Seanad Éireann - Volume 114 - 23 October, 1986

Air Pollution Bill, 1986: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

Mr. Lanigan: I had better apologies to the Minister for my faux pas of last week when I kept referring to the Minister as “he”. In no circumstances, looking at her, could I consider that she is a he. Having said that, to continue on the line I was taking the last time about the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster and the horrific figures that have been given as the projected problems which will arise because of that incident, it has been suggested that 7,000 cancer deaths, 4,000 genetic defects and 60,000 thyroid abnormalities as well as contamination of some 3,000 square miles of land could happen as a result of the Chernobyl incident. British Nuclear Fuels and the nuclear industry as a whole would discount these figures, and at a recent meeting in England I saw the massive publicity handouts that they have put about in an attempt to give the nuclear industry side of the story. As is usual with the nuclear industry, they spared no money in disseminating information. When I say “disseminating information”, it could be said that the information is true as was the information the American Government were giving out about the possibilities of Libya striking “again” at the west. The nuclear industry is as good at this information as the CIA or the American Government.

The health consequences of Chernobyl [799] have been given by various experts and some of the experts in this field have suggested that the problem is much greater than even I mentioned last week. Richard Webb, one of the greatest experts on nuclear energy and its problems has said:

In all western countries affected by the Chernobyl fall-out most governments and their scientific advisers have assured their citizens that the risks from the increased radiation exposure to themselves and their children are negligible.

Dr. Webb, on the best available information, claims that exposure to external gamma rays alone could result in as many as one quarter of a million extra cancer deaths over the next few decades. The figure of one quarter of a million extra cancer deaths is something that we should all take very careful note of. Whether that is an exaggerated figure being produced to try to get us to look more carefully at the effects of the nuclear industry or, whether it is exaggerated by Dr. Webb for his own purpose in that he is completely anti-nuclear industry, I think we must take a note of the figure. In his various articles he pointed out that the concentration of increasing levels of radioactivity throughout Europe was much higher than our Government or other Governments have stated.

The Chernobyl incident is just one of many such incidents which have occurred. It is possibly the largest incident, but we do not know. The nearest nuclear energy recycling plant to us is the Sellafield plant. Successive British spokespeople have stated that the Sellafield plant is safe, it is not causing contamination, and is a plant that they are proud of. Since 1950, when the first recorded accident happened in Sellafield there have been more than 200 recorded incidents. Some of them were of a minor nature and others of a major nature, and they happen every month. There were accidents on 21 October 1950, in January 1953, March 1953, April 1953 right down [800] along the line to 27 January 1986 and 5 and 18 February 1986.

Still, British Nuclear Fuels Limited try to tell us that that plant is safe. That plant is not safe and the picture on the front page of The Irish Press today would give a lie to it. Whereas the picture in The Irish Press might try to over-exaggerate the situation, we in Ireland must fear for the future of marine life in the Irish Sea. If marine life is affected as badly as many experts think, we must worry about the safety of eating fish from the Irish Sea and indeed about the levels of contamination in the Irish Sea which could result in radiation problems for people swimming or using the sea as a means of leisure. The incidence of cancer from excessive radiation levels in bodies of people working in Sellafield cannot now be hidden. Every month we hear of levels of contamination of people in excess of the annual normal dosage. Sellafield must be closed down.

We in the Seanad must try to lead a fight not alone to have Seallfield closed down, but to have every nuclear energy plant in the world closed because they are totally hazardous. There is no way we can know how hazardous these plants are and there is no economic reason for keeping them open. The generation of electricity by nuclear methods has been going on for some time, but because of the serious apparent shortfall in years to come it was suggested that the only means we would have in the future of generating electricity would be from nuclear resources. I do not think that human ingenuity is so bereft of thinking that some other method in the near future could not be found.

Before nuclear energy was known people were attempting to find other solutions. Unless we find a solution other than the nuclear one we will be leaving ourselves open not alone to the results of accidents like Chernobyl but to a proliferation of nuclear weaponary because the nuclear weapons industry, the nuclear arms industry and the generation of electricity from nuclear fuels go hand in hand. The residues from nuclear energy plants [801] are being used to spread the possession of nuclear weapons throughout the world. We must fear the consequences of having increasing numbers of nuclear weapons in the hands of people who might use them without any consideration for the damage they can do.

