokeless fuel.”
This ban was first introduced in Dublin in 1990 and has gradually been extended to encompass other cities and towns across the country.
According to the Department of the Environment, the ban is credited with delivering significant reductions in winter mortality resulting from high levels of air pollution in urban areas.
Minister Hogan also announced the introduction of a new, legally binding, low sulphur standard for coal used in the residential market. Minister Hogan said, “All bituminous coal placed on the market for residential use must now have a sulphur content of no more than 0.7%.
“Approximately half a million tonnes of bituminous coal was imported last year for use by Irish households, resulting in the release of over 4,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere. Limiting the sulphur content of bituminous coal will help to protect human health and the environment by reducing air pollution, particularly in the winter months.”

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