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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 24 Mar 1987

Vol. 371 No. 2

Air Pollution Bill, 1986 [ Seanad ] :Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Ba mhaith liom ar an gcéad uair sa Dáil nua comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leatsa as tú bheith ceaptha mar Cheann Comhairle na Dála seo. Tá sár taithí agat de bharr do sheirbhís fhada mar Theachta agus an tréimhse a chaith tú cheana féin mar Cheann Comhairle. Tá gach ion-taoibh agam go rachaidh do chríonnacht agus tuiscint chun tairbhe don Tí seo. Tá mé cinnte freisin gur féidir leat brath ar chomhoibriú uainn uilig.

Seo an chéad uair dom labhairt sa Dáil mar Aire Comhshaoil. Bhí an-mheas agam i gcónaí ar an bpost tábhachtach seo agus tá sé i gceist agam mo dhícheall a dhéanamh chun gníomhú ann go diograiseach. Beidh a lán le déanamh de bharr réimse na n-ábhar a thagann faoin Roinn Comhshaoil — rialtais áitiúil, tithíocht, bóithre, uisce agus séarachas agus ar ndóigh caomhnú ar dtimpleacht. Sílim go bhfuil sé an-oiriúnach ag tús Bliain Eorpach an Chomhshaoil gurb é an Bille um Thruailliú Aeir an chéad Bill os ár gcomhair sa Teach. I rith na bliana seo tá sé mar aidhm an dearcadh a chothú go bhfuilimid go léir freagrach as ar dtimpleacht. Dearcadh tábhachtach é sin maidir le truailliú an aeir agus tá súil agam go gcabhróidh an díospóireacht ar an mBille seo leis an teachtaireacht a scaipeadh.

This Bill has already been the subject of extensive debate, having been published over a year ago, and it has had a lengthy passage through the Seanad. In broad terms, there has been consensus on the need for the Bill and on its general thrust and principles. Naturally different Seanad speakers, as well as interested outside bodies and individuals, have expressed reservations on points of detail.

The Bill is a comprehensive one which is designed to enable local authorities to ensure good air quality in their areas. I myself have not yet had time to finalise my position on all its details. I can undertake, therefore, to consider all amendments with a more open mind than usual on Committee Stage. I would also like to say that between now and Committee Stage I hope to familiarise myself with the views of all interested parties who have made submissions on the Bill.

The Programme for National Recovery stressed the need for tighter legislative control of air and indeed marine pollution. Some people might see a conflict between this concern and the priority which the Government are now determined to give to economic growth. In fact there is no contradiction. Ireland without its traditional clean natural surroundings would be impoverished economically as well as environmentally. For example, tourism and agriculture, two of our major industries which the Government are committed to maximising, would suffer immediately from any perceived deterioration of our natural environment. It is important, therefore, to keep fully before us this link between the protection of the environment and the improvement of economic and social conditions.

The post-war period has brought an increasingly refined understanding of air pollutants and their effects, and of the relationship between energy and industrial production processes and air pollution. The United Kingdom Clean Air Acts, starting from 1956, were a forerunner of much legislation elsewhere and supported measures which proved highly effective in abating problems of smog and smoke. The United States Clean Air Act of 1970, together with major amendments of 1977, gave a similar lead to the next generation of legislation, formulated in greater awareness of the polluting effects of sulphur and nitrogen oxides.

Awareness of air pollution problems in Ireland is relatively recent. Because of the nature of our economic growth, we have little heavy industry of the kind that, in the past, caused serious air pollution in other countries. Our relatively low population density and our pattern of urbanisation have also served to delay the emergence of air pollution problems. Our geographical position and prevailing westerly winds have spared us the worst effects of transboundary air pollution. Indeed, it is only when air masses which have originated to the east of the country — over continental Europe and the United Kingdom — pass over Ireland, that air pollution arising from external factors is of any real significance.

Real problems of air pollution nonetheless have emerged in Ireland and we all have some familarity with these. Smoke levels in Dublin, particularly this winter, have elicited wide media and public concern. Vehicle emissions cause obvious damage to air quality in urban areas. Concerns are also expressed from time to time about the effects of lead in air and about the incipient evidence of acidification along the eastern seaboard of Ireland.

The common air pollutants are smoke, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and lead. The principal cause of all of these is the combustion of fuel in one form or another. The main sources can be classified as power generation, industrial and commercial development, the domestic sector and the transport sector. The proportion of total emissions contributed by each of these sectors varies with the pollutant in question. In 1985, 77 per cent of Irish emissions of sulphur dioxide of 138,000 tonnes arose from the commercial-industrial and power generation sectors, with emissions from the domestic sector amounting only to 20 per cent. For smoke, the reverse was the case, with domestic sources contributing 79 per cent of the 117,000 tonnes emitted in the State as a whole in 1985. In the case of nitrogen oxides, 65 per cent comes from the commercial-industrial and power generation sectors, with 28 per cent from road transport. Transport accounts for 78 per cent of carbon monoxide emissions and 50 per cent of hydrocarbon emissions.

It will be evident, therefore, that the preservation and improvement of air quality requires action on a number of fronts and that air pollution cannot conveniently be ascribed to a few large industries. In carrying on our normal daily activities relating to work or the home, we all contribute in one way or another to the volume of pollutants emitted to the atmosphere. It follows, too, that all sections of the community must play some part in resolving the problems involved particularly as I noted earlier in this European Year of the Environment.

While many of the effects of air pollution can be local, in terms of damage to human health, buildings and the natural environment, transport and deposition of certain pollutants can also take place at much longer range. This gives rise inter alia to the phenomenon of acidification, with its transboundary effects, proven or suspected, on lakes, forests and soils and is the basis for increasingly determined efforts to promote international agreement on measures for air pollution control at EEC level and at the United Nations sponsored Economic Commission for Europe — ECE. At EEC level, eight directives have been adopted in relation to the prevention of air pollution within the framework of Community Action Programmes on the Environment.

Apart from meeting our own national requirements, the Bill is intended to enable the State to meet in full the requirements of existing and likely future European Community requirements in the air pollution field. To date, directives which set air quality standards for smoke and sulphur dioxide, and for lead, have been implemented by administrative means. The European Commission is concerned about the lack of legal expression for these directives and, in the case of the directive on smoke and SO 2, has initiated action against Ireland in the European Court. This Bill will enable us to implement these measures more fully and more effectively and, as well, to implement the more recent directive on air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide and a 1984 directive which requires us to introduce by 1 July 1987 a licensing system for certain categories of industrial plant which may cause air pollution. The Bill also contains provisions which can be used to give full effect to directives on matters such as the sulphur content of fuels and the lead content of petrol. I might mention here that regulations which reduce the maximum lead content of petrol from 0.40 to 0.15 grams per litre came into operation on 1 April 1986 last, almost a year ago, giving a reduction of some 60 per cent in lead emissions from motor vehicles.

Ireland has, of course, obligations in relation to air pollution which extend beyond the responsibilities imposed by membership of the European Communities. The State is a party to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, commonly referred to as the Geneva Convention, which binds contracting States to limit and, as far as possible, gradually to reduce emissions of polluting substances into the atmosphere. Increasing concern over the severe problems resulting from atmospheric pollution in Continental Europe and in North America led to the signing in 1985 of a protocol to the convention in Helsinki when 21 countries undertook to reduce their emissions of sulphur dioxide by 30 per cent as soon as possible, and at the latest by 1993, using 1980 levels as the base.

Ireland was unable to accede to the protocol for a number of reasons, including the fact that our total emissions of SO 2 are small, the lack of evidence to suggest that these contribute to significant transboundary air pollution and the fact that the cost of such a reduction would be greatly disproportionate to any possible benefit to our own, or the wider European, environment. We have, however, agreed to undertake all feasible measures to control air pollution and the present Bill is evidence of our commitment in that regard.

The question of future SO 2 and NO x emissions is also very much at the centre of a proposal now being developed within the EEC to limit pollution from large combustion plants. In Ireland, the plant involved is virtually all ESB generating plant. As originally proposed by the Commission, the draft directive had two elements: all new power plant after the date of the directive would have to use clean or "acid-free" technology as defined by the EEC; and overall emissions from power plant in each member state would have to be reduced with reference to 1980 by 60 per cent for SO 2 and by 40 per cent for NO x and dust.

These proposals had no regard to the different environmental and economic circumstances within member states and were opposed by a number of countries, including Ireland. Although the principle of clean technology for new plant still stands, the large combustion plant proposal has otherwise been thoroughly revised so as to distribute emission reductions more equitably between member states according to their economic circumstances, their contribution to transboundary pollution and other factors. Detailed negotiations are still continuing and I am hopeful that Ireland will be able to play its part in an eventual solution.

The Bill reflects the increasing specialisation now of environment legislation both in Ireland and worldwide. The Planning Act, 1963, less than 25 years ago, was intended as a comprehensive framework for environment protection for many years ahead. Partly because of increasing specialisation of pollution control research and techniques and partly because of detailed EEC directives, we have had to devise new legal systems to deal with water pollution control and, now, air. We can look forward also to having to introduce special waste control legislation in the future.