It has been said by the British nuclear industry that the accident at Chernobyl could not happen in any of the British or French plants because technology is totally different.

It is suggested that western reactors are much more dangerous than the reactors at Chernobyl. The nuclear industry in the west responded to the Chernobyl accident by saying: “It could not happen here, our reactors are completely different and intrinsically safer; moreover our engineering standards, quality controls and operator training are vastly superior to those of the USSR”. Lord Marshall, Chairman of the CEGB, called the Chernobyl RBMK reactor a hybrid, and as late as 31 July assured the public that it could not be licensed or built in the United Kingdom. Dr. Richard Webb, commenting on the hazards of nuclear reactor operations explained why western light water reactors, the most common type used in the world, are intrisically more dangerous. The Central Electricity Generating Board are now seeking to build Britain's first commercial light water reactor PWR at Sizewell, no more than 100 miles from London, followed by a series elsewhere in England, including Hinkley Point in Somerset and in Northumbria.

Dr. Webb shows how the fast breeder reactor like the type in Doonreay in Scotland and the new French 1,300 megawatt superphoenix are incomparably more dangerous and capable of exploding like an atomic bomb. I am not going to enter the technicalities of Dr. Webb's article, but it can be read in The Ecologist, volume 1645 of 86.

If western reactors are intrinsically more dangerous than the reactor at Chernobyl our Government must take action on the basis that we will be in the firing line because of our proximity to many of these new plants. There is no point saying [802] we do not have a nuclear industry in Ireland when the effects of the British nuclear industry could have devastating repercussions on the health and safety of our people.

The Air Pollution Bill can help us to provide a certain level of extra protection in our own atmosphere from our own pollution but, unfortunately because of the way the world is made we are not immune from trans-boundary or trans-country pollution.

An Cathaoirleach: I do not like to interrupt the Senator, I have no objection to references to nuclear energy, but it must not be the main theme.

Mr. Lanigan: We are talking about air pollution.

An Cathaoirleach: I do not mind a passing reference — do not misunderstand me — to nuclear energy.

Mr. Lanigan: We will have to take the emphasis outside the Bill if we want to have a proper Committee Stage. There is not a person in the country who is not concerned with the dangers posed by proximity to nuclear stations, for instance, Chernobyl, Sellafield and others.

An Cathaoirleach: I have no objection to references to it but I do not want it to be the main trend. I must admit it has been referred to before by other speakers.

Mr. Lanigan: I agree, but I must say that the pollutant problems we have in Ireland, that we create ourselves, are nothing in comparison with the pollution which is coming in from outside and we have an opportunity to debate this subject. There is not a person outside this House who is not worried. If you talk to young people, unemployment is one of the main problems they have to confront. Unemployment they feel, is something they are living with; they can try to cope with it, but the problems related to Chernobyl, Sellafield and like plants are of [803] major consequence and the young people in Ireland are more worried than, unfortunately, people of my age group and older people.

Having said that, I accept what you say in connection with the Bill. Reference was made of how the smog in London in 1952 was infinitely greater than the pollution caused by chimneys in Dublin. We have relatively clean air, but “relatively” is not enough. We have in Dublin a sulphur dioxide problem because of the fact that many houses in Dublin use open fires and some of the coals that are being used have a high sulphur dioxide level. In tests taken in inner city Dublin over the past number of years we have seen that emissions of carbon monoxide give rise to more concern than even the emissions from our chimneys.

We are glad that at least one of the petrol companies, Esso, have introduced their lead-free petrol here. The problem with lead-free petrol is that you have got to charge more for it because it costs more to produce, and anything that puts up the cost of motoring has to be worrying. Nevertheless, in the long run I think it is just as important that we would have lead-free petrol which would cut down the carbon monoxide element rather than worry about the small extra cost involved. I hope that the other petrol companies will follow suit in the very near future and possibly as a result of this Bill they will be forced to do so.

The world around us is changing and from a pollution point of view it is changing for the worse. We see the tropical rain forests being eliminated and this is having tremendous ecological effects right throughout the world. While we might think that the cutting down of trees in Brazil or Peru would not have an effect on our atmosphere here nevertheless they have and it is worrying that there is a change taking place right throughout the world because of the cutting down of the rain forests in South and Central America. This Bill, if it is debated properly, will concentrate people's minds on the problems of air pollution and the need [804] to help to try to preserve a relatively clean atmosphere.

