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Smoky coal ban regulations

Introduction

Ennis and environs, including Clarecastle, became a 'smoky' coal ban area following the introduction of solid fuel regulations on 1st August 2011 and from that date it was an offence to market, sell or distribute bituminous or smoky coal (sometimes referred to as Polish or premium coal) within the areas specified under the ban. Parts of south east Clare bordering Limerick city have formed part of the smoky coal ban area covering Limerick city and its environs since 1998. Over the last year, Clare County Council has worked to increase public awareness of the regulations and to ensure that the regulations are enforced in an effective manner. Staff of Clare County Council has carried out over 150 inspections to check that those supplying fuels are in compliance with the regulations. The council also acknowledges that there has been a high level of cooperation from both fuel suppliers and the public in the implementation of the regulations.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors air quality in Ennis on a continuous basis and monitoring has shown that there has been a significant improvement in air quality in Ennis since the introduction of the ban in August 2011. PM10 are very fine particles of particulate matter or dust (less than one-hundredth of a millimetre in size) that are emitted into atmosphere when smoky solid fuels are burned and also result from vehicle emissions. Generally speaking, in cities the major contributor to PM10 is emissions from vehicular traffic, while in smaller urban centres such as Ennis the main source is the emissions resulting from the burning of smoky solid fuels.  PM10 is harmful to health owing to its ability to penetrate into the lungs and is associated with cardiopulmonary and respiratory disorders. Put simply, less PM10 means better health and improved air quality. The daily limit value for PM10 is 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air with the limit for health protection breached where this daily limit is exceeded more than 35 times over a single year. Solid fuel demand is generally at its highest during the period from October to March. Since the introduction of the smoky coal ban in Ennis there have been only 10 no. exceedances of the PM10 daily limit value in the period between October 2011 and March 2012, whilst in the period between October 2010 and March 2011, before the ban was introduced, there were 42 no. exceedances of the PM10 daily limit value. This represents a very significant improvement in air quality over a relatively short space of time. It should be noted that the winter of 2011/2012 was milder than the two previous winters, but nonetheless this signals very positive progress in only the first year of the smoky coal ban in Ennis.

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has made new regulations under the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012, which came into effect on 31st August 2012. The 'solid fuel regulations 2012', as they are referred to, have brought about an expansion in the existing smoky coal ban areas in Ennis and Clarecastle and south east Clare to reflect the increase in urban development in those areas shown in Census 2011. The updated regulations now also specifically prohibit the burning of bituminous coal by the occupier of any dwelling located within a smoky coal ban area. In addition, the solid fuel regulations 2012 provide for the extension of the smoky coal ban, with effect from 1st May 2013, to seven new towns within the state - Greystones, Letterkenny, Mullingar, Navan, Newbridge, Portlaoise and Wicklow Town. 

The solid fuel regulations 2012 build on the principles established in previous regulations and their purpose is to improve the environment, particularly air quality, and to protect human health from the harmful emissions which result from the burning of bituminous or smoky coal.  

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The regulations and legal requirements

The solid fuel regulations 2012 revoke and replace, with some amendments, Air Pollution Act, 1987 (Marketing, Sale and Distribution of Fuels) (Amendment) Regulations 1998 to 2011,and now provide for the following:

  1. The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous or smoky coal by a person or body in specified areas covered by a smoky coa ban, which includes the greater Ennis and Clarecastle areas and parts of south east Clare close to Limerick City.
  2. The ban on the use or burning of bituminous or smoky coal by the occupier of a dwelling within specified areas covered by a smoky coal ban.
  3. Only smokeless solid fuel is permitted to be marketed, sold or distributed by a person or body within a ban area and the person or body supplying the fuel must ensure that:
    • The fuel is supplied in a sealed bag.
    • The bag contains a notice/label stating the name and address of the packer of the bag and the following statement 'smokeless fuel – contents comply with the Air Pollution Act Regulations' in 2 cm high letters.
    • Records are held showing that the bagged product does not contain bituminous or smoky coal.
  4. For bituminous or smoky coal placed on the market for residential use anywhere in the state, outside of a restricted area, the person or body supplying the fuel must ensure that:
    • The coal is supplied in a sealed bag.
    • The coal has a sulphur content of less than 0.7% by weight and records are held identifying the source of the coal and showing that the coal meets the sulphur content requirement.
    • Coal is sourced from only EPA registered suppliers or baggers.
    • Records are held showing that the bagged product has been supplied by a bagging operator with a registration from the EPA.

