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A Clare Senator has introduced a bill before the Oireachtas that would see the selling of smoky coal banned nationwide.

On Friday, Senator Timmy Dooley (FF) introduced the Clean Air (Smoky Coal Ban) Bill 2021 to the Seanad.

Although it was already a goal of the Programme for Government (PfG) to introduce the ban, the bill will require the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications , Eamon Ryan (GP) to introduce regulations within 12 months of the passage of the legislation to prohibit the sale, marketing, distribution and burning of bituminous (smoky) coal on a nationwide basis.

According to the Mountshannon native, “this Bill is about public health and the fact that major coal companies are delaying action to improve the health of thousands of families in Ireland. The majority of Ireland is not covered by Low Smoke Zones and due to the patch work nature of the existing ban, there is very significant use of smoky coal in areas that are currently designated as Low Smoke Zones. The current approach is failing to meet the health needs of Irish citizens”.

For the past ten years, a smoky coal ban has been in place in Ennis and Clarecastle. The Bill aspires to see this replicated nationwide. Smoky coal was first banned in Dublin in 1990 followed by Cork in 1995, along with Ennis and Clarecastle, its distribution is also prohibited in Greystones, Athlone, Carlow, Maynooth and Kilkenny.

Last year, smoky coal was banned in Cavan Town, Carrigtwohill, Cobh, Midleton, Mallow, Killarney, Longford Town, Castlebar, Ballina, Ashbourne, Tullamore, Tramore and Enniscorthy.

An air quality by the European Environment Agency in 2020 detailed that in 2016 there were 1,410 premature mortalities arising from air pollution in Ireland. 1,300 of which are attributable to fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which in Ireland is primarily associated with domestic solid fuel burning. The same report indicates significantly earlier mortality for those deaths.

“From a wider climate change policy perspective, very significant reductions in carbon emissions arise from a move to a nationwide smoky coal ban. Most importantly, a nationwide smoky coal ban will save lives and improve health outcomes,” Senator Dooley stated.

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