On the other side, we have the discussion about acid rain. The acid rain debate has been going on for quite some time, and unfortunately, not enough is known about the cause of acid rain or problems associated with it. In Ireland the debate on acid rain seems to have been concentrated on the building of the power station at Moneypoint and to a large degree on its effects on that wonderful area in Clare, the Burren. It would seem as if many people think because of the building of Moneypoint and the fact that there is not a method in Moneypoint for taking out the sulphur dioxide, that the Burren is going to suffer badly. We want to preserve the Burren but, unfortunately, whatever is done at Moneypoint will have no real effect. If the Burren is affected, it will not be affected by emissions from a place as close as Moneypoint: it is likely to be affected more by prevailing winds. If the winds change and bring in snow and rain from the continent of Europe the effects on the Burren will be serious because the acidity in the snow and rain from mid-European countries is horrific. The results of the huge pollution from these areas is being felt in lakes and rivers in Northern Europe and to some degree in forests throughout Europe.

What is suggested now is that possibly the problems in the forests are not problems of acid rain but of carbon monoxide and various other elements in the air, with the sulphur dioxide from chimneys being of minor importance. The acid rain problem in Ireland is a minor one at this stage and we hope that over the next few years we will know a lot more about the causes of acid rain, of acidity in the soil and the reason why soils are now much more acid than they were. We are not able to cope with or filter the acidity out of show or rain.

The debate here in the House has been a debate of concern for the future in ecological and health terms. It is a debate which is of major importance because we must get the Government to concentrate more and to co-operate more with our [805] European allies. First, I suggest we must ensure the complete closure of all nuclear energy electricity generating plants. The effects of that would be too extreme in countries like France who have a 70 per cent dependence on nuclear energy for electricity. It would cause major short term problems, but the continuing and increasing use of nuclear energy is of concern because the Big Bang could come.

Every day we are getting more and more build up of nuclear waste. We have not got any reasonable estimate as to how we can get rid of it. The build up of nuclear waste is such that there is enough to fill what would be considered to be 6,000 two-storey houses at present. These nuclear wastes are being stored and nobody knows what to do with them. In the past they have been dumped in the sea. Some of these dumps have been close enough to the Irish coast to make us worried that, in the future if these wastes have not cooled down before the containers have broken up, we could have more and more problems as time goes on.

The Bill is welcome. I do not think it goes far enough. Without giving the local authorities any promise of money or of extra staff — they are starved for cash at present — the onus will be on them to deal with the problems associated with air pollution and the controls that are necessary. The Bill does not go far enough in that, but it is a step in the right direction. The committee which discussed the acid rain problem took submissions from numerous people. The divergences of opinion as between experts on both sides of the acid rain debate are so great that it is very hard to know where the truth lies. Obviously, people are fighting their own cases from extremes. As far as possible, we must ensure that we do not contribute to acid rain problems in other countries. We must fight to ensure that the acid rain problems which are being created for us from other countries are lessened. This can only be done through co-operation with other Governments. The EC must [806] lay down very stringent rules to control emissions which could cause acid rain and its associated problems.

Mr. Deenihan: This is one of the most important, if not the most important Bill, to come before us since I came into this House. It will provide a comprehensive framework for the control of air pollution in the years ahead. In particular it will support the implementation of relevant EC directives. Although much of the Bill will be implemented by local authorities it also contains important and wide ranging powers which will allow the Minister for the Environment of the day to establish national and centralised controls. The Minister will be able to prescribe air quality standards and emission limit values and to direct local authorities and other agencies on a wide range of matters. Local authorities will be enabled to adopt air quality management plans.

An important purpose of the Bill also is to establish a licensing system for new industrial plant. This is most welcome and is in compliance with EC Directive 84/360. It will generally provide full powers for local authorities to protect air quality from new industrial emissions.

The fact that it is a further devolution of powers to local authorities is also very welcome. I hope local authorities will live up to their responsibilities. I hope their record as regards air pollution will be better than their record as regards water pollution which has left a lot to be desired. In some cases they have become the greatest water polluters themselves. That is one reason I fear for the success of this Bill. Local authorities will not have the commitment to ensure that it is implemented properly.

This Air Pollution Bill is most important and it will have great significance for the future health and wellbeing of the nation as well as the protection of the environment and of our national heritage. There is now a direct link between a clear and healthy environment and the future economic prosperity of our nation.

