Freedom of Information Data

Questions (590)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

590. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of freedom of information requests granted, part granted, refused, transferred to an appropriate body, withdrawn or handled outside freedom of information in 2018, in tabular form. [26387/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following Table:

No. of FOI Requests Received in 2018

No. Granted

No. Part-granted

No. Refused

No. Transferred

No. Withdrawn

No. Handled Outside of FOI Process

362

74

139

101

6

41

1

Climate Change Policy

Questions (591)

Bríd Smith

Question:

591. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has instigated, or will instigate, an independent audit regarding the amount of carbon emissions to be mitigated by the Climate Action Plan 2019 to tackle climate breakdown; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26433/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government's Climate Action Plan, published on 17 June, sets out the expected emissions abatement contribution from existing commitments under Project Ireland 2040 and the expected contribution of Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) measures to meeting Ireland's EU Effort Sharing Regulation targets for 2021-2030 in the non-ETS sectors of the economy. The Plan includes the necessary targets and measures, supported by detailed actions and roadmaps, to close the remaining gap of 58.4 MtCO2eq in the non-ETS sector. The relevant table is reproduced below.

Carbon Budget

Compliance Gap

Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) Ceiling

378.3 Mt

-

Projected Emissions (Pre-NDP)

479.9 Mt

101.6 Mt

Contribution of Project Ireland 2040 NDP Measures

- 16.4 Mt

85.2 Mt

Contribution of LULUCF

- 26.8 Mt

58.4 Mt

Additional Abatement Effort Required

- 58.4 Mt

0 Mt

As a basis for policy planning we have sought to design a trajectory to 2030 which would not require any Exchequer purchase of credits nor the sacrifice of revenue due to the Exchequer from credits sold in ETS. We have planned cautiously by assuming a low price trajectory for oil.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prepares inventories of past, and projections of future, greenhouse gas emissions for Ireland on an annual basis. Inventories and projections are compiled by the EPA according to international standards to meet EU and UN reporting obligations and to inform national policy development.

The most recent projections report, Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections 2018-2040, published earlier this month, provides an updated assessment of Ireland’s total projected greenhouse gas emissions out to 2040, and is available on the website of the EPA at www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/airemissions/ghgprojections2018-2040/. As these projections were prepared before the publication of the Climate Action Plan, they do not yet take into account the targets and measures included in the Plan. It is anticipated that updated emissions projections, to be prepared later in 2019 to inform the preparation of Ireland’s final National Energy and Climate Plan, will include the additional impact of the Climate Action Plan.

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Question No. 594 answered with Question No. 575.

Questions (592, 593)

Imelda Munster

Question:

592. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 750 of 11 June 2019, the sites where the four enhancement proposals are to be tested in advance; the bodies (details supplied) proposing the enhancements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26454/19]

View answer

Imelda Munster

Question:

593. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 750 of 11 June 2019, the details of the work elements that will assist in all waters attaining good ecological status by a specified date as per the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26455/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 592 and 593 together.

As outlined in the response to Question No. 750 of 11 June, the Environmental River Enhancement Programme (EREP) undertaken by the Office of Public Works (OPW) and Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), is driven by the EU Water Framework Directive and its requirement that status of all water-bodies should be at least “GOOD”.

The EREP is undertaken by IFI's Research and Development Division and is an applied scientific study. In its maintenance of some 2,000 kms of channel each year, OPW is assisted by environmental guidance, developed with IFI. Some of the guidance is conservation driven and some has value added for habitat creation and river enhancement. OPW and IFI have undertaken experimental strategies to change the channel bed using the OPW digging plant. The drainage process tended to make the channel bed very uniform from side to side and in an upstream - downstream direction. The experimental diggings have changed the shape of the channel cross-sections, creating a more diverse habitat, reducing the growth of nuisance vegetation and creating deeper water areas for trout.

In addition, the over-digging or deepening of the channel bed locally to make deep pools and the spread of the spoil in another area of the channel bed is intended to make shallow areas. This physical diversity can create or help to facilitate biological diversity, including shallow riffle habitat for juvenile salmon, trout, eel and other species and deeper pools for adult fish. These works are completed as part of the OPW drained channel maintenance programme.

