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 and towns. 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, therefore, disappointed that a number of coal firms have indicated they would legally challenge the decision of two former Ministers to extend the 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 continuing to work with the Attorney General to finalise a legally robust plan which will improve air quality by reducing particulate matter in the air.