Seanad Éireann - Volume 113 - 18 June, 1986

Air Pollution Bill, 1986: Second Stage.

Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mrs. A. Doyle): From the beginning of history, air has been recognised as a primary component of our world. One of the earliest Greek philosophers, Anaximenes, saw air as the primal substance from which all other [997] things has their origin. His most celebrated statement was that “air is the principle of existing things; for from it all things come to be and into it they are again dissolved. As our soul being air holds us together and controls us, so air encloses the whole world”. The present Bill clearly does not lack for illustrious antecedents.

The fact that our environment is a unique resource which requires careful management is widely recognised today. Air, water and soil provide the basis for life and for economic and social development. The simple fact that man exists and carries on economic activity in order to sustain life results in environmental pollution of one kind or another — and has done so since the beginning of time. In our modern world, with increased population and urbanisation and rapid technological development, the problem of environmental pollution has assumed new dimensions. It is now more important than ever that our natural resources are well managed if we are to protect public health, living resources and even property from the adverse effects of pollution and if we are to pass on a high quality living environment to future generations.

The EC Third Action Programme on the Environment states that “the resources of the environment are the basis of — but also constitute the limits to — further economic and social development and the improvement of living conditions”. Thus the interaction between environmental protection and economic development must be a guiding principle in our approach both to environmental management and the promotion of economic and social development. The environment cannot be sacrificed to development and neither should development be seen as the enemy of the environment. Both are essential ingredients in our efforts towards economic growth and improving the quality of Irish life. We must resist any temptation to look on environmental protection as a “fair-weather” programme to be cast aside in the more difficult economic conditions in which the Irish economy now operates. [998] On the other hand, there is an obligation on us to ensure that our environmental management systems make optimum use of available resources and do not give rise to unreasonable or excessive costs.

It is against this general background — the protection of the environment linked with the improvement of economic and social conditions — that we have framed the provisions of the Air Pollution Bill, 1986, a Bill which, for the first time in the history of the State, will provide a comprehensive framework for dealing with existing and emerging air pollution problems. The Bill will replace all existing statutory provisions and regulations on air pollution by a single enactment which should provide the State and local authorities with all necessary powers for air pollution control now and for the foreseeable future.

By a timely coincidence, a motion to take note of Report No. 25 on Acid Rain, produced by the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities, is now before the Seanad. This motion is to be debated jointly with the present Second Stage. I hope to deal with all of the main themes of Report No. 25 in the course of this speech.

Like other forms of environmental pollution, air pollution is a problem which has been known to man for centuries. For example, smoke control regulation in England dates back over 700 years. Indeed, I am told that there are records of a manufacturer who, because he disobeyed a royal proclamation on coal burning in London, was tried and beheaded centuries ago. It was not, apparently, considered necessary to introduce such draconian measures in this country — I do not intend to do so — and, even today, despite the absence of comprehensive controls, we still enjoy a generally high standard of air quality.

Because of our geographical position and the prevailing westerly winds, we are not affected by transboundary air pollution to the same extent as other European countries. Indeed, it is only when air masses which have originated to the east of the country — over continental Europe and the United Kingdom — pass over [999] Ireland, that air pollution arising from external factors is of any real significance. Because of the nature of our economic growth we have little heavy industry of any kind that in the past caused serious air pollution in other countries. Our relatively low population density and our pattern of urbanisation have also served to delay the emergence of air pollution problems. Besides, we must not overlook the fact that emissions from new industry have, for over 20 years, been controlled by conditions attached to permissions under the Planning Acts.

In recent years, however, air pollution as a topic has been attracting growing attention in the minds of the public and in the media. The Joint Committee report on Acid Rain, together with a previous one on Air Pollution, Conservation and Protection of the Environment, have focussed these concerns in a very useful way. To some extent, this increased environmental concern is probably due to a welcome growth in environmental awareness generally and, in part, to reports from other countries of serious damage which is being ascribed to air pollution. At this stage, for example, there has been extensive publicity about acidification of lakes in Scandinavia, forest dieback in Central Europe and other kinds of damage attributed to acid rain. But the increased public unease about air pollution cannot all be blamed on external factors. Localised problems have emerged in recent years, sometimes connected with a particular industry, in other cases related to activities such as mining or quarrying and sometimes arising from changes in the traditional ways of doing things, as for instance, the increasing practice of straw-burning. In addition, there is growing concern about the trend in air quality in the Dublin area, particularly the level of smoke at some periods during the winter. I shall return to this last topic at a later stage.