As Senator Lanigan mentioned, young people today, apart from their unemployment problems, are becoming more [807] and more aware of the future quality of life they will have and especially of the type of environment in which they will mature and in which their families will grow up. Much of this is due to education and to awareness being aroused by programmes on television on ecology and the environment. It is very welcome. An Foras Forbartha say about the state of the environment that Ireland possesses a unique and distinguished inheritance of scenic, ecological, geological, artistic and historical resources. It is of paramount importance that this inheritance be both protected and enhanced. It is in this context that the proposed Bill is of such enormous importance.

The most recent report by the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation which was published over the last few days stated that our tourist industry has always relied heavily on the environment and the perception of the country as being clean and unspoiled. If we are not careful and if we do not pursue the right policies, Ireland could lose this image abroad. We are rapidly losing this image abroad. It is important that we clean up our environment. This report also expressed concern that further damage to our environment would seriously endanger our tourist in-industry with catastrophic effects on the national economy. The tourist industry is currently worth in the region of £850 million a year. Its potential for future growth is enormous, provided we manage our resources effectively. The growth in tourism is probably the best avenue for creating jobs in the future. That is why it is most important that we protect our environment.

I do not intend to deal with the individual sections of the Bill. However, concern has been expressed by some farmers in my own locality regarding the straw burning regulations. I am sure the Minister will expand on this section when she is replying. It would seem that the amount of straw burning in this country is limited especially in north Kerry which is a centre of the dairy industry rather than a cereal producing area. Regulations may be too strict in this respect. It has [808] been mentioned here over the past four weeks that the greatest threat to our environment comes from sulphur dioxide emissions produced by the burning of fossil fumes, especially coal and oil, in power stations and industrial plants. Our emissions of sulphur dioxide are the lowest in the EC and have fallen significantly in recent years. For example, in the 1980 the figure was 217,000 tonnes; in 1983, it was down to 140,000 tonnes. The use of natural gas in our power stations, rather than oil or coal, has caused this reduction. However, according to the 1984 Foras Forbartha report sulphur dioxide emissions are expected to increase to almost twice their present level by the end of the century. The consequences of such an increase are quite alarming.

A significant component in this projected increase in sulphur dioxide emissions will come from Moneypoint power station. This new 900 megawatt plant on the Shannon estuary which has already cost the taxpayer £730 million will be fully operational next year. It is expected that it will release 70,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere. This is more than double the present ESB output and about 50 per cent of the national sulphur dioxide emissions at present.

I have no doubt that Moneypoint will cause significant levels of air pollution. Therefore, measures must be taken to reduce these emissions. Because of the fact that sulphur dioxide is one of the major causes of acid rain we have been given numerous examples on the continent where acid rain has caused, and is causing at the moment, enormous damage to nature. For example, in Sweeden 18,000 lakes have been so acified that in 4,000 of these lakes most plant and animal life has disappeared. By 1982 8 per cent of West Germany's forests were classified as seriously affected by acid rain. By the end of 1983 one-third of that country's woods were said to be dying from the blight to such an extent that their Minister for Agriculture was saying that the State alone was not able to overcome this crisis. Damage to German [809] forests was estimated to be in the region of £300 million per year and 47,000 jobs were said to be in jeopardy. Closer to home, 120 Scottish lakes and rivers are now seriously contaminated, together with 18 lakes and streams in the English Lake District. From an immediate human health point of view, acid rain also carries risks for people with respiratory and cardio-vascular conditions. Drinking water can also be contaminated. Evidence on the continent shows that acid rain has become a major problem in Europe. Although Ireland only produces 1 per cent of the total amount of acid rain of Europe nevertheless it is very important that we ensure that we keep the amount of emissions down and that we control it.

Apart from that, through the trans-boundary agreements we have an obligation to the rest of Europe, and to our neighbours in particular, that we should ensure that the levels of emissions of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere are kept at present day levels. Measures must be taken to reduce these emissions. The major argument put forward by the ESB against installing the proper type of de-sulphurisation equipment, commonly known as scrubbers, is the cost factor. It is estimated by the ESB that the proper de-sulphurisation equipment in Moneypoint would cost £145 million. These figures have been disputed. For example, a German expert of one of the largest manufacturers of de-sulphurisation equipment in Europe said that it would cost approximately £40 million to instal proper equipment in Moneypoint to ensure that the least possible amount of damage would be caused to the environment. An Taisce mentioned a figure in the region of £80 million. The proper cost factor probably lies between £40 million and £145 million. Because of the significance and future implications of the damage that may be caused by Moneypoint consideration should be given to installing the proper type of equipment before Moneypoint goes on stream. The problem is one of cost.