River enhancement within the terms of the Water Framework Directive emphasises restoration of natural river processes. One outcome of the Directive and its impact on EREP is that OPW and IFI have agreed that any proposed 'enhancement' measure should be tested in advance to assess current status of fish and habitat. Four such enhancement proposals are to be so tested in 2019 with surveys of fish and habitat status scheduled. These four sites are set out in the table below;

Site Location

NSAD Applicant

River Deel (downstream of Raharney)

Boyne Catchment Angling Association

Trimblestown (downstream of Athboy)

Trim Athboy Angling Association – Part 1

Boycetown at Scurlockstown

Trim Athboy Anglers Association – Part 2

Kells Blackwater Carnaross

Kells Anglers

The IFI Projects Management Office has requested their Research Division to survey these sites as part of the EREP. They relate to projects submitted under the National Strategy for Angling Development by the organisations named above.

If the Deputy has any specific query in relation to any of these sites I would be happy to ask IFI to contact her.

Question No. 594 answered with Question No. 575.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (595)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

595. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the way in which he plans to ensure that, in developing proposals for carbon pricing, the impact on low-income groups and those facing greater challenges adapting are factored in under the Climate Action Plan 2019; the action number in the plan under which this will be managed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26465/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Action 8 in the Climate Action Plan commits the Government to implementing a carbon tax rate of at least €80 per tonne by 2030 and to carrying out a full assessment of a trajectory of increases over successive annual Budgets. The Plan also commits to examining the potential impacts of this commitment on low-income and rural households, and those experiencing fuel poverty, as well as broader distributional impacts.

In this context, the Department of Finance is currently consulting on the options for the use of revenues raised from increases in carbon tax and has set out a number of options in this regard, including options to address the potential impact on low income groups and households most vulnerable to fuel poverty.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions (596, 597, 603)

Micheál Martin

Question:

596. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he received correspondence from a company (details supplied); if he or his officials met the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26483/19]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

597. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he received correspondence from a company (details supplied); if he or his officials have met the company; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26484/19]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

603. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of times he or his officials met a group (details supplied) in the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26494/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 596, 597 and 603 together.

Correspondence was received from the legal representatives of Lissan Fuels on two occasions, namely a letter to former Minister Naughten dated 15 May 2018, and an email to Minister Naughten on 28 May 2018. There have been no meetings between Lissan Fuels and the Minister or officials of the Department.

When the Deputy refers to coal importers "Arigna, New Ross and Foynes", it is presumed he is referring to the following companies - Arigna Fuels, Stafford Fuels, and CPL Fuels respectively. Correspondence was received from these companies on numerous occasions over the past two years as follows:

Communication was received from CPL Fuels on 11 April 2019, 10 April 2019, 5 April 2019, 11 February 2019, 15 October 2018, 9 July 2018, and 12 December 2017.

Correspondence was received from Stafford Fuels on 25 March 2019, 10 December 2018, and 12 September 2018.

In addition, former Minister Naughten and officials met with CPL Fuels on 21 June 2018, and Minister Naughten attended the official opening of the CPL manufacturing facility at Foynes on 6 February 2018. Department officials met with Stafford Fuels on 28 November 2018.

Meetings were held with Solid Fuel Trade Group (SFTG) on 22 January 2019, 2 May 2018, 12 December 2017, and 6 September 2017. These meetings were between the SFTG and Department officials, with the exception of the meeting of 12 December 2017, when the Minister also attended.

Air and Water Pollution

Questions (598)

Micheál Martin

Question:

598. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the Minister of Health or officials from that Department have communicated with his Department on the impact of air pollutants on health and persons with particular respiratory diseases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26486/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

My Department received a submission from the Department of Health, and two submissions from the Health Service Executive (HSE), to the public consultation held in 2017 on the proposed National Clean Air Strategy.

Officials from both Departments take part in the Air Quality Health Information Working Group, chaired by the Environmental Protection Agency, which meets twice a year.

In addition, my officials have liaised with officials from the Department of Health in relation to the Warmth and Wellbeing Scheme which is a policy initiative between my Department and the Department of Health, and is jointly operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and the HSE. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have been procured to undertake a research project that will run in parallel with the scheme’s delivery to determine the extent to which air quality and energy improvements can lead to tangible health and wellbeing gains.

Bituminous Fuel Ban

Questions (599, 606)

Micheál Martin

Question:

599. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the legal threat on the smoky coal ban was received in his Department in May 2018; the actions he has taken since; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26487/19]

View answer

James Browne

Question:

606. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the date the legal action threatened by coal importers regarding the nationwide smoky coal ban was received by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26543/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 599 and 606 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 237 of 19 June 2019. The position is unchanged.