The common air pollutants are smoke, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and lead. The principal cause of all of these is the combustion of fuel in one form or another. The main sources [1000] can be classified as power generation, industrial and commercial development the domestic sector and the transport sector. The proportion of total emissions contributed by each of these sectors varies with the pollutant in question. In 1983, 79 per cent of our emissions of sulphur dioxide of 140,000 tonnes arose from the commercial, industrial and power generation sectors, with emissions from the domestic sector amounting only to 17 per cent. For smoke, the reverse was the case, with domestic sources contributing 80 per cent of the 100,000 tonnes emitted in the State as a whole in 1983. In the case of nitrogen oxides, 68 per cent comes from the commercial, industrial and power generation sectors, with 27 per cent from road transport. Transport accounts for 81 per cent of carbon monoxide emissions and 53 per cent of hydrocarbon emissions. It will be evident, therefore, that the preservation and improvement of air quality requires action on a number of fronts and that air pollution cannot conveniently be ascribed to a few large industries. In carrying on our normal daily activities relating to work or the home, we all contribute in one way or another to the volume of pollutants emitted to the atmosphere. It follows, too, that all sections of the community must play some part in resolving the problems involved.

Apart from meeting our own national requirements, the Bill is intended to enable the State to meet in full the requirements of existing and likely future European Community requirements in the air pollution field. To date, directives which set air quality standards for smoke and sulphur dioxide and for lead have been implemented by administrative means. This Bill will enable us to implement these measures more fully and more effectively and, as well, to implement a more recent directive on air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide and a 1984 directive which requires us to introduce a licensing system for certain categories of industrial plant which may cause air pollution. The Bill also contains provisions which can be used to give full effect [1001] to directives on matters such as the sulphur content of fuels and the lead content of petrol. I might mention here that regulations which reduce the maximum lead content of petrol from 0.40 to 0.15 grams per litre came into operation on 1 April last, giving a reduction of some 60 per cent in lead emissions from motor vehicles.

Ireland has, of course, obligations in relation to air pollution which extend beyond the responsibilities imposed by membership of the European Communities. The State is a party to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, commonly referred to as the Geneva Convention, which binds contracting states to limit and, as far as possible, gradually to reduce emissions of polluting substances into the atmosphere. Increasing concern over the severe problems from atmospheric pollution in continental Europe and in North America led to the signing in 1985 of a Protocol to the Convention in Helsinki when 21 countries undertook to reduce their emissions of sulphur dioxide by 30 per cent as soon as possible, and at the latest by 1993, using 1980 levels as the base.

Ireland was unable to accede to the Protocol for a number of reasons, including the fact that our total emmisions of SO 2 are small, the lack of evidence to suggest that these contribute to significant transboundary air pollution and the fact that the cost of such a reduction would be greatly disproportionate to any possible benefit to our own, or the wider European environment. We have, however, agreed to undertake all feasible measures to control air pollution and the present Bill is evidence of our commitment in that regard.

The intense debate at international level on transboundary air pollution and the issue of acid rain have prompted the Commission of the European Communities to bring forward a proposal for a directive on the limitation of emissions from large combustion plant. In Ireland, this would apply to most ESB generating plant and to at least one plant in the private sector. Under the draft directive, [1002] new plant, authorised after an agreed date, would have to observe Community emission limit values for SO 2 and NO x and perhaps dust, and total emissions from combustion plant would have to be reduced substantially or limited, using 1980 as a base year.

Originally, the draft directive envisaged uniform emission reductions in all member states of 60 per cent for SO 2 and 40 per cent each for NO x and dust. However, at the Environment Council in Luxembourg which I attended last week, the Dutch Presidency advanced new proposals based on a differentiated contribution by member states to an overall Community reduction of 45 per cent in SO 2 emisions. For Ireland, this would have involved maintaining SO 2 emissions from power plant in future at a level not exceeding that of 1980.

My response was to welcome the differentiated approach now proposed at EC level to the achievement of emission limitations by member states. Ireland has consistently stressed the negligible transboundary impact of its emissions and the disproportionate burden for our developing economy of accepting uniform Community reductions on our low level of emissions.

While this differentiated approach undoubtedly offers the best prospect for advancing the large combustion plant directive, I was not in a position at the recent council to signify Ireland's acceptance of the standstill of ESB emissions at the 1980 level which would be involved. The economic implications could still be quite onerous and require full evaluation by all our public authorities concerned. Other countries had to maintain similar reservations and the future shape of the draft directive is still uncertain.

Irish emissions of SO 2 were comparatively low in 1980 and have in fact been falling since largely due to the use of natural gas for power generation by the ESB. However, in accordance with EC energy policy, the ESB has undertaken a major fuel diversification policy and an important element in this is the Money-point plant. As a result of the changeover to coal by the ESB, national emissions [1003] of SO 2 are projected to rise above the current low level.

My earlier remarks were intended to sketch in briefly the general background against which Report No. 25 and the specific provisions of the Bill must be considered. I turn now to the individual sections but I do not intend to comment on each of them; to do so would involve inordinate time and detail and, in any event, Senators will have received a copy of the Explanatory Memorandum which was circulated with the Bill.