The Irish Times of Friday, 30 August had an article by their reporter, Caroline [810] Walsh. Mr. J. Moriarity replied to the special parliamentary committee that was set up on acid rain by saying that complying with a proposed EC directive on acid rain could cost more than £300 million and entail a 20 per cent increase in the price of electricity over the next ten years. At Moneypoint, he added, it would mean building a chemical treatment plant almost as big as the station itself. However, costings by HOPE done suggested that the measures might lead only to a 5 per cent increase in electricity prices. I can fully understand Mr. Moriarity's concern for lower ESB prices to the consumer, but nevertheless in the long run the damage that could result would be far greater to the health and the economic future of this country than a slight increase in ESB charges. The threat of an increase in cost should not prevent proper regulations being enforced.

This Bill will not affect Moneypoint because the provisions of the Bill will apply only to plants that were neither in operation nor authorised under the Planning Acts before 1 July 1987. The greater part of Moneypoint will be working by then so it will escape the new strict regulations. I would like the Minister to comment on that. Will this legislation have any effect on Moneypoint, or will Moneypoint be totally exempted from it?

Regarding the cost factor, the ESB should not be saddled with such major costs. Moneys should be made available to them from Government funds. There should be a special EC fund set up to fight the whole threat of acid rain. Moneys should be made available from this fund to places like Moneypoint in order to instal the proper equipment. The Joint Committee report on Secondary Legislation on Acid Rain, while it was a very good report, was rather soft on Moneypoint and the ESB. They could have come out stronger against the ESB and especially on the future implications of not installing the proper de-sulphurisation equipment.

Senator J. Higgins might give his views [811] on that later on. However, the joint committee felt that the State should rigorously take up the defence of the environment and the economic costs must be tolerated. The committee were clearly concerned about the effects of Moneypoint and with ensuring that our environment should not be damaged through thoughtlessness and indifference.

Senators Mannion and Hillery mentioned also the potential damage that could be caused by increased levels of acid rain around the western seaboard. They are frightening. When we think of the various people who are dependent on tourism, agriculture, and fishing — and, hopefully, in the future, forestry — it makes us appreciate fully the overall significance for the future development of the western seaboard. The argument is that the south-westerly winds will blow away the emissions and that areas such as Dublin and the midlands will be affected. Nevertheless, in instances of change of wind direction the west could be affected. The Burren is one of the finest natural nature reserves in the world. It is acknowledged as such and is vulnerable. At the moment the amount of chemical action in the Burren because of the limestone soil — this the ordinary action as a result of rainfall and the resultant weathering that is taking place — is definitely giving rise to concern. In times of north-westerly winds the whole area down along the coast of Kerry, and in particular Killarney which is one of our famous beauty spots, could be affected. Great moves are being made at the moment to encourage people to plant trees. If there was a fear that in the future the trees could be adversely affected by acid rain that would be detrimental to the overall policy of planting trees. Because of the danger to forests in Europe and because by the year 2000 Europe will experience a shortage of timber, it is only right that we should try to keep our environment as suitable as possible for the growing of trees.

I welcome the Bill. It is one of the most important Bills that has come before this House. I hope that our environment will [812] be preserved as well as possible, and that the Bill will be vigorously and earnestly enforced. I have expressed reservations about the involvement of the local authorities and their future commitment to the implementation of this Bill. If there is proper direction from the top, local authorities will respond. It is vitally important that the Bill be implemented as soon as possible. We should consider urgently the whole question of the control of emissions, not only from industrial plants but especially from Moneypoint.

Mr. Kiely: I am pleased we are discussing the Bill in association with the report of the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities, Report No. 25 on acid rain. Ireland, fortunately, has a very clean atmosphere and we should make every effort to preserve it. Our geographical location and the direction of the prevailing winds means that our atmosphere is likely to withstand the normal challenge from pollution. At present there is worldwide concern about environmental pollution, particularly as a result of the nuclear power accidents at Chernobyl and Sellafield. The accident which occurred at Chernobyl alerted the whole world to the dangers of air pollution. The consequences of accidents in Sellafield could be very serious for this country because the Sellafield station is the nearest nuclear station to Ireland. When any leak occurs in Sellafield this Irish Government and future Governments should protest strongly to the British Government about the dangers to our country.