Illicit Trade in Fuel and Tobacco Products

Questions (600)

Micheál Martin

Question:

600. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on high-sulphur coal being smuggled across the Border region; if he has spoken to other Ministers regarding same; if actions are being taken to prevent this smuggling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26488/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Local Authorities are primarily responsible for the enforcement of legislation relating to solid fuel within their functional area.

The powers that Local Authorities have in this area are quite extensive. For example:- Local Authority staff may undertake inspections of premises and vehicles being used for the sale and distribution of solid fuel as well as collect samples- A Local Authority may bring a prosecution under the Air Pollution Act for breaches of the Regulations. The maximum fine for breaches of the Regulations is €5,000 on summary conviction. - Fixed payment notices (or ‘on the spot fines’) applied by the Local Authority are in operation for alleged offences relating to the marketing, sale and distribution of prohibited fuels in Low Smoke Zones.

In addition, coal and low-smoke coal based products being offered for sale within the State must meet environmental specifications. The National Standards Authority of Ireland has prepared an annual traceability audit system, known as SWiFT 7, for showing compliance these specifications. Bagging operators placing these products on the market must have the SWiFT7 certificate and must also register with the EPA.

Complaints regarding the sale of prohibited fuels, smoky emissions or other breaches of the regulations should, in the first instance, be reported to the Local Authority concerned.

Bituminous Fuel Ban

Question No. 603 answered with Question No. 596.

Questions (601, 602)

Micheál Martin

Question:

601. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he cleared the smoky coal ban through the technical regulation information system, TRIS, process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26491/19]

View answer

Micheál Martin

Question:

602. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the detail of each part of the process of consultation and discussion with the EU on the smoky coal ban in chronological order; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26493/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 601 and 602 together.

My Department has had a number of engagements with the European Commission about aspects of Ireland's air quality policy, including the proposed national extension of the smoky coal ban. A Clean Air Dialogue was held between Ireland and the Commission in March 2017, to promote actions to improve air quality and contribute to Ireland's implementation of EU clean air legislation. The productive dialogue included discussion of the proposed national ban, and is summarised in shared conclusions which can be found at the following address: www.dccae.gov.ie/documents/CAD%20conclusions%20%20Final.pdf.

Under Directive (EU) 2015/1535, the European Commission operates the Technical Regulation Information System, or TRIS. This system is a tool for information, prevention and dialogue in the field of technical regulations on products and information society services. It is intended to help anticipate and prevent the creation of barriers to trade.

Draft regulations to give effect to the proposed ban were uploaded by my Department to the TRIS system in August 2017, along with a policy analysis statement. No comments or submissions were received from the Commission or from any Member State relating to the draft regulations. The Asthma Society of Ireland made a submission which supported the regulations.

Question No. 603 answered with Question No. 596.

Bituminous Fuel Ban

Questions (604, 611)

Micheál Martin

Question:

604. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when it will be possible to introduce the smoky coal ban to the 73 towns that still do not have it in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26495/19]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

611. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to introduce a nationwide ban on smoky coal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26738/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 604 and 611 together.

The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal, or ‘the smoky coal ban’ as it is commonly known, was first introduced in Dublin in 1990, and subsequently extended to our major cities. Following a public consultation process, it was further extended in 2012, and now applies in 26 urban areas nationwide. The ban has proved very effective in reducing particulate matter and sulphur dioxide levels and has had the effect of significantly improving public health. Research indicates, for example, that the ban has resulted in over 350 fewer annual deaths in Dublin alone. I am disappointed that a number of coal firms have indicated that they would challenge the decision of two former Ministers to expand the smoky coal ban nationwide. Banning the use of smoky coal would have a positive impact on air quality and public health, particularly in built up areas.

I am working with the Attorney General to finalise a legally robust plan which will improve air quality by reducing particulate matter in the air. High levels of particulate matter arise from a number of sources, including the burning of smoky coal.

Broadband Service Provision

Question No. 606 answered with Question No. 599.

Questions (605)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

605. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of primary and secondary schools connected to broadband under the national broadband plan in each county; the number of schools in each county awaiting connection, in tabular form; when they will be connected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26518/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Through the 2012 Schools 100Mbps Project all 780+ post primary schools across Ireland were provided with access to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) high speed broadband. The aim of this project, which was achieved, was to ensure that all second level students can enhance their learning experience through digital.