Part I of the Bill contains 22 sections but many of these are of a standard nature and require little comment or explanation. Section 4 defines the term “air pollution” for the purposes of the Bill. Its meaning is not easily captured because the concept of air pollution must be linked with a concentration of a substance in the atmosphere at a level harmful to public health, animal or plant life or the environment generally, rather than the mere existence of a substance in the atmosphere. In some cases, too, it may be the interaction of substances in the atmosphere which may cause difficulties. The definition in the Bill refers therefore, to a condition of the atmosphere in which a pollutant is present in such quantity as to be liable to give rise to damage to public health, animal or plant life, property, amenities or the environment. There is an associated definition of the term “pollutant” in section 7 (1) and, of course, the main pollutants with which the Bill is concerned are listed in the First Schedule.

Section 5 defines the term “best practicable means” which is used throughout the Bill. For example, the occupier of premises, other than a private dwelling, is required by section 24 (1) to use the best practicable means to limit and, if possible, to prevent an emission from the premises and, under section 32, a licence may not be granted in relation to industrial plant unless the local authority is satisfied that the best practicable means will be used there to prevent or limit emissions.

The best practicable means concept is [1004] well established in environmental legislation. It is used in EC legislation in both the air and water pollution areas, although different forms of words are sometimes employed, such as the best available technology which does not entail excessive costs, or the best technical means available taking account of economic availability. In the Bill, the phrase is defined in such a way as to require, in the circumstances of each case, an appropriate balance between available technology, environmental demands and cost considerations. I hope that the practical advantages of this approach will be apparent since in seeking to improve the quality of Irish life we must consider both the needs of development and the needs of the environment.

Section 6, together with the Third Schedule, defines the industrial plant to which the licensing provisions of Part III of the Bill will apply. “Existing plant” is also defined because, in accordance with the 1984 EC Directive on the combating of air pollution from industrial plant, it is intended that the licensing requirement will apply initially to new plant only. “Existing plant” is stated to be plant which has been granted a planning permission prior to 1 July 1987 — the date on which the EC Directive must be implemented — or plant which is in operation on 30 June 1987, or at any time within the previous 12 months. The licensing requirement will, however, gradually be extended to cover existing plant. In addition, the Minister will have power, by regulations made with the prior approval of each House, to add to the categories of plant specified in the Third Schedule, thus extending the scope of the licensing system, if this should prove to be necessary in order to control air pollution.

The remainder of this first Part of the Bill contains general provisions needed for the proper administration of the new code. These include provisions in relation to offences and penalties, the prosecution of offences, the powers of authorised persons to enter premises for purposes connected with the Bill and provisions designed to enable local authorities to acquire information necessary for the [1005] performance of the functions assigned to them. There are provisions also in relation to research into air pollution and consultation by local authorities with other persons and bodies in the administration of the Act.

The local authorities to whom responsibilities are being entrusted under the Bill are the 27 county councils, the five county borough corporations and Dún Laoghaire Corporation. Major organisational changes for local government in Dublin have, of course, to be legislated for later this year and these will naturally change the allocation of functional responsibilities for all services, including air pollution, in the Dublin area.

Under section 21, provision is made whereby any function conferred on a local authority in relation to air pollution may, by regulations, be transferred to another person or body, including a corporate body specially established for the purpose. This provision is included in recognition of the fact that some of the monitoring and other work which will arise under the Bill could require a high degree of expertise and access to specialised facilities which it might not be economic for the individual local authority to provide. In such situations it might be convenient for the functions in question to be carried out on behalf of local authorities by a body operating at national level such as, for example, An Foras Forbartha.

It may be opportune here to explain briefly why local authorities should carry the main responsibility for administering the present Bill. This is relevant also in view of criticisms already made by certain commentators that the dependence of many of the Bill's provisions on decision or adoption by local authorities is a weakness.

Environmental services and controls are the preserve of local authorities in most countries. There are two main reasons for this. First, because of their physical rather than personal nature there is considerable local variation in the need for and level of such services. Secondly, environmental services in the broad sense are widely seen as suited to [1006] some degree of local democratic decision.

In Ireland these considerations have brought local authorities into the administration of physical planning, water pollution control and waste management in addition to their longer-standing involvement in sanitary services, housing and roads. There is no reason why air pollution control should stand as an exception to these general principles and the Bill provides for a local authority involvement fully in line with that under other relevant codes.

The need for national standards and guidelines and for central policy direction and co-ordination in air pollution matters has not, however, been overlooked, as the exposition of later parts of the Bill will show. In particular, let me say that even where a local discretion applies, the Minister for the Environment will still have power to ensure adequate action under the Bill by any reluctant local authority.