In discussing air pollution it is unfortunate that we do not have control over the atmosphere. We cannot control transboundary pollution. While the Air Pollution Bill will solve some of the minor problems associated with air pollution, it will do very little in terms of reducing the high level of pollution occurring here because of cross-country and continental pollution. It is more important than ever to protect public health and property from the adverse effects of pollution. We [813] must pass on a high quality of living in our environment to the future generations.

Air pollution can cause ill health, especially in crowded conditions. It can cause asthma in young children. It can also cause damages to buildings. The exterior of Trinity College and even of the building we are in can be damaged. We have pollution in other forms also. For the benefit of the economy, industry and agriculture must be developed but such development can cause pollution. Agriculture can cause pollution to lakes from effluents but there are measures and legislation to deal with such pollution.

There was a programme on television about the environment being damaged by pollution. It referred to disused cars and litter. Such litter definitely is not enhancing our tourism prospects. Pollution of the environment is caused by the dumping of crashed cars, litter and other things in our countryside. There was a Litter Act in 1982 but it does not seem to be as effective as it should be. I do not know whether there have been prosecutions. I did not hear of any. Litter does not make it attractive for tourists to visit this country but the situation has not improved.

Our main concern in this Bill deals with acid rain. Rain is slightly acidic but in recent decades industrial pollution has artificially increased the acidity of rain and snow to the point where it has a variety of harmful effects and is now referred to as acid rain or acidation. Acid rain is principally caused by emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides. These come from the burning of fossil fuels, mainly coal and oil, in power stations, industrial plant, motor vehicles, and from domestic sources. The nitrous oxides and sulphur dioxide drift to earth fairly near the source of emission and cause acidification where they land. This is called the dry deposition. Or they may stay longer in the atmosphere and undergo a chemical reaction to sulphuric and nitric acids. These are suspended in air currents and may be carried thousands of miles across national boundaries before falling as acid [814] rain or snow. This is known as wet deposition. Lakes and rivers are the first victims of acid rain. In Sweden 18,000 lakes have been affected by acidification, 4,000 of them so seriously that most plant and animal life in them has disappeared. In Norway, all rivers and lakes within the area of 5,000 square miles are devoid of fish and in other countries the situation is equally as bad. The Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities in their report on acid rain referred in page 17 to a study on one lake near Maam Cross in County Galway and one in County Wicklow. These lakes had been selected for the study on the rationale that the former because of its location would be unaffected by acid rain while the latter might have some effects. The studies did not reveal much about the damage by acid rain to the life and growth in these lakes, but at the same time we have to be conscious of the damage that can be done to lakes by acid rain.

Damage to forests is perhaps the most dramatic consequence of acid rain. Millions of acres of trees, mainly in central Europe, have been devastated already and further destruction is expected. It is not known exactly how tree damage is caused, but acid rain, in combination with certain soil conditions and climatic factors, is known to play a major role. One of the frightening features of acid rain blight is the rapidity with which it strikes. In 1982, 8 per cent of West German forests were classified as seriously affected. Only a year later, this figure had risen to 34 per cent and by 1984 it was over 50 per cent. That gives a clear indication of the damage acid rain can do to forests.

I am delighted to see from the report that the Forest and Wildlife Service have informed the joint committee that there is no evidence of any forestry related problems connected with acid rain in Ireland. As in Britain, it is not possible to be certain that damage has not occurred in the past or may not occur in the future. The fact that we do not have this problem may be because our country is not as industrialised as these countries [815] in mid Europe. Because of our situation and the prevailing winds, we are fortunate that acid rain is not affecting our forests. At present we have overproduction in meat, beef and cereals, so our future policy should be to plant as much land as possible with trees because there will be a demand for timber. There will be a good prospect for an export trade in timber. We should concentrate on developing our afforestation programme and we should also ensure that it is not damaged by pollution from acid rain.

Ireland is less polluted from acid rain than most other European countries. However, despite the relatively clean prevailing south westerly winds, the acidity level of rain has been steadily on the increase over the past two decades, due to the increasing level of industrialisation in Ireland.