The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment across the country, and a State intervention in those areas where commercial operators have provided no concrete plans to invest.

My Department published an updated version of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. The Map shows is searchable by address/Eircode:

- The AMBER area represents the parts of the country where commercial operators have no plans to build high speed broadband networks. Premises in the AMBER area will be provided with high speed broadband through the State Intervention.

- The BLUE area represents those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

- The LIGHT BLUE area represents eir's commercial rural deployment plans to rollout high speed broadband to 300,000 premises as part of a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this. The Government decision on 7 May 2019 means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.

The Bidder has indicated that the NBP State intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment. A deployment plan will be made available by the Bidder once the contract is signed.

The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

As regards Primary Schools, 674 schools located in the Amber area will be provided with high speed broadband through the State Intervention. 1,965 schools located in the Blue area are already or will be provided with high speed broadband through commercial operators and 503 schools located in the Light Blue area will be provided with high speed broadband through eir’s ongoing roll out which is nearing completion.

The table gives a breakdown by county of Primary schools.

COUNTY

AMBER

BLUE

LIGHT BLUE

TOTAL

CARLOW

6

29

6

41

CAVAN

21

40

14

75

CLARE

33

58

21

112

CORK

87

209

52

348

DONEGAL

43

113

19

175

DUBLIN

8

439

2

449

GALWAY

59

116

54

229

KERRY

29

65

38

132

KILDARE

14

86

3

103

KILKENNY

21

39

14

74

LAOIS

17

35

13

65

LEITRIM

14

17

8

39

LIMERICK

19

85

31

135

LONGFORD

10

20

7

37

LOUTH

6

64

1

71

MAYO

63

55

48

166

MEATH

26

76

13

115

MONAGHAN

20

36

5

61

OFFALY

15

38

13

66

ROSCOMMON

36

33

22

91

SLIGO

23

25

19

67

TIPPERARY

39

67

49

155

WATERFORD

15

48

12

75

WESTMEATH

16

44

14

74

WEXFORD

17

68

19

104

WICKLOW

17

60

6

83

TOTAL

674

1,965

503

3,142

Question No. 606 answered with Question No. 599.

Climate Change Policy

Question No. 608 answered with Question No. 575.

Questions (607)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

607. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the strategic environmental assessment under Directive 2001/42/EC, ensuring sustainable development of the Climate Action Plan 2019, has been completed; if so, his views on the outcome of the assessment of the Climate Action Plan 2019; the way in which persons can access the assessment of the action plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26652/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The National Mitigation Plan was prepared within the framework of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 and was the subject of a statutory consultation, a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), and Appropriate Assessment (AA). The National Mitigation Plan remains in place as the statutory plan under the 2015 Act.

The Climate Action Plan gives further effect to, rather than replaces, the National Mitigation Plan.

The commitments set out in the Climate Action Plan will be incorporated into the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) which must be finalised and submitted to the European Commission by the end of 2019. My Department will shortly commence Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment screening processes on the draft National Energy and Climate Plan to determine whether an SEA or AA is required, taking into account the updates required to the NECP to incorporate the Climate Action Plan commitments.

Question No. 608 answered with Question No. 575.

Energy Conservation

Question No. 611 answered with Question No. 604.

Questions (609, 610)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

609. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if funding for the SEAI deep retrofit pilot scheme has run out; if so, when further funding will become available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26731/19]

View answer

Pearse Doherty

Question:

610. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of applications received for the SEAI deep retrofit pilot scheme; the number of applications with works completed; the number of applications outstanding in 2017, 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26732/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 609 and 610 together.

The Deep Retrofit Pilot Scheme was set up to investigate the challenges and opportunities associated with providing deeper retrofits to the residential sector. The Scheme is providing vital, on the ground, evidence of how to overcome the technical and economic challenge of deep retrofit, especially the practical advice and support a householder needs to undertake it. This will help homes achieve an A3 building rating by incorporating works such as insulation, ventilation, window replacement and renewable heating technologies. The results will provide insights into the potential costs of upgrading the building stock, as a greater range of building archetypes are upgraded under the scheme.