Section 22 takes account of the concept of controlling air pollution by economic instruments in addition to, or instead of, regulation. It enables local authorities to make charges, in accordance with regulations made by the Minister, in relation to emissions. Economists have argued that pollution arises from market failure, in that producers tend to ignore the external costs caused by their activities, and that this can be corrected by the use of emission charges. There is, however, little evidence available regarding the use of emission charges in the control of air pollution. There are some obvious disadvantages attached to this approach such as the difficulty of determining the level of charges which will ensure that emissions do not involve contravention of basic air quality standards. It is possible, however, that emission charges may be found to have a role to play in the control of air pollution and, for this reason, the flexible provisions of section 22 have been included in the Bill.

Emission charges are, of course, only one way of applying the polluter pays principle on which environmental protection [1007] law tends to be based nowadays. Other provisions of the present Bill are grounded on this principle. For example, section 24 (1) requires the occupier of any premises, other than a private dwelling, to use the best practicable means to limit, and, if possible, to prevent an emission from the premises. Similarly, the licensing provisions in Part III are based on the principle that the industrial plant concerned must use the best practicable means to limit or prevent emissions from the plant. In these cases, the costs involved in complying with the provisions of the Bill will have to be borne by those responsible for the relevant emissions.

Part II of the Bill sets out general provisions in relation to air pollution control. It provides a range of powers which can be used by the Minister for the Environment and the local authorities to deal with a variety of situations — emissions of dark smoke, wind-blown dust arising from land used for mining or industrial purposes, smoke arising from straw-burning, or any other emissions of pollutants which may give rise to air pollution or to nuisance. As I have mentioned already, there is to be an obligation on the occupiers of all premises, other than private dwellings, to use the best practicable means to prevent or limit emissions. There will also be a prohibition on emissions from any premises which may be a nuisance to any person. There is power in section 25 to make regulations controlling emissions of smoke and prohibiting or restricting the burning of straw, waste or any other substance which may cause air pollution. There is provision in section 23 under which the Minister may prohibit any specified emissions or prohibit the production, treatment, use, import, marketing or sale of any substance, other than a fuel, which may cause air pollution.

To ensure compliance with these provisions, local authorities will be empowered under section 26 to serve notices requiring occupiers of premises to take specified measures to limit or to prevent air pollution and, where urgent measures [1008] are required, the local authorities themselves may take direct action under section 27. In addition, to deal with serious situations, the High Court will be authorised, on the application of a local authority or any other person, to prohibit or restrict an emission. I believe that these wide powers will enable local authorities to ensure the preservation of the air quality in their areas.

EC Directive 84/360 on the combating of air pollution from industrial plant must be brought into effect by 1 July, 1987. It requires that all new industrial plant, of a type specified in the directive, should be authorised before coming into operation. Prior authorisation is also required for substantial alterations to existing plant and the authorisation requirement is to be gradually extended to existing plant. In granting a licence or an authorisation, the competent authority — in our case the local authority — must be satisfied that all appropriate measures against air pollution have been taken, provided that the application of such measures does not entail excessive costs. The authority must also be satisfied that the plant will not cause significant air pollution or contravene any applicable emission limit values or air quality limit values.

Part III of the Bill will translate this directive into Irish law by providing a framework for the granting of licences broadly similar to that provided in the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977 and the Local Government (Planning and Development) Acts. The Bill provides for the making of regulations to govern the detailed procedure involved in the granting of licences. There is specific provision in section 34 for appeals to An Bord Pleanála against the granting or refusing of a licence or against any conditions attached to a licence. In practice, the board and the planning authorities are obliged, under planning law to have regard to the potential air pollution from a development and they attach conditions for the control of air pollution where appropriate. It is desirable, and should be of assistance to applicants, that the one appeals tribunal [1009] should deal with appeals under the planning, water pollution and air pollution Acts. The new licensing arrangements where they apply, will, of course, take the place of planning conditions relating to air pollution.

Provision is made in section 33 for the review of licences at intervals of not less than three years, or at any time where the local authority have grounds for believing that an emission may constitute a serious risk of air pollution, or where there has been a material change in air quality which could not have been foreseen when the licence was granted.

Sitting suspended at 8.35 p.m. and resumed at 9.20 p.m.

Mrs. A. Doyle: The categories of plant to which the licensing requirements apply are listed in the Third Schedule to the Bill. These include the plants which are most likely to cause air pollution. The Schedule is based on Annex I to Directive 84/360/EEC and on the Alkali, etc., Works Regulation Act, 1906. It also includes plants covered by the Control of Atmospheric Pollution (Licensing) Regulations, 1985, that is, plants for the recovery of metal, as the nuisance and air pollution arising from such plants has indicated the necessity for control. Section 6 enables the Minister for the Environment to amend the list by regulations which must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas in draft form.