It may be useful to mention at this stage a number of things with which the Bill does not deal. The financing and staffing of local authority operations are covered by general local government legislation and no special provision has been necessary in the present Bill. The Bill's control powers, as such, deal with air pollution from stationary sources only. Its main influence on mobile sources of pollution will lie not in direct regulation, which remains more appropriate to the Road Traffic Acts, but in environmental control of fuel inputs, section 53. It is now acknowledged that the most effective way of reducing vehicle emissions is through the design of engines and exhaust systems. There has been considerable agreement at EEC level which should result in significant reductions in vehicle emissions in the years ahead. Finally, the Bill is expressly precluded by section 3 from dealing with radioactive emissions or with emissions connected with the incineration of waste at sea. This is because other legislation, namely, the Nuclear Energy Act, 1971, and the Dumping at Sea Act, 1981, already governs these matters and in any event they would not generally be within the fields of competence of local authorities.

I turn now to some key terms in the Bill. Section 4 defines the term "air pollution". Its meaning is not easily captured, because the concept of air pollution must be linked with a concentration of a substance in the atmosphere at a level harmful to public health, animal or plant life or the environment generally, rather than the mere existence of a substance in the atmosphere. In some cases, too, it may be the interaction of substances in the atmosphere which may cause difficulties. The definition in the Bill refers, therefore, to a condition of the atmosphere in which a pollutant is present in such quantity as to be liable to give rise to damage to public health, animal or plant life, property, amenities or the environment. The definition of air pollution does include smells which, of course, can be a relatively common nuisance. There is an associated definition of term "pollutant" in section 7 (1) and, of course, the main pollutants with which the Bill is concerned are listed in the First Schedule.

Section 5 defines the term "best practicable means" which is used throughout the Bill. The best practicable means concept is well established in environmental legislation. It is used in EEC legislation in both the air and water pollution areas, although different forms of words are sometimes employed, such as the best available technology which does not entail excessive costs, or the best technical means available taking account of economic availability. In the Bill, the phrase is defined in such a way as to require, in the circumstances of each case, an appropriate balance between available technology, environmental demands and cost considerations. This pragmatic approach properly considers both the needs of development and the needs of the environment in seeking to improve the quality of Irish life.

The Bill imposes a number of obligations and I will mention these in turn. The most general obligation is under section 24. This requires every occupier of a premises, other than a private dwelling, to use the best practicable means to limit and, if possible, to prevent emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere. This obligation is similar in its incidence, namely on all non-domestic property, and in its very generally defined nature, to the general duty imposed by section 18 of the Fire Services Act, 1981, with regard to fire safety. Both obligations are also for the occupier of the premises in the first instance to interpret and observe, with the local authority being entitled to follow up to determine if compliance is satisfactory.

A second kind of obligation will arise under the Bill from the licensing system provided by Part III. This will apply initially to new industrial plant involving any of the processes listed in the Third Schedule. Licensing under Part III will also apply to alterations of industrial plant which may materially increase or change emissions and it may be gradually extended to cover existing plant by ministerial regulation. In addition, the Minister will have power, by regulations made with the prior approval of each House, to add to the categories of plant specified in the Third Schedule, thus extending the scope of the licensing system, if this should prove to be necessary in order to control air pollution.

The third major source of obligation under the Bill is Part IV, which allows an intensive regime of air pollution control to be established by a special control area order. Obligations under Part IV of the Bill, unlike those cited above, could be brought to bear on householders, and this may reasonably be anticipated as the primary purpose of Part IV. But a special control regime can direct itself to any or all premises within the defined area, so that industry could also be affected. Grants may be made available by the Minister for the Environment to assist with the costs of adapting premises to comply with a special control area order. I will return to this aspect of the Bill later on.

The Bill permits of a number of different approaches to air quality control by the Minister and local authorities; some combination of these will emerge in practice. The Minister will have power under section 50 to prescribe air quality standards, with or without local variation, and local authorities would be bound to secure compliance with these. The air quality standard approach, which has already been enjoined on us by the EEC, prescribes only the required end result and leaves open the means of compliance.

The Minister will also be empowered under section 51 to prescribe emission limit values. These would relate to particular pollutants or combinations of pollutants and could vary by area, class of premises or other circumstance. In contrast to air quality standards, emission limit values would represent a quantified control applying directly to the premises concerned. They would have to be applied by local authorities, as a minimum, in enforcing the general obligation to limit or prevent air pollution under section 24 and in licensing industrial plant under Part III. Emission limit values have only recently been prescribed by the EEC for the first time in relation to the burning of waste oils and the prevention of pollution by asbestos. Additionally such values are envisaged in the draft directive on pollution from large combustion plant.

Section 22 envisages the control of emissions by means of charges to be made by local authorities, subject to ministerial regulation. These charges would be a quasi-tax, designed to secure the same environmental result by economic means as air quality standards and emission limit values seek by direct regulation. There is limited precedent among EEC countries for this economic approach in relation to air pollution, although charges have been used in regard to discharges to water and therefore it would appear prudent to take the necessary powers in the Bill.

I have already outlined briefly the main provisions of the Bill and I now propose to cover other aspects in a summary way. The House will, of course, have an opportunity to consider any or all of these in detail on Committee Stage. Part I deals with matters of definitions, administration and organisation upon which the remainder of the Bill relies, as well as with matters common to virtually all legislation, such as commencement and repeals. The Bill will repeal most existing legislation on air pollution, with special transitional arrangements under section 57 for the Alkali Act and the Control of Atmospheric Pollution (Licensing) Regulations, 1985, listed in section 58.

The local authorities to whom responsibilities are being entrusted under the Bill are the 27 county councils, the five county borough corporations and Dún Laoghaire Corporation listed in section 7. Under section 21, provision is made whereby any function conferred on a local authority in relation to air pollution may, by regulations, be transferred to another person or body, including a corporate body specially established for the purpose. This provision is included in recognition of the fact that some of the monitoring and other work which will arise under the Bill could require a high degree of expertise and access to specialised facilities which it might not be economic for the individual local authority to provide. In such situations, it might be convenient for the functions in question to be carried out on behalf of local authorities by a body operating at national level such as, for example, An Foras Forbartha. Local authorities are, of course, authorised under general local government legislation to undertake functions on behalf of each other on an agency basis.

It may be opportune here to explain briefly why local authorities should carry the main responsibility for administering the Bill. Environmental services and controls are the preserve of local authorities in most countries. There are two main reasons for this. First, because of their physical rather the personal nature, there is considerable local variation in the need for and level of such services. Secondly, environmental services in the broad sense are widely seen as suited to some degree of local democratic decision.

In Ireland, these considerations have brought local authorities into the administration of physical planning, water pollution control and waste management in addition to their longer-standing involvement in sanitary services, housing and roads. There is no reason why air pollution control should stand as an exception to these general principles and the Bill provides for a local authority involvement fully in line with that under other relevant codes. The need for national standards and guidelines and for central policy direction and co-ordination in air pollution matters has not, however, been overlooked and the Bill provides the Minister for the Environment with powers to ensure adequate action by any reluctant local authority.

Offences, penalties and prosecution are dealt with in sections 11 to 13. A maximum fine of £1,000 will apply on summary conviction for an offence, and a fine of up to £10,000 where the conviction is on indictment. The corresponding maximum custodial penalties will be six months and two years respectively. Local authorities are empowered to prosecute offences summarily and may do this even in relation to an emission from outside their area where this would cause air pollution affecting their area. Power of summary prosecution may also be extended by regulations to other persons, including the Minister.

Section 16 gives local authorities wide powers of acquiring information for the purpose of their functions under the Bill. A written notice from them can require relevant information — on burning appliances, fuels being used, etc. — from the occupier of any property. Periodic returns of information can be required of occupiers of non domestic property, but not at intervals of less than three months. Finally, persons engaged in the fuel industry, in the widest sense, may be required to give particulars to the local authority of the type and quantity of fuel supplied by them. To preserve confidentiality local authorities are forbidden to disclose information obtained by them under section 16 to anyone other than a person prescribed in regulations by the Minister. Private individuals would not, of course, be prescribed in regulations of this kind but bodies such as, for example, An Foras Forbartha which maintain the National Air Pollution Data Base.

A further requirement as to information arises under section 29. This obliges the occupier of a premises, other than a private dwelling, to notify the relevant local authority as soon as practicable after any incident which may cause air pollution.

I have already spoken of the fundamental obligation imposed by Part II in relation to all non-domestic property to use the best practicable means to limit and if possible to prevent emissions. Part II also spells out enforcement powers whereby local authorities can achieve compliance with this obligation.

These involve first the service of a notice on the occupier of a premises requiring suitable measures to be taken — section 26; secondly, a power for the local authority, in urgent circumstances, to undertake these measures themselves; and finally, a right of application to the High Court, which will be shared by any other person, to prohibit or restrict an emission from a premises. Part II also contains a provision — section 23 — enabling the Minister to forbid outright certain emissions on the production, import, sale, etc., of substances which may cause air pollution.

As I stated earlier, Part III of the Bill will translate the 1983 directive on industrial plant into Irish law by providing a framework for the granting of licences broadly similar to that provided in the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, and the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts. The Bill provides for the making of regulations to govern the detailed procedure involved in the granting of licences. There is specific provision in section 34 for appeals to An Bord Pleanála against the granting or refusing of a licence or against any conditions attached to a licence. In practice, the board and the planning authorities are obliged under planning law to have regard to the potential air pollution from a development and they attach conditions for the control of air pollution, where appropriate. It is desirable, and should be of assistance to applicants, that the one appeals tribunal should deal with appeals under the Planning, Water Pollution and Air Pollution Acts. The new licensing arrangements where they apply will, of course, take the place of planning conditions relating to air pollution.