Table 1 below sets out the number of project applications received by the SEAI since 2017. It is important to note that each project application is through a service provider and must include 5 or more houses. This approach is taken in order to incorporate an element of aggregation and maximise the learnings from the pilot.

Table 1 - Number of Deep Retrofit Projects 2017-2019

Project Status

2017

2018

2019

Total

Complete

11

25

0

37

In Progress

0

7

9

16

Under Evaluation

0

2

38

39

Withdrawn

2

4

0

6

Total

13

39

46

98

The projects "under evaluation" category includes complete applications that are being evaluated as well as applications that are incomplete or not in a position to be proposed for approval.

Table 2 below outlines the number of individual homes within the project applications.

Table 2 - Number of Deep Retrofit Homes 2017-2019

Project Status

2017

2018

2019

Total

Complete

120

139

0

259

In Progress

0

37

46

83

Under Evaluation

0

10

219

229

Withdrawn

22

28

0

50

Total

142

214

265

621

As evident from both tables, there has been a sustained increase in demand for the scheme as a direct result of the increased and positive dialogue now being engaged in across Irish society regarding climate change.

In 2018, the pilot scheme provided grants to homeowners to the value of €4.7m. This year I have allocated €7m to the scheme. At end May 2019, €1m had been paid out in grants. As projects are completed further grants will be drawn down and I expect the full allocation to be spent by year end.

The recently published Climate Action Plan sets highly ambitious targets of 500,000 retrofits as well as the installation of 400,000 heat pumps in existing homes. The lessons learned from the Deep Retrofit Pilot will be of great assistance in designing the policies and approaches required to deliver this target.

Question No. 611 answered with Question No. 604.

Energy Conservation

Questions (612)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

612. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a person has the right to have a smart meter on his or her property removed after it has been installed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26762/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Smart Meter Upgrade is a key building block in enabling consumers to participate in the low carbon transition as outlined in the recently published Climate Action Plan. The programme will result in the upgrade of 2.4 million meters to modern, smart-ready technology.

Like all equipment, meters for measuring gas or electricity use require replacement over time and as older brands and models cease to be available, newer technology enables improvements in services and greater efficiencies in meter reading. Smart meters are the next generation electricity meters and will replace older mechanical meters. The question seems to imply a return to mechanical meters that will ultimately be obsolete and no longer available.

When smart meters are fully operational, consumers will have a choice to be provided with more accurate information about energy usage across the day to allow them to better manage bills with greater accuracy than at present. This information can also help consumers to make more informed choices about their electricity consumption and tariff selection.

Currently, electricity meters are manually read by ESB Networks up to four times per year. Smart Meters are able to automatically send meter readings so there will be no need for estimated bills.

New products and services will enable customers to avail of cheaper electricity by managing their energy demand, through the use of night rates or other behavioural signals.

Smart meters will also support the migration to a carbon free electricity network and will support smart grids, the electrification of heat and transport, local renewable generation and microgeneration.

ESB Networks will commence the meter replacement programme in autumn 2019. The plan is to replace 250,000 meters between autumn 2019 and the end of 2020 and a further 500,000 meters every year from 2021 to 2024.

Energy Policy

Questions (613)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

613. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the importation of fracked gas from the United States of America; and if measures will be taken to have liquified natural gas, LNG, from fracked sources removed from the EU projects of common interest list in view of climate change commitments and in view of the commitment to ban fracking. [26918/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The recently published Climate Action Plan sets out the actions which must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. It sets out the actions which must be taken in every sector so we can achieve our targets.

In all projected transitions to a low carbon economy, gas will continue to play a role in Ireland’s energy mix. Gas contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the power generation, industrial and commercial, residential and transport sectors by replacing more CO2-intensive fossil fuels. In Ireland gas powered generation also provides an important back-up for intermittent renewable electricity generation such as wind and solar. Ireland's gas supplies are sourced from Irish gas fields and imports through gas pipelines from the UK.

In relation to LNG projects, commercial developers have proposed a number for development, including the Shannon LNG project and another project in Cork. Final investment decisions for these projects and compliance with any legal and regulatory requirements in relation to consents or permits are the responsibility of the project promoters.

The production, sourcing, buying and selling of natural gas produced outside this jurisdiction, would also be an operational matter for the undertakings involved. Any undertaking would be required to comply with EU law in this area.