Part IV of the Bill will enable a local authority, by order, to declare all or part of their area to be a special control area where the level of a pollutant, or combination of pollutants, requires special abatement measures to be taken and the requirements that will have effect in the area in order to prevent or limit the pollution in question. It will be possible to consider using the provisions of Part IV in a situation, such as exists in parts of Dublin, where the air quality standards for smoke are exceeded on occasion. But Part IV is designed to have wider application; it could, for example, be used if, in the future, nitrogen oxides were shown to be a problem in part of a [1010] built-up area or if other pollutants, arising perhaps from industrial development, were to become an issue in a particular district. In spite of this, it is, I suppose, inevitable that Part IV will be seen primarily as a response to the Dublin smoke situation and so, before dealing with the sections concerned, it would be appropriate to comment on that situation.

Smoke and sulphur dioxide levels have been measured on a regular basis in Dublin since 1962 and a more comprehensive monitoring network was established by the corporation in 1973. Sampling stations are located throughout the city in industrial, commercial and residential districts and there are further stations in the county area. Results from these stations show that between 1973 and 1981, there was an overall decline in sulphur dioxide levels, and, to a lesser extent, in smoke levels. However, since 1981, pollution levels — and particularly the level of smoke — increased substantially. This reversal in the earlier downward trend coincided with the large scale increase in the use of coal and other solid fuels for space-heating purposes and has created problems in so far as compliance with the smoke provisions of the relevant EC Directive is concerned. There were exceedances of the daily limit values at a number of stations in the city in 1984-85 and exceedances also on some groups of three days. However, the longer term values for the winter and for the year as a whole were not exceeded. The exceedances involved smoke only and the requirements of the directive were observed in relation to sulphur dioxide.

Action is required to deal with the smoke problem in Dublin. It is important, however, that the extent of this problem is assessed objectively and that appropriate remedial measures are devised and carried through on a rational basis and in a cost-effective manner. It is possible to identify a range of options which, either alone or in combination, could improve the situation. These include promoting the use of natural gas and other cleaner fuels, prohibiting the use of certain fuels, requiring that appliances [1011] which burn solid fuels smokelessly, or with reduced smoke emissions, should be used, and so on. I am confident that the Bill now before the House will enable appropriate solutions to be worked out and implemented.

There have been suggestions that the breaches of the air standards which occasionally occur in Dublin are unparalleled in Europe, that they are having serious adverse health effects of a kind which would justify the immediate introduction of dramatic measures and that the situation in Dublin now resembles in some way the situation which existed in London in the fifties. For the record, therefore, I should point out that the EC smoke standards are being breached not just in parts of Dublin but also in large population centres in France, Federal Germany and Italy, and in Britain and Northern Ireland. The most serious breach of the daily smoke standard of 250 micrograms per cubic metre which occured in 1984-85 involved a figure of 738 micrograms per cubic metre at one of the monitoring stations.

This level is clearly unacceptable but, in order to put it in perspective, I should mention that the levels recorded in the London smog of 1952 were of the order of 7,000 to 8,000 micrograms per cubic metre and that a level of 4,550 micrograms per cubic metre was reached at a London monitoring station in December, 1962. Let us therefore maintain a sense of proportion in discussing the smoke levels in Dublin. As I stated earlier, action is certainly needed to arrest and to reverse the trend of recent years, but to imply that the present situation has reached crisis proportions is misleading.

Under Part IV, it will be a matter for the relevant local authority, in the first instance, to decide whether a special control area should be established, although section 39 will allow the Minister to give directions in this matter, where necessary. This has been alleged as a weakness by some commentators, who seem to feel that the Bill should straightaway place an obligation on local authorities to set up special control areas. There are a number [1012] of misconceptions here. First, the Minister for the Environment has a reserve power, under section 39, to direct the establishment, where necessary, of special control areas. Secondly, it would be inappropriate and impossible for the Bill to dictate in advance the extent to which special control areas will be necessary since this must take account of the circumstances prevailing in different areas and changes in those circumstances over time.

But the Bill does not leave local authorities free of obligation to ensure air quality in their areas. As soon as air quality standards are prescribed by the Minister — about which more later — local authorities will be under a duty to see that these are not exceeded and to take appropriate measures accordingly, which may of course necessitate special control areas.

Where a local authority make a special control area order under section 39, they will be required to publish notice of this and allow for objections to be made within a specified period. The local authority will then submit the order to the Minister and, where there are objections which have not been withdrawn, the Minister must hold an oral hearing before deciding whether to confirm the order. Where an order becomes operational, the local authority will have power to issue notices requiring the owners or occupiers of premises to take the necessary measures to comply with it. Section 45 enables the Minister for the Environment, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to make grants towards the costs incurred by the owner or occupier of a premises in order to comply with terms of a special control area order.