Acid rain can also affect farmland. Irish farmland has been affected. According to Dr. Paul Dowding, Director of Environmental Studies at Trinity College, who has been researching the acid rain effects in Ireland; there were a number of acid rain occurrences in the Wicklow area a couple of years ago sufficient to cause considerable leaching of nutrients from the soil. These have occurred when the wind has been from the east. This indicates that our air pollution caused by acid rain is coming from other countries. As I have already mentioned, buildings in Dublin city centre and in other urban areas have been damaged by acid rain.

What can be done to prevent acid rains? In the case of power plants, the electricity board will have to instal some type of equipment to ensure that sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides are not emitted into the air. Although such equipment is costly, it is important that it be installed in plants such as Moneypoint. It might be better to do it now than later. Motor vehicles also emit sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide to damage atmospheric conditions. Cars can be fitted with equipment to prevent such pollution and this equipment should be mandatory.

[816] Senator O'Toole referred to the pollution caused by old buses. Old cars which burn a lot of oil also cause a problem. We should introduce legislation to ensure that when engines are so old as to emit dioxides the owners of the cars should have to replace the engines or the cars. We must tackle the problem of air pollution. The European Directive which asks us to instal equipment to ensure that there will not be any emission of nitrous oxides or sulphur dioxide from large plants, will have to be complied with despite the cost, and notwithstanding pollution from other countries, especially from Sellafield and Chernobyl. It would be hypocritical to demand that other countries ensure that there will not be any pollution from their plants, if we do not take measures to ensure that there will not be pollution from ours. This is very important legislation and I hope it will be effective.

Mr. J. Higgins: I support the proposals in the Bill, but I have doubts about some parts of the Bill. We have had a constructive debate and most salient points have been covered. I will not regurgitate them. Anything that tightens control, introduces deterrents, or that prohibits or hinders the destruction of the natural environment must be welcomed. For far too long the alarm bells have rung and have gone basically unheeded. Current measures have been largely ineffective or are not enforced. Regulations in licences are being flouted on a large scale. Industrial plants have caused terrible hardship for many people. While we all accept the desirability and the absolute necessity of maintaining existing job levels and of promoting job creation policies and new employment, how often have the lives of individuals and communities been made unpleasant or intolerable by the nauseous and dangerous discharges of polluted air from chemical plants, meat factories, piggeries and from various industrial and service agricultural enterprises? It is not fair that people's lives should be plunged into misery by having to live in conditions in which they do not dare open their windows to breathe the air, because if [817] they do they will imbibe the stench and filth from some enterprise down the road. It is too much to accept, that schools have to, in some cases, insulate their windows and doors to keep out the stench of emissions from nearby enterprises. Accidents will continue to happen. The accident at Chernobyl should not have happened. Any enterprise that has a high accident incidence rate or casualty rate should not be entertained. When it comes to a decision between jobs and the danger to the environment, there can be only one winner, and that must be the environment.

I have two reservations about the Bill. First the Bill does not go far enough by way of deterrent. A maximum fine, with an either or option of a jail sentence might sound an awesome deterrent. There is not one reference in the Bill to a minimum fine. While £1,000 fine for summary conviction might be a deterrent to a small enterprise, to a large multimillion pound corporation it would be derisory. Indeed, in many enterprises of multi-million pound proportions a maximum fine of £10,000 would not be the deterrent one would like. Stiff cash penalties are the only answer. With the current attitude to pollution here, while the likelihood of a jail sentence might seem to be a deterrent, it is a most unlikely prospect.

While I welcome the regular reviews of licences, I would like an assurance from the Minister of State that for incessant, constant and regular breaches within the three year minimum review period, a local authority will have the right to revoke the licences applying to enterprises found guilty of such breaches.

My other reservation about the Bill is that it is but part of what is required. It deals only with air pollution. Surely what is required is comprehensive pollution legislation dealing with all aspects of the problem. We now have such imbalances and excesses in so many areas of various industrial and commercial activity that the environment is not capable of absorbing and accommodating these excesses. While we welcome industrial development as undoubtedly the major vehicle [818] for job promotion and the economic activity that it generates, we must insist on high standards. We must insist that enterprises which are grant-aided by the Industrial Development Authority or by the EC, have proper pollution control plans and that the grant element component built into such grants for pollution control is used for that purpose. We know of cases where there has been a very high component of grant aid for pollution control but where it has been channelled into other areas of the industrial promotion. We must ensure that where damage has been caused in the past there is a reconstitution of a healthy environment. In this regard I subscribe to the view of Senator Deenihan, that while this legislation covers future enterprises retrospection is needed to deal with present offenders. I know that these people may come within the ambit of EC Directives but we will have to have equally strong legislative measures to deal with present offenders.