Skills Shortages

Questions (614)

Micheál Martin

Question:

614. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the driver skills shortage recently highlighted by an organisation (details supplied); the changes he will introduce to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26239/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

My Department is very aware of the shortages of HGV drivers, as highlighted in recent years in the work of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and the labour market intelligence of the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in SOLAS. This is a critical matter, as road freight represents the most common means of transporting goods in Ireland, and as such is a vital aspect of the supply chain. Road freight in virtually all instances performs some role in the supply chain, even if it is simply to transport goods the last mile from a port or airport to the customer.

The research of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs and Skills and Labour Market Research Unit has highlighted how this is a labour rather than a skills shortage, which occurs as a result of employers finding it difficult to attract and retain employees. This is representative of a Europe-wide situation whereby more HGV drivers are exiting the industry than entering it. The logistics sector as a whole has been identified as being unattractive to young people compared to other sectors, due in part to a negative perception based on the idea that work in the sector is generally low-skilled and involves long hours.

Arising from a recommendation in the latest logistics-related study undertaken by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs - Addressing the Skills Needs Arising from the Potential Trade Implications of Brexit - my Department has agreed to chair a Logistics and Supply Chain Skills Group, composed of logistics and supply chain stakeholders and education and training representatives, which will work to support the promotion of careers, skills development and sustainable employment in Logistics and Supply Chain activities, including HGV driving.

This group, which is in the process of being established, will through cross-industry collaboration work to improve the profile of logistics and supply chain roles, making it easier to recruit talent; make progression pathways available to those entering or already working in the roles; ensure development opportunities are available to provide the skills, knowledge and competencies required; enhance employee retention; and provide a forum for ongoing communication and leadership by the logistics and supply chain stakeholders in addressing the skills needs of these activities in Ireland.

Sports Capital Programme

Questions (615)

Jackie Cahill

Question:

615. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will engage with a company (details supplied) to examine the potential for promoting and incentivising the use of a product by sports clubs in the provision of new grass playing fields or for the improvement of existing grass playing fields; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26379/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Sports Capital Programme is the primary vehicle for Government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country.

The programme funds the provision and improvement of many types of sports facilities including the development of natural grass playing surfaces. The choice of what products and methods best meet a grantee's needs are a matter for the grantee, their technical supervisor and their chosen contractor. Furthermore, the relevant National Governing Body may also provide some technical advice to sports club or organisations. My Department does not endorse or recommend any particular product and accordingly, it would not be appropriate to engage with the company referred to by the Deputy.

Free Travel Scheme Eligibility

Questions (616)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

616. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the estimated annual cost of extending the free travel age for children on public transport to 18 years for Dublin Bus, Bus Éireann, Luas and Iarnród Éireann services. [26075/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have overall responsibility for policy and funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has responsibility for public transport fares and I have therefore forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Disabled Drivers Permits

Questions (617)

James Lawless

Question:

617. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to review the criteria for disabled parking to include hidden disabilities that may not necessarily impair mobility significantly, such as autism or dementia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26076/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

The Disabled Parking Permit (also known as the European Parking Card or Disabled Parking Badge) is available to people living in Ireland whose mobility is severely restricted, whether they are drivers or passengers, and also to those who are registered blind. In 2010 the Department conducted a review of the Disabled Parking Scheme, in consultation with various stakeholders and one of the issues examined was eligibility for the scheme. As a result of the review the scheme was revised so that permits are now given on the basis of mobility impairment rather than the diagnosis of a particular condition or illness. This is in line with the original intention of the scheme.

The possibility of extending the eligibility criteria for the scheme to include people with invisible disabilities such as those mentioned by the Deputy has been raised on a number of occasions and the Department has consulted extensively with the joint issuing authorities of the scheme, the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland (DDAI) and the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWC), on this matter. In light of this consultation there are currently no plans to change the criteria.

I would particularly emphasise to the Deputy that issuing a large number of extra permits by extending the eligibility criteria would in fact put the existing scheme under significant additional pressure and compromise the availability of disabled parking spaces in general.

Public Transport Subsidies

Questions (618)

Robert Troy

Question:

618. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount of subvention that will be provided to each transport operator (details supplied) in 2019. [26118/19]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. My Department has allocated €287m in public service obligation (PSO) funding to the National Transport Authority for 2019. It is the NTA's statutory responsibility to allocate this funding to the transport operators. I have, therefore, forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive responses within ten working days.