Section 40 specifies which may be included in a special control area order. These include prohibitions on the emission of certain pollutants and prohibitions on the burning of a fuel, other than an authorised fuel, except under specified conditions. A local authority may specify the types of fuel which may or may not be burned in the special control area and may also prohibit certain operations or [1013] processes except under specified conditions. The intention in drafting these provisions was to provide a flexible framework which will allow maximum freedom in the choice of methods for meeting the requirements of a particular area.

Before I leave the provisions of Part IV I would like to deal with the relationship between housing standards, which are of course the preserve of the Department of the Environment, and the possible requirements of clean air zoning. Some people have professed to find a contradiction between the requirement of providing a chimney, which is contained in both the new house and the home improvement grant schemes, and the desirability from the point of view of air quality of reducing domestic use of bituminous coal in limited areas.

It is fair to acknowledge this as an area of difficulty. Indeed, as implementation of the present Bill proceeds, the need for closer harmonisation of housing and air pollution policies in certain areas may have to be considered more fully. However, the apparent inconsistencies which I have just mentioned are by no means as irreconcilable as may at first appear. Domestic chimneys are necessary for many heating systems using smokeless fuels, including “approved appliances” within the meaning of this Bill for eliminating or reducing smoke. Under the new house grants scheme, they can also be used with a gas heater taking the place of a normal fire grate.

Housing policy has to have regard to an estimated house life-span of 80 to 100 years and to the likely availability of different heating fuels for the duration of that period. Within this long term perspective, a fireplace and chimney represent an adaptable heating system to incorporate in house design, so that provision of them is likely to be generally justified for some time ahead.

Part V of the Bill enables local authorities to make air quality management plans for the preservation or improvement of air quality in their areas. The making of such plans will involve a local authority in assessing air quality in their [1014] areas and likely future trends and in identifying potential difficulties and planning for their avoidance.

Significant powers are also conferred on the Minister for the Environment under Part V, including the setting of air quality standards and of emission limit values. These powers are necessary so that full effect can be given to EC directives on air quality standards relating to smoke, sulphur dioxide, lead and nitrogen dioxide. As yet, there are no Community-wide emission limit values, but the Commission has proposed such values as, for example, in relation to emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust from new large combustion plants. National conditions may warrant the setting of such limit values, either for the country at large or for specific areas or industries and, of course, limits set in this way at national level could bring about a necessary degree of consistency and uniformity in the administration of the Act throughout the country.

As a further step towards this, section 52 allows for the issue of directions by the Minister for the Environment in relation to general policy on the prevention or limitation of air pollution. Such directions must be taken into account by the local authorities and An Bord Pleanála in the administration of their functions. Section 53 enables the Minister to make regulations in regard to fuel for the purposes of preventing air pollution and governing such matters as the specification and contents of fuel and the production, treatment, use or sale of fuel. This provision would be used to deal with such matters as lead in petrol or the sulphur content of fuels.

Part VI of the Bill provides for miscellaneous matters including the powers of local authorities and the Minister to monitor air quality and emissions. Section 55 will enable the occupier of any premises who may not otherwise be able to carry out works required to meet the provisions of the Act to seek a remedy in the District Court. There are also a number of transitional measures and savers in relation to other legislation and civil proceedings.

Finally, I should make it clear that [1015] the present Bill, being a comprehensive enabling one, will naturally come into effect in a phased way. Among other things, this should help to minimise staffing problems. The obvious priorities will be to implement existing and imminent EC directives and to address the more serious instances of air pollution in the Dublin area. Because of the uneven distribution of population and industries throughout the country, the impact of the Bill on local authorities will obviously vary very widely.

I am confident that Senators will agree that this is indeed a comprehensive Bill and I look forward to hearing their views on the proposals it contains. While legislation and regulations alone cannot guarantee a good quality environment, I believe that the Bill will be seen as a milestone in the development of environmental policy in this country. I shall be looking to the local authorities and, indeed, to the community at large for support to securing its implementation and I feel sure that this support will be forthcoming.

I commend this Bill to the House.

Mr. M. O'Toole: Since this is my first time on this side of the House since the Minister of State has become spokesman on the environment I would like to welcome her to the House. We look forward to having very constructive debates on the various Bills she will be bringing before us during her term of office.

