Written Answers. - Bituminous Coal Ban.

Michael Ring

Ceist:

360 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if the banning of coal is an EU regulation or has been decided upon by the Government; if legislation regarding this issue is to come before Dáil Éireann; if people on low income will be compensated for having to buy smokeless fuel; and the way in which people in the west of the country are to heat their homes. [27503/01]

A ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal has applied in Dublin since 1990, was extended to Cork in 1995 and to a further ten urban areas between 1998 and 2000. It is not an EU legislative requirement. The relevant current regulations, laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas as required under section 10 of the Air Pollution Act, 1987, are the Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels) Regulations, 1998, and the Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels) (Amendment) Regulations, 2000.

On 17 October 2001 I published a consultation paper on a potential national ban on bituminous coal and petcoke so as to reduce ambient smoke levels across the country and national sulphur dioxide emissions. The consultation process allows the public, the solid fuel trade and all interested parties to consider the relevant issues and to respond to my Department. All responses will be evaluated before a decision is made by Government. I envisage any national ban being implemented by way of regulations laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

An issue raised specifically in the consultation paper is the availability of alternative smokeless solid fuels. In the context of a final decision, full consideration will be given to ensuring the timely availability of adequate supplies of such alternative fuels, as necessary. As regards any increased costs of alternative solid fuels for people on low incomes, the consultation paper addresses the implications of the possible ban for extending the supplementary fuel allowance paid by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs to all qualifying persons during the winter heating season.