Provision is made in section 33 for the review of licences at intervals of not less than three years, or at any time when the local authority have grounds for believing that an emission may constitute a serious risk of air pollution, or where there has been a material change in air quality which could not have been foreseen when the licence was granted. The categories of plant to which the licensing requirements apply are listed in the Third Schedule to the Bill. These include the plants which are most likely to cause air pollution.

Part IV of the Bill will enable a local authority, by order, to declare all or part of their area to be a special control area where the level of a pollutant, or combination of pollutants, requires special abatement measures. In making the order, the local authority will spell out the measures to be taken and the requirements that will have effect in the area in order to prevent or limit the pollution in question. It will be possible to consider using the provisions of Part IV in a situation, such as exists in parts of Dublin, where the air quality standards for smoke are exceeded on occasion. But Part IV is designed to have wider application. It could, for example, be used if, in the future, nitrogen oxides were shown to be a problem in part of a built-up area or if other pollutants, arising perhaps from industrial development, were to become an issue in a particular district. In spite of this it is, I suppose, inevitable that Part IV will be seen primarily as a response to the Dublin smoke situation and so before dealing with the sections concerned, it would be appropriate to comment on that situation.

Smoke and sulphur dioxide levels have been measured on a regular basis in Dublin since 1962 and a more comprehensive monitoring network was established by the corporation in 1973. Sampling stations are located throughout the city in industrial, commercial and residential districts and there are further stations in the county area. Results from these stations show that between 1973 and 1981 there was an overall decline in SO 2 levels and, to a lesser extent, in smoke levels. However, since 1981 pollution levels — and particularly the level of smoke — have increased substantially. This reversal in the earlier downward trend coincided with the large-scale increase in use of coal and other solid fuels for space-heating purposes and problems have been emerging in so far as compliance with the smoke provisions of the relevant EEC directive is concerned.

There were exceedances of the daily limit values at a number of stations in the city in 1985-86 and exceedances also on some groups of three days — and this despite the notably windy winter of last year. However, the longer term values for the winter — with the exception of one station — and for the year as a whole were not exceeded. The exceedances involved smoke only and the requirements of the directive were observed in relation to sulphur dioxide.

The monitoring year runs from April to March and therefore the final figures for 1986-87 are not yet available. However, a preliminary analysis of the results to date reveals serious breaches of the directive. At the very least, we will have had exceedances of daily limit values at six different stations and exceedances of the three day limit at four different stations. It appears that the figures for this winter will be worse than those for the severe winter of 1981-82.

While we are on the subject of monitoring. I am aware of complaints which have been raised about lack of quick access to air pollution data — particularly those relating to smoke levels in Dublin. It must be said at once that the reference method of smoke measurement, which is used by Ireland and several other EEC countries, does not lend itself to instant production of results. This is also true of most of the parameters for the EEC air quality limit values themselves. This inbuilt slowness of the reference method does not, however, prevent it from disclosing fully the reality of the Dublin smoke situation after the appropriate interval. This in turn will suggest the extent of remedial action which may be required. I accept, however, the concern of environmentalists and others about access to relevant air monitoring data. I intend to contact the Dublin local authorities about the air monitoring situation generally and this is one of the aspects which I will raise.

To turn from the monitoring practice in Dublin to the reality of smoke pollution which the results are now disclosing, I consider that action is now required to deal with the smoke problem in Dublin. It is important, however, that the extent of this problem is assessed objectively and that appropriate remedial measures are devised and carried through on a rational basis and in a cost-effective manner. It is possible to identify a range of options which, either alone or in combination, could improve the situation. These include promoting the use of natural gas and other cleaner fuels, prohibiting the use of certain fuels, requiring that appliances which burn solid fuels smokelessly, or with reduced smoke emissions, should be used, and so on. Whatever measures are considered necessary by the local authority will have to be incorporated in a special control area order and submitted for confirmation to the Minister.

Some commentators have suggested that special control area orders should be able to come into effect immediately where there are breaches of air quality standards without the need for an oral hearing. It must be stressed that this would not be in keeping with the safeguards traditional in Irish local government and environmental legislation. It would be particularly insensitive to set aside such provisions in this case, given the likelihood that several low income areas in Dublin might be the first to be affected by the special control areas. I believe it is essential that local authorities should defend their proposals to the public, show the need for any specific measures and satisfy the Minister and all those affected that the measures proposed are cost effective having regard to all the local circumstances. The Bill provides for this.

Some comment is appropriate here on the relationship between housing standards, which are also, of course, the preserve of the Department of the Environment, and the possible requirements of clean air zoning. In particular, people have referred to an apparent conflict between the chimney requirements of the various housing grants schemes and the smoke situation in Dublin. While it must be remembered that domestic chimneys as required by the grant schemes are necessary for many heating systems which use smokeless fuels or which eliminate or reduce smoke, I intend nonetheless to review the conditions of the different schemes as they apply in relation to areas where smoke pollution is or may be a problem.

Before leaving this question of special control area orders, there is one other matter I would like to deal with. Section 14 deals with the powers of authorised persons to enter premises including private dwellings for purposes connected with the Bill. Considerable concern was expressed by Senators and other interested people that authorised persons could enter private dwellings by giving 48 hours notice or without notice in case of urgency and that this provision could be abused. We are all properly concerned to preserve domestic privacy. On the other hand, the force of the requirements of a special control area order would be greatly weakened without substantative powers of inspection. It will be essential to the success of any special control area order that all householders are seen to comply with it. Any system which through ineffectiveness encouraged periodic non-compliance with an order would be unfair to conscientious householders and would soon degenerate into widespread non-compliance. That said, this is clearly an area which we should consider further between now and Committee Stage to see if there is any way of reconciling the needs of effective special control areas with the right to privacy in one's own dwelling.

Part V of the Bill enables local authorities to make air quality management plans for the preservation or improvement of air quality in their areas. The making of such plans will involve a local authority in assessing air quality in their areas and likely future trends and in identifying potential difficulties and planning for their avoidance. Significant powers are also conferred on the Minister for the Environment under Part V, including the setting of air quality standards and of emission limit values which I discussed earlier. National conditions may warrant the setting of emission limit values, either for the country at large or for specific areas or industries and, of course, limits set in this way at national level could bring about a necessary degree of consistency and uniformity in the administration of the Act throughout the country. Part VI of the Bill provides for miscellaneous matters, including the powers of local authorities and the Minister to monitor air quality and emissions.

Finally, I should make it clear that the present Bill, being a comprehensive enabling one will naturally come into effect in a phased way. Among other things, this should help to minimise staffing problems. As I see it the obvious priorities will be to implement existing EEC Directives and to address the more serious instances of air pollution in the Dublin area. The impact of the Bill on local authorities will obviously vary very widely because of the uneven distribution of population and industries throughout the country.

Associated with the debate on the Bill today is a motion on the long term financing of the Co-operative Programme for Monitoring and Evaluation of the long-range Transmission of Air Pollutants in Europe — otherwise known as EMEP, the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme. As the Protocol imposes a charge upon public funds, its terms must be approved by Dáil Éireann, in accordance with Article 29.5 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, before being ratified. The Protocol was signed by Ireland on 4 April 1985.

Earlier in my speech I mentioned the Geneva Convention which binds contracting states to limit and, as far as possible, gradually to reduce emissions of polluting substances into the atmosphere. The EEC and its member states are all parties to the Convention. EMEP was set up under the Convention to provide Governments with information on the deposition and concentration of air pollutants, in particular the quantity and significance of the long-range transmission of air pollutants and fluxes across boundaries. The Norwegian Institute for Air Research are responsible for technical co-ordination and there are two meteorological synthesising centres, a western centre at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and an eastern centre at the Institute of Applied Geophysics in Moscow. Member states input relevant data into the system.

Ireland has participated in EMEP since 1980 by providing data on acidity, sulphate and sodium in precipitation, sulphate in aerosols, and sulphur dioxide in gaseous form. The Meteorological Service at Valentia have carried out the work on behalf of my Department. Indeed, the Meteorological Service have made a significant contribution to the programme over the years and I would like to take this opportunity of putting on record my appreciation and thanks. A further addition to the EMEP network is being considered by An Foras Forbartha, in co-operation with the ESB, in the form of a monitoring station on the east coast which would link up with the station established by the ESB at the Slieve Bloom mountains to monitor the effects of the Moneypoint power station.

The Protocol we are now discussing seeks to put EMEP activities on a sound financial basis for the future. The system relies on mandatory contributions, supplemented by voluntary contributions. The mandatory contributions to be made by member states and organisation are set as a fixed percentage of the overall cost of the programme. Under the new arrangements, Ireland's contribution to the programme is 0.5 per cen per annum which, for example, on the basis of the 1986 budget would be approximately £3,000. The Irish contribution rate is second lowest of the EEC countries and ninth lowest of the 32 states which, under the new arrangements, will contribute to the cost of financing EMEP.

The Protocol has been signed by 22 countries to date. It is intended that the EEC and its 12 member states will ratify the Protocol at the same time, hopefully within the next month or two. The Protocol will enter into force when at least 19 signatories have ratified and the aggregate of their assessment rates exceeds 40 per cent of the budget. Pending the entry into force of the Protocol, member states have been making an annual contribution on a voluntary basis. Ireland paid £4,000 in 1985 and £3,000 in 1986 from the Environment Vote. Provision for the 1987 payment has been made in the Environment Vote for this year.

