Noise Pollution (Management and Abatement) Bill 2019: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for certain matters relating to the management and abatement of noise pollution and for that purpose to amend the Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Act 2019 and the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and to provide for related matters.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the brief opportunity to introduce the Noise Pollution (Management and Abatement) Bill 2019. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, defines noise as "unwanted sound" or "sound that is loud, unpleasant or unexpected" and "that can eventually cause disturbance, impairment or damage to health". Noise has been identified as one of the most significant environmental causes of ill health by the World Health Organization, second only to air pollution. Increasing knowledge of the health impacts of noise pollution indicates a greater risk of stroke, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and many other serious medical conditions. All Deputies have probably been contacted by constituents enduring noise pollution from defective alarms, barking dogs, construction sites, nearby factories and businesses, open air events, very loud music and from transport, including vehicle traffic, trains and aircraft.

I was very supportive of the Noise Bill 2006, introduced by Ciarán Cuffe, now an MEP who was then a Deputy. However, his Bill was never progressed by the Green Party in government. As with the road traffic legislation, a modern consolidation of legislation and regulations governing noise pollution is necessary. This Bill began as an effort to fill the legislative gaps regarding serious noise pollution. I am deeply grateful to the staff of the Office of Parliamentary Legal Advisers, particularly Ms Niamh McKenna, for their extraordinary support and guidance in researching noise pollution law and framing this Bill. Work and discussions on the Bill took place against the background of the passage of the Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Act 2019 through the Oireachtas. As we examined the legislative environment regarding noise in Ireland, we felt that the missing pieces of the jigsaw of regulations were in the key areas of enforcement, transparency and accountability and what work was actually being done in the management and abatement of noise pollution by the local authorities and other designated noise control agencies.

Section 106 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 established the EPA as the regulator of noise pollution. EU Directive 2002/49/EC, the environmental noise directive, was implemented here by means of the Environmental Noise Regulations 2006, which again appointed the EPA as the national authority, the oversight body to which local authorities must report. Section 5(3) of the European Communities (Environmental Noise) Regulations 2018 states that noise regulating powers in respect of local authorities may include local authorities to which noise mapping functions are assigned.

This Noise Pollution (Management and Abatement) Bill builds on this legislation and reaffirms the role of the EPA to regulate noise pollution and to report to Ministers and to this House. In the Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Act 2019, despite strong objections from Opposition Members, including Clare Daly, who is now an MEP, Deputy Brendan Ryan and me, based on possible serious conflicts of interest, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, appointed Fingal County Council as the competent authority for monitoring noise at Dublin Airport, including setting the noise abatement objective for the facility. Section 2 of this Bill appoints the EPA as the body which will set the noise abatement objective in place of Fingal County Council.

We argue that this amendment of the Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Act 2019 is in the interests of the wider community potentially affected by noise at the airport. There must be separate bodies: one tasked with setting the noise abatement objective and another tasked with attaining or reaching it. Under section 4 of our Bill, Fingal County Council, as the competent authority, must submit a report to the Environmental Protection Agency on the activities at Dublin Airport. It is already obliged to undertake such a report pursuant to the Aircraft Noise (Dublin Airport) Regulation Act 2019. Reports under sections 2 and 4 must be submitted to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment and laid before the Oireachtas.

The Bill also addresses environmental noise more generally. This may include noise from roads, rail, commercial activities, construction, waste and energy facilities, and neighbourhood nuisances. Under sections 5 and 6, which deal with reviews of noise control measures and reporting on noise pollution management and abatement activities respectively, the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 is also amended to provide for reports to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment at least every three years on the operation of the existing section 106 and the new section 108 of that Act, with regard to the performance of the EPA in managing noise pollution and on its noise abatement activities.

Of all aspects of environmental pollution, noise pollution, which can have such a destructive impact on citizens' lives, has probably received the least reporting from the Environmental Protection Agency over the years. This modest Bill, which we hope to publish tomorrow, seeks to restore the Environmental Protection Agency to a central role in all aspects of regulating noise pollution and in the implementation of the European Commission's environmental noise regulations of 2018. I commend the Bill to the House.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.