The Government has introduced a new, legally binding, low sulphur standard for coal used in the residential market. 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 thousand 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,” explains Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD.
Since 2002, the sulphur content of this coal has been limited under the terms of a Voluntary Agreement between the Minister and the industry representative Solid Fuel Trade Group (the SFTG). The new regulations will put the main provisions of this Agreement on a statutory footing.
The new requirements are being introduced as part of a package of planned measures to strengthen the protection of ambient air quality in Ireland. Minister Hogan has also signalled his intention to amend the Air Pollution Act 1987 to give Local Authorities powers to issue fixed payment notices for certain offences under the Fuel Regulations (Air Pollution Act 1987 Marketing Sale and Distribution of Fuels Regulations 1998 (S.I. 118 of 1998)). Further options for improving the effectiveness of the existing smoky coal ban will be the subject of a public and stakeholder consultation later this year.
From 1st August 2011 the four towns of Athlone, Carlow, Clonmel and Ennis are to 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. This ban was first introduced in Dublin in 1990 and has gradually been extended to encompass other cities and towns across the country. It is credited with delivering significant reductions in winter mortality resulting from high levels of air pollution in urban areas.