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.