Under the solid fuel regulations 2012, there are provisions for a person or body located within a restricted area (e.g. Ennis) to store bituminous or smoky coal for the purpose of placing on the market, selling or distributing bituminous coal outside of the restricted area, i.e. in areas where the smoky coal ban does not apply. The person or body must keep a register with specific details in this regard, as set out in Schedule 4 of the regulations.

In addition, there are obligations on a person or body transporting bituminous coal through a restricted area, as follows:

  • Bituminous coal may be transported through a ban area provided the total quantity of bituminous coal is not less than 1 (one) metric tonne at any one time and the same vehicle is not being used at the same time for the sale or distribution of any other fuels.
  • The vehicle owner or operator must have on the vehicle records of the quantity of each type of fuel being carried, name and address of the person or body who supplied the the fuel, details regarding the destination(s) of the fuel, and the name and address of person(s) purchasing the fuel.

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Smokeless fuels types

The solid fuels listed below are permitted to be marketed, sold and distributed in a ban area. The Council envisages that customers may need to consult with their fuel supplier regarding the most suitable smokeless fuel types and combinations for their home heating needs and appliances.

  • Smokeless 'coal' - unblended: Manufactured ovoids or manufactured nuggets or anthracites.
  • Smokeless 'coal' - blended: Combinations of ovoids/petroleum cokes, nuggets/petroleum cokes and ovoids/nuggets.
  • Peat - loose turf and baled briquettes
  • Wood - kindling, firewood logs, compressed wood/sawdust logs, firestarter logs, etc.

Smoky coal ban area of Ennis/Clarecastle

In relation to Ennis and Clarecastle, the ban area defined in the regulations comprises the following electoral divisions:

  • Ennis No.s 1, 2, 3 and 4 Urban
  • Clareabbey
  • Ennis Rural
  • Spancilhill
  • Doora
  • Templemaley (townlands of Ballyallia, Ballymulqueeny and Cloonteen)

Smoky coal ban area of South East Clare (bordering Limerick City)

The regulations specify a ban in certain administrative areas of County Clare near to Limerick city, comprising of the following electoral divisions:

  • Ballyglass
  • Cappavilla (townlands of Clooncarhy, Derryfada, Garraun, Gillogue and Strawicken)

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Maps of smoky coal ban areas

The maps showing the areas affected by the smoky coal ban may be obtained from the Environment Section of Clare County Council, Áras Contae an Chláir, New Road, Ennis, Co. Clare. The maps are also accessible by clicking on the links below:

Registration of coal baggers and suppliers

Under the solid fuel regulations 2012 and the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Registration of Coal Baggers and Suppliers) Regulations 2011 there is a requirement for all bagging operators and certain solid fuel suppliers to register with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to supply to the EPA such information as the EPA requires to fulfil its legislative functions. The requirements as to registration are as follows:

  • Bagging operators must register with the EPA by 1st September each year.
  • Solid fuel suppliers who wholesale or distribute bituminous coal, or who retail 50% or more of their total annual sales proceeds from bituminous coal, for residential use within the state must register with the EPA and renew their registration with the EPA every 2 years thereafter.

Enforcement and penalties

The solid fuel regulations 2012 regulations, including provisions relating to maximum sulphur content in coal and the smoky coal ban, are being enforced by Clare County Council with respect to Co. Clare, whilst the EPA has responsibility with respect to the registration of bagging operators and fuel suppliers.

Under the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011, breaches of regulations made under the Air Pollution Act, 1987, may lead to significant fines, if successfully prosecuted in court of:

  • €5,000 on summary conviction.
  • €500,000 on conviction by indictment.

Also fixed penalty notices or 'on-the-spot fines' up to a maximum of €1,000 can be issued to any person or body who breaches the solid fuel regulations 2012.

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Further information 

For fuel supplier or bagging operator registration queries contact the EPA

Solid Fuel Suppliers Registration
Office of Climate, Licensing and Resource Use
Headquarters
Environmental Protection Agency
Johnstown Castle Estate
P.O Box 3000
Wexford

Tel: (053) 9160600
Fax: (053) 916 0699
Email: FuelRegistration@epa.ie

For queries on the solid fuel regulations and the smoky coal ban contact Clare County Council

Environment Section
Clare County Council
Áras Contae an Chláir
New Road
Ennis
Co. Clare

Tel: (065) 6846331
Fax: (065) 6846444
Email: info@clarecoco.ie

Page last reviewed: 03/10/12

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