Until I read the Minister's speech I was not aware that this Bill would be taken jointly with item No. 6 on the Order Paper — Report of the Joint Committee on Acid Rain. I am open to contradiction because I have not been in the House full-time since morning. However, while the Leader of the House may have told us we were taking items Nos. 5 and 6 we were not told they would be taken together. I know they are very relevant and, possibly, this is the best thing to do but we had decided the report on acid rain would be taken on another date. If one looks at the monitor one will see we are dealing with the Air Pollution Bill, [1016] 1986. If one was waiting for item No. 6 to appear on the monitor one would still be waiting. I know there are Senators who intended to make a contribution on that item. I know it was not the Minister's decision but I just want to record it in passing and I feel the Leader of the House will have something to say on this at a later stage. As I said, both are relevant and can be taken together.

Many of the Bills coming before this House, have not been demanded by the people and, in some cases, they have no urgency attached to them. I would like to mention a few: the Litter Act, 1982, the Combat Poverty Agency Bill, 1985, the Urban Renewal Bill, 1986, and this Bill, the Air Pollution Bill, 1986. There is no finance available to implement any of the Bills. The Air Pollution Bill, 1986, is very wide ranging. If it were to be implemented in full it would transform the whole environmental and industrial sphere in this small country where we depend so much on industrial development.

With reference to the Litter Act, 1982, we are approaching a clean-up week. This has been initiated by the Department of the Environment. At recent local authority meetings some councillors asked who was taking responsibility for the financing of the Bill. We were told by the managers of the councils that it would not be financed by the Department of the Environment and that moneys would have to be found within the system. No county council has money available for that kind of work at present. I welcome this clean-up week but we will have to depend on the rural organisations to finance it.

I prefaced my remarks by saying that there is no money available for the legislation coming before us. Today I had occasion to go to the passport office. There was a queue of people stretching down the street waiting to get passports to get out of this country as quickly as possible. We should be bringing in legislation which would bring about corrective measures in that regard.

In relation to the fall-out from Sellafield, we are lucky that our prevailing [1017] winds are south westerly and that any fall-out from Sellafield and the pollution of the Irish Sea as a result of that fall-out may not have the same impact because of the winds and the currents in the Irish Sea. For that reason the fall-out may not reach our shores.

I was not at all satisfied with the attitude of the Government to the leak at Sellafield. Sellafield has leaked on more than one occasion. This Bill covers acid leakage into our waters. The Government did not protest when the leak threatened our shores. They did not have compulsory monitoring. They had casual monitoring to see how affected the waters were along the Irish coast and what damage the pollution and fall-out from Sellafield may cause to the health of the Irish people. We took a softly softly approach to Sellafield. We would have taken an even softer approach to it were it not for what happened in Russia. The disaster and the many deaths as a result of that disaster scared many people. It brought home to us what Sellafield could mean in our immediate vicinity if a similar fall-out came from there as had come from the Russian disaster.

There is need to protect our coastline, our environment and indeed our air. I am not against the Bill. I welcome it. It is necessary to take measures against the pollution which is causing serious damage in the city of Dublin and other cities throughout the State.

People may not regard CIE buses as a health hazard. I regard the CIE rolling fleet of buses as causing the greatest emission of pollution to the environment. During the break I had the pleasure of speaking to an EC environmentalist who works in Dublin. I asked her what, in her view, was the single most dangerous emission she was afraid of in this city. She told me that smoke was the greatest cause of emission. I know itinerant families who have lived in a smokeless atmosphere all of their lives. I have never seen them going to a doctor because of any health hazard. They are the healthiest people in Ireland today. They have been [1018] living in an unpolluted, smokeless atmosphere all of their lives.

If one accepts the scientific elaboration, scientific approach and results of surveys which are taking place then I have to say the oldest type of smoke is that which comes from the domestic chimneys which the Minister spoke about recently. For hundreds and hundreds of years we have been burning solid fuel of various types — timber, coal, turf and other products. Why is that now, after many centuries, coal, turf and solid fuels are dangerous? Anyone with any common sense, who has lived any measurable length of time in this country, knows that solid fuels are not dangerous.

People who are in the coal business welcome this Bill. They welcome the monitoring aspect of this Bill. If there was any danger to their trade as a result of that monitoring they would not be rushing in asking for a monitoring system. That monitoring system will bring out and identify the emissions which are causing the pollution of our atmosphere. I have no doubt whatsoever that solid fuel is not a danger to the atmosphere.

A letter from Coal Information Services Limited released today states:

The third monthly bulletin on atmospheric pollution issued by Dublin Corporation shows that the March median smoke levels in Dublin are 35.4% lower than in the corresponding period last year. The figures are based on data obtained at the Corporation's official monitoring stations. The figures complete the air quality measurements for the winter period which extends from October through to March. The attached graph compares the winter season from 1985/6 with 1984/5 and shows a reduction of 24% in the monthly winter medians over that period. The figures are given in microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/m³). The figures confirm the continuing decline in pollution levels in Dublin's air. Smoke levels for the winter period were 60% below EEC levels.