It is fair to say that, while the Irish contribution to the financing of the programme is small in real terms, our overall contribution to and benefit from the programme is potentially quite significant. In the first place, because of the extreme westerly location in European terms of the Valentia measuring point, with the prevailing winds from the west or southwest, the data gathered at Valentia will reflect a European "zero-effect" baseline. Secondly, the data available from the programme will provide us with valuable information on the extent of acid deposition in the country. The results to date show that Ireland is neither a significant contributor to, nor receiver of, transboundary air pollution. This scientific and independent corroboration has been helpful to us in convincing our Community partners that the uniform controls proposed in the draft Directive on limitation of emissions from large combustion plants were not appropriate in our circumstances.

I have taken quite some time to go through the Bill in detail because I regard it as a very important matter and I see some significance in the fact that it is the first measure to be introduced by me as Minister for the Environment. It deals with an environmental issue; it is something in which I have an interest and the matters raised will be of considerable benefit, particularly to our capital city. I will be looking for the support of the House to ensure a speedy passage of the Bill.

Tá óráid fhada déanta agam inniu ar an dá ábhar seo atá os ár gcomhair. Ach is Bille fada tábhachtach an Bille um Thruailliú Aeir. Cuimhnimís, chomh maith, go bhfuil an dlí bunúsach atá ann inniu maidir le truailliú an aeir i bhfeidhm ó 1906 i leith agus go bhfuil gach seans ann go mbeidh an Bille seo in úsáid i lár an chéid atá romhainn. Mar a dúirt mé i dtosach tá sé ar intinn agam na tuairimí go léir a fhoilsigh grúpanna éagsúla, agus ar ndóigh tuairimí a nochtófar sa Teach seo, a scrúdú idir seo agus Céim an Choiste. Molaim an Bille agus an Tairiscint don Teach.

I concur with the Minister's remarks and I am particularly delighted that this most important legislation is the first business of the 25th Dáil. The Bill had a very constructive and excellent passage through the Seanad some months ago, there were very solid contributions from all sides of the House and I look forward to a similar debate here and the co-operation which was evident in the Seanad.

Good environmental conditions should now be more highly valued than ever before and, as legislators, we must see to it that environmental policy and programmes are developed and extended to meet current needs. Recent events have led to situations in which environmental matters of one kind or another are attracting a lot of media attention and are the subject of growing public interest and concern. The accident at the Chernobyl power station and the series of incidents earlier this year at Sellafield bring home to all of us the need to give environmental protection a high priority even when financial, economic and social policy issues appear to demand so much attention. We must develop not only the capacity to respond to serious incidents but also preventative policies and programmes designed to eliminate threats to our environment.

We need also to do more to integrate the environmental dimension with economic and infrastructural policies and to educate and inform the community at large on environmental issues. Let me in passing congratulate at this stage the various and varied environmental groups who have done so much to heighten public awareness and to educate us all in relation to environmental matters. Perhaps without their bringing to our attention, or at any rate underlining, the importance and concern in relation to these varied environmental matters a great deal less would have been achieved in recent years.

At EC level environmental policy has made great strides in recent years in spite of the absence of any express provision in the Treaties. The Single European Act signed late last year now provides for three new Articles in the EC Treaty providing explicitly for action by the Community in relation to the environment. This is an indication of the higher priority accorded to environmental matters by the Community as a whole and, indeed, it is a pointer to us about the development of our own policies. The new Articles provide that the action by the Community is to have several objectives: to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment; to contribute towards protecting human health; and to ensure a prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources. It is also required that action in relation to the environment is to be based on the principle that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage as a priority should be rectified at source, that the polluter should pay and that environmental protection requirements shall be a component of the Community's other policies.

It is important also from an Irish point of view to note that the new Treaty provisions spell out requirements the Community action is to take account of — amongst them environmental conditions in the various regions of the Community, the potential benefits and costs of action or lack of action, the economic and social development of the Community as a whole and the balanced development of its regions generally. I have no doubt that the new provisions which are to be added to the Treaty and which will give a major boost to action at Community level will protect and improve the environment in the Community as a whole and in the individual member states.

I was alerted to the fact yet again, and reminded by the very colourful stamp on the front page of the Minister's speech, that we are now into the European Year of the Environment as of a few days ago. The European Council decided in March 1985 to designate 1987 as the European Year of the Environment, or the EYE as we have come to call it. The Commission subsequently put forward an action programme for the year and this was endorsed by a resolution adopted by the Environment Council in March of last year. The action programme proposes that a general awareness campaign centred on a number of key topics will be carried out during the year, that model environmental protection projects will also be undertaken and that there will be projects aimed at improving monitoring of the quality of the environment. As far as I am concerned this Bill is an ideal contribution from us as the country's legislators to the EYE.

The publication of the Air Pollution Bill in February 1986 marked a major step forward in the development of our environmental protection law. The Bill provides a comprehensive legislative framework which will enable us to ensure good air quality throughout the country and to give effect to relevant EC Directives. All existing statutory provisions and regulations will be replaced by the Bill which should provide the State and local authorities with all the necessary powers for air pollution control both now and for the foreseeable future. In general Ireland enjoys a very high standard of air quality. Our geographical position on the perimeter of Europe and the prevailing westerly winds have spared us in the main from transboundary air pollution.

The Minister referred to the fact that radioactive substances were specifically excluded from this Bill under section 3. The reason quite rationally given for this — the same reason as I gave in the Seanad in my Second Stage address on this Bill — was that other legislation, namely the Nuclear Energy Act, 1971, and the Dumping at Sea Act already govern these matters. In passing I should like to alert the Minister and to ask him to discuss it again with his officials before we get to Committee Stage. My understanding of the position of the Nuclear Energy Act, 1971, in that it established the Nuclear Energy Board is that the present Government intend to repeal it and to establish the radiological protection association — or board if I give them their correct title.

I support that and I support what I understand to be their intentions in relation to the NEB, but if they are repealing the very legislation we are now saying makes it unnecessary to include radioactive substances in this Air Pollution Bill, I want to be sure that it will have a home, that this most important problem and topic will rest somewhere. Perhaps it would better rest here than in new legislation which will necessarily have to be enacted when we change the NEB or repeal the relevant legislation. I throw that out to the Minister and perhaps he will come back to us on the Committee Stage of this Bill, or whenever is appropriate, and let us know what the intentions may be in relation to that. I accept fully that the whole area of dealing with radioactive sustances would not fall within the competence of local authorities too easily so I take on board the second part of the reason he gives, but we would want to look at this area again because of the stated intentions of the present Government. Let me add that I agree with those intentions and I hope that when the Government repeal the Nuclear Energy Act, 1971, they will remove that responsibility, which is really a safety or radiological protection responsibility, from the Department of Energy and give it to the Department of the Environment where I have always felt it more naturally belonged. However, that is for discussion another day.

Indeed, because of the nature of our economic growth we have little heavy industry of the kind that has caused serious air pollution in other countries. For over 20 years emissions from new industries have been controlled by conditions attached to permissions under the Planning Acts and this has contributed greatly to preserving air quality. Nevertheless, local problems emerged from time to time and there is cause for concern about the trend in air quality in parts of Dublin, particularly the level of smoke at some periods during the winter. Since 1981 smoke pollution has increased, reversing the downward trend of the previous decade. The increased smoke levels coincide with the large scale increase in the use of coal and other solid fuels.

I understand that there has been a 150 per cent increase in the burning of coal in our capital city in the past decade. Coal and other solid fuels have been used for space heating purposes and create problems in complying with EC air quality standards for smoke. In 1984-85 the EC daily limit value was exceeding at a number of stations in Dublin as was the value for the groups of three days. However, the longer term values for that winter and for the year as a whole were not exceeded. Our attention was drawn to an article on the front page of today's The Irish Times where it appears that our excedents this winter are going to be serious indeed. They seem as if they will be worse than the previous worst year 1981-82 and, let me say, a major cause for concern in relation to the environmental health of Dublin.

The Air Pollution Bill provides a statutory framework for dealing with the smoke problems of Dublin. However, before final solutions can be decided on the situation in each area must be assessed objectively and appropriate remedial measures devised on a rational and cost effective basis. A number of options come to mind such as encouraging the use of natural gas — we hope it will overcome its apparent teething problems — and encouraging the use of other smokeless fuels, prohibiting the use of certain fuels and requiring the use of appliances which burn solid fuel smoke-lessly, I understand that various organisations in Dublin have fairly advanced research in relation to appliances which will burn coal as we all understand it without causing the smoke problems. We await with anticipation the outcome of that research as I think there is a marvellous potential for such an appliance.

Much of the Bill is designed to ensure that preventive action is given a high priority. The licensing provisions relating to certain industries are a case in point. By taking appropriate action of this kind now, we can avoid the problems which are causing so much concern in other countries. This Bill will be seen as a major step forward in environmental policy in this country. Its success can of course be guaranteed only by the co-operation of the local authorities, the co-operation of industry and indeed the co-operation of the general public and this co-operation can be relied on.

Like many forms of environmental pollution, air pollution is a problem which has been known to exist for centuries. We know that smoke control regulation in England dates back over 700 years. We also know that severe punishments were applied by the authorities for transgressions of air quality requirements. For instance, there are records of a London manufacturer having been beheaded because he disobeyed a royal proclamation on coal burning. In Ireland it does not seem to have been necessary to introduce such harsh measures in days gone by. It would however be interesting to know how air quality in our cities and towns in the past compares with that of today. There must have been identifiable smoke problems in Dublin, Cork and perhaps other urban areas given the methods for heating and cooking which were employed at the time.