The level of 35.4 per cent recorded is well below the EC figure of 130. That in itself [1019] does not give us any cause for concern and there is no necessity to rush into an Air Pollution Bill on the solid fuel smoke side.

In my view there is a grave urgency for the Government to introduce legislation that will control the emissions from the rolling stock, especially in Dublin. Some CIE school buses on the road are in a shambles. Many of them have no exhausts. One could hear them coming a mile away. I want to compliment the private bus contractors who always have good vans or mini-buses or buses on the road. They give a very worthwhile service. They are in no way damaging the health of the children they pick up on the way to and from school. I could not say the same about the rolling stock of CIE, both in the school bus section and in the city of Dublin. Most of you here had the opportunity of having to walk through the streets of Dublin. I have done so recently. The pollution from the bus fleet in Dublin is chaotic and dangerous. That is something that is not being spelt out in this Bill. The only reason that it is not spelt out in the Bill is that the Government have failed to provide rolling stock for CIE, or to make the necessary finances available to bring a new replacement fleet of buses into the service.

Mr. A. FitzGerald: That is not so.

Mr. M. O'Toole: That is so. All over Ireland there are buses that are not being renewed.

Mr. A. FitzGerald: They are being renewed.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator FitzGerald, you will get a chance to reply. Senator O'Toole without interruption.

Mr. M. O'Toole: If one goes along the roads one will see them pulled up in various places, out of commission. It is possible to check the services and find out the ages of the rolling fleet of CIE. They have not been replaced. They should have been replaced not today, but over the last three or four years. That is [1020] the greatest danger to air pollution. It is one we should tackle in the early stages.

The Third Schedule to the Bill is a fascinating schedule. It lists the industrial processes to which the Act applies:

1. The refining of oil other than operations solely manufacturing lubricants from crude oil.

2. The generation of electricity in plants with a nominal heat output exceeding 50 MW, other than hydro and nuclear plants.

3. The raising of steam in plants with a nominal heat output exceeding 50 MW.

4. The roasting and sintering of metal ores in plants with a capacity of more than 1,000 tonnes per year.

5. The production of pig iron and crude steel in integrated plants.

6. The production of ferrous metals in foundries having melting installations with a capacity greater than 5 tonnes.

7. The production and melting of non-ferrous metals in installations having a capacity greater than 1 tonne for heavy metals or 0.5 tonnes for light metal.

8. The production of cement.

There is a need for control on cement. The Schedule also lists:

9. The production of a compound or alloy of magnesium.

10. The production of lime in a kiln.

11. The production of a compound or alloy of manganese.

12. The production and processing of asbestos.

The production and processing of asbestos also requires control. The Schedule continues:

13. The manufacture of asbestos-based products.

14. The manufacture of glass fibre or mineral fibre.

[1021] 15. The production of glass (ordinary and special) in plants with a capacity of more than 5,000 tonnes per year.

16. The manufacture of coarse ceramics including refractory bricks, stoneware pipes, facing and floor bricks and roof tiles.

There is a long list. The last process to which the Act applies is the rendering of animal by-products.

Why did they not include the rendering of a wax candle, a Christmas candle, or, indeed, a blessed candle. These have not been mentioned in the Bill.

Mrs. A. Doyle: The Senator is free to put down an amendment.

Mr. M. O'Toole: If these were included, we would have none available for the Christmas. If all the industrial processes to which the Act applies are put into operation, we will have no industrialists coming to Ireland. We are giving them everything we can — incentive bonuses, two-thirds remission of rates — to try and lure them in. Because there is a decreasing and folding up industrial atmosphere at present one would feel that the time was ripe for this type of development rather than for curtailing it. There are certain sections in this Bill and certain commodities that will have to be controlled. I will have an opportunity of dealing with them when we will be going through the sections in more detail — the licensing of industrial bases and the duty of local authorities to monitor and appoint staff. Local authorities are over-staffed and under-financed. The power of the staff of local authorities to enter private domestic premises for inspection without a warrant will have to be deleted from this Bill. The Minister may amend this before the Bill comes finally through this House. I will be asking for that amendment. The Fianna Fáil Party will probably be putting down an amendment in that regard. I ask the Minister to consider that part of the Bill. It is an incursion on the privacy of the individual.

[1022] Debate adjourned.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: When is it proposed to sit again?

Professor Dooge: It is proposed to sit again at 10.30 tomorrow morning. For the information of Senators it is probable the business will be the SFADCo Bill, which is a Money Bill received on Tuesday from the Dáil, the Local Loans Fund Bill, which is a Money Bill, and the B & I Bill which the Opposition have agreed to take at short notice. Following that it is proposed to continue the Second Stage debates on the Garda Síochána (Complaints) Bill and on this Bill, though in neither case will the Minister be available to reply, so in neither case will the Second Stage be completed.