How does air pollution affect us all? Initially it was perceived as a local problem affecting the immediate environs of cities and industrial sites and local control measures seemed the most appropriate remedy. Very recently, however, air pollution has been recognised to have wider national and even international effects and its transboundary aspects have led to concerted international efforts to abate it. The appalling spectre of the recent Chernobyl incident to which I have already referred brought this home to us tragically and dramatically.

As regards effects on human health these in the main are respiratory and cardiovascular. The very young and the elderly sectors of the population are considered to be most at risk from air pollution. In very severe pollution incidents such as occurred in London in 1952 there may be marked increases in mortality and morbidity. There are also the less easily detected long term consequences of exposure to lower levels of pollutants and most importantly air pollution also affects the natural and built environments. Some of our historic and architecturally more important buildings, especially in our bigger cities, have suffered irreparable damage because of lack of control on certain aspects of air pollution.

We are fortunate because of our geographic position and our prevailing winds in being largely unaffected by transboundary air pollution on the scale that is experienced in other countries, even in Europe. Moreover, because of our economic growth we have little of the type of industry that has caused problems. Recent studies have shown however that particularly under the easterly air-flow conditions the acidity of rainfall along the eastern seaboard of Ireland appears to suffer an artificial increase. Air pollution has been assuming a higher public profile. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities has already devoted two reports to it, the most recent one being particularly concerned with acid rain. An Foras Forbartha have launched a very useful report entitled Air Quality in Ireland — The Present Position.

The common air pollutants are smoke, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and lead. The principal cause of these is the combustion of fuel in one form or another. The main sources can be classified as power generation, industrial and commercial development, the domestic sector and transport. The proportion of total emissions contributed by each of these sectors varies. For example, in 1985 77 per cent of our emissions of sulphur dioxide arose from the commercial, industrial and power generation sectors while in the case of smoke the reverse was the case with domestic sources contributing 79 per cent of the 117,000 tonnes emitted in the State as a whole.

When we talk about smog here and what the public perceive to be air pollution, it is usually smoke. On the Continent the reverse is true. What the public there perceive as smog is usually high sulphur dioxide emissions. In 1985 65 per cent of the nitrogen oxide emissions came from the commercial, industrial and power generation sectors with 28 per cent from road transport. Again transport accounts for 78 per cent of carbon monoxide emissions and 50 per cent of hydrocarbon emissions. These figures show quite dramatically that to protect air quality action is needed on a number of fronts and that air pollution cannot be attributed to one particular sector or to a few large industries. In turn, this means that air pollution problems cannot be resolved simply or indeed overnight. They have developed over a space of years and our efforts to deal with them will also take some time and will have to involve all sections of the community. It must be remembered that in carrying out our normal daily activities in relation to the work or home, we all contribute in one way or another to the volume of pollutants emitted to the atmosphere.

The most urgent problem of air pollution in Ireland is the trend of smoke levels in Dublin which have been giving cause for concern over a number of years. Certain winter smoke levels in Dublin continue to exceed the EC limits. We are obliged to remedy this situation definitively by 1993. To date, in addition to the standards for smoke and sulphur dioxide to which I have just referred, directives have been adopted which set air quality standards for lead and nitrogen dioxide in the air. There is also a 1984 directive which requires the introduction of a licensing system for certain categories of industrial plant which may cause air pollution. EC directives also exist in relation to the lead content of petrol and the sulphur content of gas oil. Ireland has further obligations on air pollution in the international forum. The State is party to the 1979 Geneva Convention on long range transboundary air pollution which binds contracting States to limit and as far as possible gradually to reduce emissions of polluting substances into the atmosphere.

The motion we are taking today in conjunction with the Second Stage of the Air Pollution Bill was also set up under the Geneva Convention. The Minister in his speech stated that the motion on the EMEP, that is the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme, really just puts in order our financial contribution to this programme. He said we have in fact been contributing since 1980 and the monitoring work done has been done by the Meteorological Service from their Valentia Island station. I would like to concur with the Minister in putting on record my appreciation of and my thanks to the Meteorological Service for this most important service not only to ourselves but to our neighbours. I have no difficulty in supporting the motion on the EMEP protocol.

There is a great deal of justifiable concern over the severe problems resulting from atmospheric pollution in Central Europe, Scandinavia and North America. The European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme is contributing to a data base of information so that we can control and eliminate as far as possible air pollutants particularly of a transboundary nature. We are all responsible to one another in this area. The concern led to the signing in 1985 of a protocol to the Geneva Convention in Helsinki when 21 countries undertook to reduce their emissions of sulphur dioxide by 30 per cent as soon as possible and at the latest by 1993 using the 1980 levels as the base. Regrettably, Ireland is not in a position to sign this protocol. Our total emissions of sulphur dioxide are small. I do not like using that as a reason or as an excuse for not signing the protocol but it is a fact that our emissions are small. However small though, they are still contributing to the total. They amounted to 219,000 tonnes in 1980 and decreased in 1985 to 138,000 tonnes. In other words they were below the reduction required by the Helsinki protocol.

The second consideration for not signing the agreement is that with the developing economy seeking to industrialise even further Ireland's energy production is set to increase. This means that reducing the sulphur dioxide emissions by reference to 1980 would represent proportionately a much greater economic burden for Ireland than for the more developed countries whose energy requirements have already peaked. This, I think, is a reasonable point of view and a reasonable stance for us to take.

This culmination of small emissions and the developing energy requirements is well understood at European level to require countries like Ireland to stand aside from uniform reductions in emissions like the Helsinki Protocol. That said, we intend to co-operate to the best of our ability in the international effort to combat air pollution. For example, the lead content of our petrol has now been reduced to the lowest permissible level three years before this was required of us. Unleaded petrol has recently been introduced and I hope to see a worthwhile network of filling stations developing rapidly. We already have a few in our major towns, but there is a cost factor. I presume it will be some time before it is commercially viable to expect an unleaded petrol pump at every station, but that should be our objective. We are required under the relevant EC directive to ensure the availability and balanced distribution of unleaded petrol by October 1989. We have been keeping within the limit values for sulphur dioxide imposed by an EC directive of 1980. Our concentrations of lead and nitrous oxides in the atmosphere are within the limits imposed, as is the sulphur content of our gas oil. All these measures will be given greater unity and coherence by the Air Pollution Bill of 1986 now before us in the Dáil, having successfully completed its passage through the Seanad. This Bill is intended broadly to achieve two things. It will harmonise Irish legislation with a tendency in most industrialised countries towards a specific statutory code for control of air quality. It is also a further important step towards completing the body of Irish law on environmental protection. With the increasing complexity of air pollution, both in its technical and international dimensions, there is a clear need for a separate and comprehensive statutory code.

Now to the Bill itself. Part II sets out general provisions relating to air pollution control and provides a range of powers which can be used by the Minister for the Environment and, indeed, local authorities, to deal with a variety of situations, for example emissions of dark smoke, wind blown dust from the land used for mining or industrial purposes, or any other emissions which give rise to air pollution, or nuisance. It places an obligation on the occupiers of all premises other than private dwellings to use the best practicable means to prevent or limit air pollution. It also prohibits emissions from any premises which may be a nuisance to anybody.

During our discussions in the Seanad on this Bill there was quite a lot of concern about the definition of "best practical means". On the Continent, in legislation of this type they use the expression "best available technology not entailing excessive cost". To me the one is the equivalent of the other. An Taisce and, indeed, various other environmental groups made excellent submissions, some rather tardy, for example, An Taisce's not being received until November 1986. Although I have studied it in depth, I cannot go the whole road with them in relation to their point on best practicable means. They want the best available technology to be included without the relative qualification of not entailing excessive cost. Quite frankly, "the best practical means" is a relative term. How one would treat a very old plant which has perhaps one or two years of useful life left under "best practical means" is quite different from how you would treat a brand new plant which would be with us for decades. You cannot insist on best available technology for a small plant which is causing relatively no or little nuisance if that technology is available only in Japan or some other outpost in terms of geographic position to Ireland. You must have good common sense in this area and it is a relative term.

If we were debating whether the expression "best practical means" should be replaced by "best available technology not entailing excessive cost" I would not argue the toss too long but that is not what is being requested of us. I am quite satisfied by the use of "best practical means." This has been a legally established definition going away back, I understand, to the Alkali Acts of the first decade of this century and has caused no particular problems as technologies have developed over the years. I am quite happy with its inclusion even though no doubt we will have further debate in relation to that expression.

Part III of the Bill provides for the implementation of an EC directive on the control of emissions from industrial plant. New industrial plant of the type specified in the Bill must obtain a licence before coming into operation. There is a schedule attached to the Bill indicating to which plants these licensing requirements apply. These include cement works, chemical plants and certain electricity generation plants. A most important point, as far as I am concerned, in relation to Part III, section 30 (2), is that there is a provision for retrospection on existing plants in relation to licensing. I am sure we all could name plants about which we have concern. Perhaps the concern is unjustified. Sometimes as lay people we may over-react; I do not think so. There have been many inquiries and investigations into a lot of what is perceived to be air pollution, or certainly nuisance coming from these plants. One of these cases is still on its journey through our courts system and I await with interest the final outcome.

We all have our own pet plant or area which causes us concern. It is most important that the availability of retrospection is in this Bill in case the impression be given that existing plants can continue to ignore the standards we shall be demanding in the future of new plants, and Europe and all our neighbours in this area. We must be reasonable about retrospection. The best practicable means would probably apply here. If a plant has a limited life one is not going to insist that new technologies be superimposed at enormous cost, which would make no sense. If plants perceived to be causing nuisance in terms of air pollution or environmental nuisance generally are going to be with us for some time and particularly if these plants are subsidiaries, for example, of multinationals, I think that we can look to the best practicable means and to a sensible attitude from these plants and require of them that over a reasonable length of time they step into line in relation to the standards now required. I for one would hope that is how we would pursue this aspect and that the Minister of the Environment of the day would ensure that in a given length of time, where it is practicable to do so, all plants in Ireland will be licensed and to the standard required.

Here more than in any other country where we do not as yet have what would be perceived as an air pollution problem nationally, we should protect what we have. Not only does our agricultural industry depend on it and the health of our nation and the health of our buildings and national environment, but our tourism industry depends on it. Everything that we have to sell here and to capitalise depends on the quality of our environment, particularly our air quality. This is what this Bill is all about.

The Bill also provides for the statutory framework for dealing with localised air pollution problems. Part IV enables local authorities by order to establish special control areas in which intensive measures may be implemented to combat air pollution. For instance, the local authority will have power in a special control area to issue notices requiring the owners or occupiers of premises to take the necessary measures to reduce air pollution. Ample opportunities, of course, are provided for public consultation prior to the confirmation of any special control area. It will be important that the extent of any problem, for example, the Dublin smoke position, should be assessed objectively, so that appropriate remedial measures can be devised and carried through on a rational and cost effective basis.

A number of options come to mind, such as encouraging the use of natural gas and other smokeless fuels to which I have referred, requiring the use of appliances which burn solid fuels smokelessly and many others. The main point is that there are likely to be a number of options available if we are dealing with a particular air pollution problem and that the optimum balance will have to be struck between all of these.

Part V of the Bill confers significant powers on the Minister for the Environment including the setting of air quality standards and emission limit values. These powers are necessary to enable various EC directives to be given full effect and to protect public health and the environment. These standards could be used also to bring about the necessary consistency and uniformity in the administration of the Act throughout the country. The Bill is comprehensive. I believe it to be a major step forward in environmental policy in Ireland. However, it will need co-operation on the part of all concerned if it is to be a success.

The Minister referred to the fact that the EC Commission has initiated proceedings against Ireland as of December last. Indeed the proceedings were initiated against the last Government, seeking a declaration from the European Court that Ireland, in not adopting all the necessary measures to comply with Directive 80/779 of 1980, that is the Smoke and Sulphur Dioxide Directive, has failed to comply with its obligations under the Treaty. The Department of the Environment were notified of this in early January and have since submitted their defence. While I would hope that the case would not be pressed to a hearing in the European Court — given that we are enacting the Air Pollution Bill at present — there is no doubt that word of the Commission's action against Ireland has already reached environmentalists and other critical commentators. What the Commission are essentially charging us with is failure to make adequate legislative, as distinct from administrative, provision to ensure that the prescribed air quality values for smoke and sulphur dioxide are observed in Ireland. While the Commission's action relates entirely to procedure it may be interpreted by environmentalists as indicating a lack of commitment on the part of Irish authorities in tackling air pollution problems. As far as I am concerned the best answer to this is the prospect of early enactment of this Air Pollution Bill. Incidentially, by the standards of other EC member states, the existence of just one problem area here, namely in Dublin, indicates a fairly limited incidence of smoke pollution in Ireland. For instance, there are three problem areas — Belfast, Derry and Newry — in Northern Ireland and over 80 problem areas in Italy. That puts in perspective the Irish situation. The EC Third Action Programme on the Environment states that resources of the environment are the basis of, but also constitute the limits to, further economic and social development and the improvement of living conditions, which is what all of us in this House are about. Thus, the interaction between environmental protection and economic development must be a guiding principle in our approach both to environmental management and the promotion of economic and social development. The environment cannot be sacrificed to development. Neither should development be seen as the enemy of the environment. Both are essential ingredients of our efforts toward economic growth and improving the quality of Irish life. We must resist any temptation to look on environmental protection as a programme to be cast aside in the more difficult economic conditions in which the Irish economy now operates.

It is against this general background — the protection of the environment linked with the improvement of economic and social conditions — that we have framed the provisions of the Air Pollution Bill, 1986, a Bill which, for the first time in the history of the State, will provide a comprehensive framework for dealing with existing and emerging air pollution problems.

I have great pleasure in giving the Bill my full support.

Let me begin by congratulating you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, in having attained for the third time the honour that this House conferred on you today and wish you every happiness. Likewise I extend a very sincere welcome to the Minister present in his role as Minister for the Environment. I am sure he will bring to that Department the degree of enthusiasm and commitment for which he has become somewhat renowned in this House. Indeed I might congratulate him on being the first member of the present Government to introduce legislation in this House. I support Deputy Doyle in indicating my pleasure and that of my party at the measure the Minister chose to introduce to the House. There was, in so doing, a degree of judgment exercised and in so far as that judgment was exercised, I support the priorities the Minister has outlined.

The Minister will have a very active time in his Department. Much work has been done. The introduction of this Bill is one indication only of the work that has been done in different areas. The Minister is fortunate — I do not say this in any gratuitous sense — in having in his Department the technical and administrative resources with which to give effect to many of the things we shall be pressing him to do in coming years.

The Minister, in the course of his remarks, commented that he had received this Bill in its present form and that Committee Stage was the appropriate time to go into all of its details. There are quite a few matters that need to be examined. However, I concur with what Deputy Doyle has said that there was a very extensive debate on the Bill in the Seanad. Indeed all of us in this House would be paying the Seanad due honour and doing ourselves many favours were we to read that debate in its entirety. I suspect that much unnecessary repetition in this House could be avoided were we to read the entire Seanad debate, in particular examining many of the technical replies given to questions posed by Members.

I concur with the points that have been made to date. There is an awareness of pollution in general. There is now a growing awareness of air pollution. Ultimately it is about resources because combating the negative effects of air pollution amounts to a question of resources. There are those people — no doubt we will hear from them on some occasion in this House — who would argue that economic development must not be impeded by any unnecessary constraints or any superfluous frills or fancy standards which our economy simply cannot afford at present. The counter proposition I would put to those people is this: we cannot afford the damage that environmental or air pollution wreaks on our natural resources and, consequently, on our economy.

The Kowloon Bridge saga off the west coast of Cork is a precise example of the damage that has been done to our natural resources because of lack of adequate environmental protection, exercised in the first instance by the owners of the vessel in question. If anybody needs to be persuaded of the damage done by the lack of proper pollution controls, they can look at that one instance among many others. At present air pollution in our society and economy affects the human health condition, as was indicated by the chief medical officer of Dublin city some time ago. However, we shall have more details of that on Committee Stage. Air pollution also affects the physical fabric of many older buildings in the Dublin area and in other parts of the country where its levels can have a particular effect on the sheer physical fabric of buildings in a manner that many people might not fully appreciate or realise. Indeed within the precincts of these buildings most of the original sandstone that was part and parcel of the National Library had to be replaced because of a combination of air pollution and acid rain which effectively eroded and made unstable something that the ordinary lay person would regard as being a solid and durable commodity. Therefore air pollution is a damaging and dangerous constituent of our environment against which we need to guard. The position is being monitored, a fact to which the Minister referred at some length. Any measures taken to support, rationalise and make more available data on foot of that monitoring is to be encouraged, particularly in the context of the European Communities and Helsinki Protocol, to which reference has already been made. Ratification of that protocol which, in part, will bring us in line with the other 11 member states of the EC — the intention being that we would ratify this protocol together — is something that worries me. I shall return to that matter at considerable length on Committee Stage.

I am concerned about a two-tiered Community approach being applied to the requirement on peripheral countries and economies like Ireland, to adopt certain environmental standards in a manner that does not recognise fully the level of development which our society and economy have attained. In the debate in the Seanad there was reference on Committee Stage to section 28 of the Bill where appeals can be made to the High Court about compliance. While the European Community may not invoke domestic legislation in that manner, there is nothing to stop non-governmental organisations and environmental groups in other parts of the Community from invoking such measures. In this area we need to be sure that in undertaking Community obligations, recognition is given to Ireland's position. If, having taken cognisance of Ireland's position, the Community insist on compliance within a period, the Community have a counterbalancing obligation to help a weaker and poorer nation state within the Community with additional resources in order to meet that compliance, for instance with regard to compliance relating to emissions from the ESB power stations. If the Community want a single standard of compliance in this area they must be prepared to pay for it.

In relation to special control area orders, there have been a number of incidents of considerable and acute air pollution in this city. The present legislative framework was incapable of dealing with the problem. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is probably aware of a debate which went on in Dublin Corporation for some time, relating to premises in Ranelagh where metal smelting and the burning off of high vinyl covering to lead and copper wiring provoked an intense local reaction in the area. With the best will and with co-operation from officials in the Department of the Environment and from officials in the factory inspectorate in the Department of Labour, and other related bodies, we simply did not have the legislative framework to enforce minimal standards of compliance. We were talking in this instance of lead from car batteries being burnt out and about lead pollution in a densely populated area and, in effect, there was no legal framework within which corrective action could be taken by the local authorities.

This is not remote legislation which does not impinge on the condition of the daily lives of ordinary people. It has a very real impact for most people in the towns and cities of Ireland. I agree entirely with the Minister's proposals to ensure that, if a local authority are to invoke the provisions in making a special control area order, there should be within the tradition of oral hearings and democracy a provision for the case to be stated and for the case to be appealed so that everybody can have a say in an open, democratic manner before a final decision is made.

The rights of access and the sacred rights of private property were invoked in the Seanad. These rights seem to cut across any attempt by this House to regulate activities in the area of our environment whether it relates to the control of the price of urban building land or to treasure finds belonging to the nation which happen to be located on a particular farm.

I invite the Deputy to make a recommendation on how to get around that.

The Taoiseach indicated today that without prejudice to what might finally be agreed, constitutional change is something that should be looked at and that perhaps in the tradition of the late Deputy Lemass, a previous Fianna Fáil Taoiseach, an all-party committee might be set up to get the balance right. The rights of private property should not continue to be invoked as they have been invoked by successful lawyers under the interpretation of the Supreme Court. The balance between those two things is now entirely in favour of the private owner to the disadvantage of the taxpayer.

This Bill will not be successful unless we get around that in some small way.

I appreciate that. Obviously the question of balancing the rights of private property and the common good extends far beyond this legislation, but it will affect the implementation of this legislation as it has affected certain other aspects of legislation for which the Minister's Department have executive responsibility.

There is a right of entry under the Health Act which has worked successfully and there is a precedent for that.

No doubt, Minister, given the enthusiasm which no doubt you will bring to your job, you will be pressing the Taoiseach to initiate this constitutional review body as quickly as possible so as to ensure that your place in the history of environmental legislation can be more assured.

It is all sweetness and light today.

The Chair discourages these tête-à-têtes, cordial as they are now. I ask the Deputy to speak through the Chair and I ask everybody else to do accordingly and not to interrupt.

I apologise. I seem to have been affected by the sweetness and light which in part resulted in the Chair's successful rise to the position he now occupies. Maybe the mood is contagious, if not polluted. We can get into the detailed application of how this legislation will operate on Committee Stage. I compliment the Minister on the speed with which he has brought this to the House and I assure him of the Labour Party's support in its enactment.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and to wish him well in his term of office. It is also my very pleasant task to offer formal congratulations to the new Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, and to his Minister of State, Deputy Connolly. I wish them both well in their most important portfolios.

Perhaps not enough attention is given to the environment. It is only in recent years that the pressures on the natural environment or pressures due to the complexity and difficulties in our urban and rural environment have brought a new attitude to our living environment which is so precious to us. Our greatest gift is our environment. The rapid changes in population in particular over the past 30 years have altered the character of our cities, towns and countryside in a way which would hardly have been contemplated 50 years ago. Some 40 per cent of the population are living in the greater Dublin area and the country's demographic map shows the population shift in recent years.

Dramatic changes are taking place even within the structures of our capital city and also in Cork, Limerick and Galway. One of the difficulties in relation to the environment is that much of this has happened so fast that there has not been adequate time to plan the kind of infrastructure which is needed to protect city environments and to provide pleasant living areas within these cities.

Far be it from me to throw cold water on this legislation because I have had a particular interest in the natural environment for many years and called for the introduction of legislation of this kind for the past ten years. However, I must issue a caution that this is just enabling legislation, not directive legislation, enabling local authorities to carry out particular tasks. I would have wished that the legislation directed local authorities to carry out a particular task, such as enforcing proper air quality and air control, as should be the case in many areas where there is pollution of the natural environment — litter, water, noise control and so on. This is a shortcoming in this legislation. We are living in the late eighties and the pressures have not built up to the point where legislation will become directive and will no longer be merely enabling legislation.

At the outset I must congratulate those who drafted this Bill because a tremendous amount of work has gone into the preparation of this legislation which covers the pollution of the air and the environment. My note of caution is that this is purely enabling legislation, and that is where it falls short of what is urgently needed so far as the quality of air control is concerned.

Air pollution, urbanisation, industrialisation and the utilisation of fuels are closely related and if cities and industries continue to spread, there will be an increasing threat to the quality of air in particular regions. Common air pollutants which have already been referred to, sulphur dioxide, suspended particles, including smoke, nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, petrochemical oxates and lead, contribute to this immense problem. There is a significant hazard to the future health of the environment when the concentration of these emissions into the atmosphere reaches a level which is harmful.

It is important to focus firmly on the question of air quality and acceptability. I have never been content with what has come to be almost a parliamentary cliché "it comes within acceptable EC levels"— when it applies to air quality control, dumping of nuclear waste in the Irish Sea and so on. I am very wary of this because it is most misleading. It is as if something falls just short of a particular limit and people are almost lulled into believing that it is acceptable, but it is not. As far as air quality control is concerned, we cannot merely accept EC levels in a blasé manner. Anybody familiar with the environment in heavily industrialised countries, such as France, Germany and to a lesser extent England, will realise that these countries have almost been forced into introducing quality air control and water control measures. Germany was forced to take steps in this direction because her forests were devastated by acid rain due to sulphur dioxide emanating from many of her power stations. The same applied in France. In Ireland we have been more fortunate because, compared with Europe, we have enjoyed good water, good air and a comparatively noise free environment. I contend that that is the way it should be kept rather than drifting into accepting EC levels. That is something we should not do.

Islands like Ireland and Iceland which also has clear air, should offer no apology for maintaining high environmental standards. Let us stand on our own feet when adopting an attitude to the natural environment. It is opportune now, particularly in the Year of the Environment, that we should take a very forceful attitude towards our natural environment. We should regard this legislation as a most serious contribution to the Statute Book. Future generations will not thank legislators if we pass laws which enable local authorities to take action but the local authorities are not compelled to take any action to protect the health of the nation.

Our environment is a precious resource which is being abused through a lack of concern and, perhaps more insidiously in some cases, by vested interests who do not have a correct balance of progress with protection. No one wishes to see jobs being lost or to see potential industry suffering because of environmental controls but there must be an added protection as well as advancement in these industries. Air pollutants in sufficient concentration can have adverse effects on health resulting in an increase in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. It is important to realise that what is happening in our capital city is very injurious to the health of the nation. I do not want to dramatise this but I believe people are actually dying as a result of the bad air in Dublin city and the situation is getting dramatically worse from year to year.

In July 1980 I made a statement based on an environmental pollution report of 1979-80 issued by the health inspectors' department of Dublin Corporation, the monitoring service. They said that the disquieting news that there had been a 35 per cent increase in smoke pollution in the Dublin city area highlighted a potentially harmful trend. That statement was made seven years ago. The reason for this increase was the oil crisis which made people burn solid fuel, particularly coal for domestic heating purposes. One of the problems was that people just drifted into this situation and there was no control. The local authorities collected the statistics, looked at the figures and said we were still within EC regulations and that there was nothing to worry about. What has happened is that year in and year out the problem has been worsening. Now we read in our morning papers — and these are alarming figures — that Dublin smog is going way beyond EC limits. I would prefer if the authorities used the words "beyond acceptable limits to people living in these areas". There is no point reading into the record the figures we read in the papers, but areas like Crumlin, Ballyfermot and Rathmines are very heavily polluted.

I notice the Ceann Comhairle has arrived in the Chamber and I would like at this juncture, late as it is, to offer my congratulations to him on his appointment as Ceann Comhairle.

What about the areas bordering say, Rathmines, Ranelagh, Donnybrook, Terenure and so on? What about the areas bordering Ballyfermot, Coolock and Crumlin? The only effective way to tackle the problem in Dublin at one stroke — and we have got to square up to the problem — is to create a smokeless zone for the entire city. There is no other way. Piecemeal measures will be undertaken, efforts will be made to create a smokeless zone in Ballyfermot for example and we will read of a dramatic decrease in the smog level in that area. We have got to look — and I am sure the Minister will take cognisance of this — at what has happened in other countries. We will have to consider how they tackled the problem in London back in the late fifties when people were choking to death in heavy smog, this mixture of fog and particles of smoke. As a result of the smog people were dying and so they set about creating a smokeless zone in the capital city of England.

There are many other examples in Britain; for example, Belfast where the air quality is far more pure than it is in Dublin. That is a shame. The problem must be tackled and I can see no other way around it. Unless in-depth legislation of this kind squares up to the problem we will not achieve anything. Seeing is believing. If people take a trip up the mountains and look down onto the city they will see before their eyes a heavy pall of smoke, a dense fog, clinging to the city. In a cold spell this smog gets trapped in the city. It is a dreadful shame that this is permitted and that people have to live in that type of environment.

Because of the high cost of living people want to live in the inner city areas and yet the atmosphere in our capital city is bad. It will drive people to live at a higher elevation. I can see that happening unless something is done. We cannot drag our heels and hope the problem will go away because all the facts and figures show that the problem is increasing month by month. We have to depend on strong breezes blowing across the city to save us from the appalling, choking sulphur dioxide in the air. It is great if there is a strong south westerly wind blowing as that is the one thing which saves us but if it is blowing in the other direction it is not as good. In cold conditions if there is no wind it is very serious. The House may not be aware that even in the less vulnerable months such as the spring or summer — November is the peak month — the level of polluted air in Dublin far exceeds that of London city which is heavily industrialised. Yet, in our city which is not heavily industrialised we have an immense problem.

As I say, with a high concentration the effects are clearly manifested in terms of increased mortality and morbidity, especially among those with pre-existing respiratory illnesses. The very young and the old members of our community are the two groupings who are most at risk with this problem. If you tend to have a chest ailment, tend to be asthmatic or tend to have any type of respiratory or bronchial problem, you are very vulnerable. Less easily detected, and any cardiologist will tell you this, are the longterm consequences of exposure to low concentrations which may play an important part in the development of bronchitis, pneumonia, cancer and other related diseases.

I realise this Bill confines itself to the stationary type emission of pollution. There is also mobile pollution from stationary sources such as domestic, commercial or industrial buildings. That is what the Bill concerns itself with. There is pollution from cars, aeroplanes and other types of transport which is also worrisome. More efficient fuel burning engines and more economical engines could ensure that there will be less pollution from these. On the question of stationary pollution, we have got to square up to the problem of what we are going to do and substitute some of the fuels which are causing the problem.

Coal combustion in Dublin contributes significantly to emissions and to the ground level concentration of smoke. There is no point in anyone saying otherwise. The coal distribution industry will argue they are not the culprits in regard to this problem. If you look at the graphs you will see that there has been an increase in the tonnage of coal burnt in our capital city during the past seven years with a corresponding decrease in the amount of oil used and it is axiomatic that we have had an increase in the concentration of smoke-filled particles in the air. Consequently, if there is any fog, both will combine together to form this awful smog effect.

The recent increase in the use of domestic solid fuel and the high density of housing are combining to increase the problem. I am aware that in Dublin there is the ESB coal burning station and that is a particular type of pollutant I will refer to in a few moments but I would like to dwell on the question of coal because it is the chief culprit at present. I realise the comfort a coal fire and an open fire can have for people. It is a focal point in family life. It is not a luxury but a necessity in many cases. Apart from anything else it has traditionally been a focal point in Irish life but there will have to be a change of attitude.

We are the temporary custodians of our environment. We have this environment of ours to protect but future generations will need to enjoy the environment in some measure. It is sad to see, even on an international plane, the way the environment is being destroyed. Our children speak of the rain forests of South Africa being destroyed and yet our own capital city, our environment, is being destroyed to the point that people are now aware of it on the streets.

Our attitude in regard to coal fires must change. In our cities we must discontinue the indiscriminate burning of bituminous coal that is causing severe pollution. Those involved in the distribution of coal should engage in promoting the use of smokeless fuels. I burn smokeless fuel and I realise that it is difficult to get into the habit of burning it on a regular basis mainly because it is one-third more expensive than regular coal. However, if more people used smokeless fuel Dublin's problems could be solved. I do not think people will convert to it unless they are directed to do so by ministerial order and I do not think it is right to leave it to local authorities to carry out investigations. We all know that a change to smokeless fuel will eliminate air pollution. Experiments carried out in other cities proved successful. I would not like to see jobs lost in the coal industry but those people could be employed distributing alternative fuels.

I accept that the coal industry carried out a lot of research on different types of grates for burning coal with a view to producing a more energy efficient grate and I am aware that some grates have a smoke recovery system incorporated in them. We must continue our research along those lines because we will have to adopt a brave approach in regard to the quality of the air in the city. We must remember that many people are living in fear of natural gas following the unfortunate tragedies in Dublin. They feel that because the natural gas used does not have self-sealing effects in the pipes there is a danger of more damage being caused to the old piping system. The Gas Company are concerned about this and are tearing up many of the streets in Dublin to repair damaged pipes. It would be ideal if people turned to using natural gas because we would not have any air pollution but that is a long way down the road. We must follow the example of other cities who have tackled the problem of air pollution. We should make a declaration creating a smokeless zone in Dublin city for a number of years as an experiment. I realise that this is a Catch 22 situation because in the seventies people were encouraged to use coal when the price of oil was increased. In fact the Government paid grants to people to change from oil burning systems. I do not see anything wrong in encouraging people to switch away from coal. A mistake was made and we must think in terms of smokeless zones to improve the quality of our air.

We are giving bad example in the House because we have one of the most obsolete and inefficient pollutant causing heating systems in the city. A turf burning system generates the heat for Government buildings in Merrion Street and Kildare Street. If one looks out Kildare Street one will see a pall of yellow smoke hanging over the turf burning boiler-house located there. The heating from it is very unbalanced and those who work in offices served by it are scorching one moment and cold within a short time. The National Gallery which is served by that system, is quite cold while offices near the system are very hot. I understand that the system is 40 years old and uses 4,000 tons of turf annually. It is the subject of regular complaints from those working in the area and officials at the National Gallery have complained about the pollution it can cause on some of the paintings there. I suggest to the Minister that those four boilers be converted into a more efficient system as an example to the nation. Two years ago when I raised this matter in the House I was given to understand that a conversion would be made within a few years but I suggest to the Minister that the plan be brought forward. It may cost a lot of money to introduce a more efficient pollution free system but we must bear in mind the damage being caused by the plant.

I realise that there are all types of nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide but the increase in sulphur dioxide has been caused by the huge increase in the use of coal. Many buildings have been damaged by pollution. Deputy Doyle, when Minister of State with responsibility in this area, addressed herself to the problem and endeavoured to draw attention to the damage being caused to historical buildings and monuments by pollution. The faces of stone statues are wearing into amorphous anonymity and it will not be possible within a few years to recognise them. We are witnessing a pollution of the living and the dead. One must bear in mind the work done to protect the facades of many important buildings in Dublin such as the Bank of Ireland in College Green and City Hall. A lot of money was spent using modern techniques to scrape away the ravages of air pollution on those buildings but the pollution trail has started on them again.

More damage has been done to our architectural treasures and heritage by air pollution. An in-depth study is being carried out in Trinity College on the effect of acid rain and sulphur dioxide in damaging buildings. I believe this study will prove emphatically that more damage has been done in the past ten years or less than in the previous 500 years. Hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide are steadily and visibly eroding the stonework on some of our renowned public edifices.

You, a Cheann Comhairle, holding the illustrious position as Chairman, must feel that this building should be protected. If you go out into the courtyard and look across at the National Library or at the Museum or back towards Leinster House, the effect of erosion on the stonework is evident. The cause is undoubtedly air pollution. This would not happen in sterile air which was unpolluted. We await the results of this survey to pinpoint how pollution is taking its toll on our national heritage. The Bank of Ireland and the City Hall were cleaned at considerable expense only a few years ago but they are already showing further effects of pollution.

If that type of pollution is affecting granite and stone to such an extent, we must consider the cumulative long term effects on our health. Anyone particularly interested in matters relating to the natural environment must consider the medical connotations and listen to what our chest specialists or skin specialists have to say about the effect of air pollution. Dermatologists will argue that many skin rashes are caused by air pollution. Certainly in ophthalmology only last year there was a huge increase in nonspecific conjunctivitis caused directly by polluting air of a kind that could be avoided.

I consider that this nation is giving a very bad example at the Moneypoint power plant. I raised the matter at the time and proposed a couple of solutions, saying that we should look to the EC for grants to support an installation which would be very much more flexible than one that burns unrelenting amounts of coal, irrespective of the quality of the coal. When fully completed it will emit 90,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide which will come across our island. This pollution will be felt as far away as Scandinavia. How can we look to countries in Europe when we are perpetrators of pollution ourselves from our single most important power station at Moneypoint?

The problem of pollution could have been avoided easily if scrubbers and sulphur recovery equipment were fitted at the time. Costs for such equipment were bandied about which were very misleading. At a seminar subsequent to the switching on of the plant it became quite clear that controls could have been fitted at a fraction of the cost that was spoken of by the ESB at the time. It is not too late in the day to investigate the feasibility of fitting sulphur recovery equipment to the Moneypoint installation. The problem should be faced up to. It does not have to be Ireland's money which is used to do it, since grants of this kind are available from the EC and should be hotly pursued.

In the Burren region we have one of the most delicate ecological treasures in Europe. There is only one other and that is in Yugoslavia. It has a fine balance of delicate botancial specimens and algae growing in a beautiful reserve. Despite the assurances that monitoring stations will be put in the Burren which will tell us if there is an amount of pollution, there is a grave danger that serious damage will be done to the Burren if the wind blows the wrong way or if the coal being used is of poor quality and the operation emits beyond the acceptable limits. We have a unique opportunity as an island nation to give an example to the heavily industrialised parts of Europe. We should refuse to stand for a coal burning station which does not have protective sulphur recovery equipment to stop unbridled pollution across the country. This is the Year of the Environment and it is an opportunity to look towards protecting the Burren and to designating major areas of our cities as smokeless zones.

The effects of acid rain must be referred to in the context of air pollution. The effects of sulphur dioxide come about through rain falling on grasslands. The dried deposition of acidic particles has the ability to produce an acidic solution in the grassland. Studies have taken place on the Continent which show that much plant life has been damaged by acid rain. The most alarming case is in Germany where 60 per cent of their forests, including many ancient forests, have been damaged or destroyed as a direct result of acid rain and air pollution. We referred earlier to the wanton damage to the Coolattin forest, but that was damage of a different type.

I remember attending a seminar in Geneva some eight years ago where Ireland and Iceland were referred to as countries which stood out because of their beauty and environment. Things are happening now and air pollution is causing Dublin to assume the reputation of being a smog-ridden city as London was in the late fifties.

Debate adjourned.