The control of pollution is a challenge to all of us. It is not an easy challenge. Very often when introducing legislation one is talking about making choices which are fundamentally unpopular. In many cases, it means giving priority to the long term over the short term, priority to a specific interest rather than to the general interest. The reason why comprehensive legislation is required to deal with all aspects of the problem is that despite the fact that there is a general impression that the problem is being tackled on a national and global level, the statistics refute this. Although dust and soil emission in the atmosphere has been reduced by 50 per cent, at the same time there has been a sharp increase in the formation of a carcinogenic hydrocarbon compounds. While mud and dirt content in rivers has been reduced there has, at the same time, been a considerable increase in heavy metal compounds.

Energy produced from oil, gas, coal and uranium is polluting and overheating the atmosphere with consequent effects and damage to climate. The purifying faculties of the soil have been impaired by agricultural chemicals, by acid rain [819] and by over-cultivation. In the past twenty years, and this is the most salutary indictment of the lot, 822 out of 2,667 indigenous plant species and 116 out of 486 indigenous animal species have died. Very often, as Senator Deenihan said, the solution has been to sweep the problem under the carpet, to move the pollution on, to ignore boundaries, to ignore the welfare of some people who reside 500 miles away and might feel the effects of our pollution. We have, as has been referred to several times, the haphazard burning of rubbish that has led to the despoilation of the countryside. We have also the pollution of water tables. While this legislation addresses to some extent the problem of air pollution, comprehensive pollution legislation is called for.

There will have to be a dramatic change in the official attitude to the environment. The increasing danger to the environment makes it necessary to devise ecologically-oriented strategies for both production and consumption. We have to move from being a waste producing society to being a recyling society. Environmental policy will have to be more positive. We have, for far too long, been negative. We have always adopted the attitude that one does not do this or that. We put up prohibitions, rather than asking people to do something. In the past we have had directives and bans which have not worked. Pollution is increasing despite all the efforts, because we have half-hearted application of legislation on the one hand and legislation and directives which are riddled with loopholes. Companies often use the argument very effectively, particularly in relation to bringing public pressure to bear that the necessary corrective measures are not economically justifiable. Too often industrialists have refused to take an interest in the environment or pollution control, unless it can conclusively be proved to be cheaper than pollution. One certain way of making sure that pollution control is cheaper is by adopting the principle that they have adopted very [820] successfully in Japan, that is that the polluter pays. The Japanese have done this very successfully. They ensure that those enterprises which pose a definite threat to the environment are made pay for damage. There is a system of absolute liability. They have levies for air and water pollution, for noise pollution, for the production of refuse, for the defacement of landscape and so on. If we had a levy system like this it would make it economically more attractive for firms to invest in environmental protection and to ensure that the needless pollution indulged in at present is no longer indulged in. Provision could also be made in the State's finance and tax policies for financial incentives for clean operations and for those which are ecologically beneficial.

While there is reluctance on the part of industrialists there is no question but that over the years public opinion has changed quite radically. There is a greater acceptance now of the need to do something. Despite the fact that the green parties may not have, to a large extent, caught on in terms of electoral support, there is no question whatever that there is a greater acceptance on the part of the citizen that more money will have to be devoted towards environmental control, pollution control and so on. There is something very positive here that points the way for politicians, legislators and decision makers. For the closing years of the eighties and nineties we have to lay the myths once and for all that pollution control kills jobs. We have to adopt the attitude that an ecological economy can create jobs, can free us from toxic disasters, and can prevent the type of disaster that we saw at Chernobyl or the wholesale collapse of the environment.

We tend to talk in exclusive national terms. Never is this more exemplified than in our attitude to acid rain. Senator Lanigan said that acid rain was of minor proportions here. We do not really know, because it is a relatively new phenomenon. I imagine that a lot of the decay of buildings that is taking place in this city could be laid fairly and squarely at the [821] feet of the people who generate acid rain. While we cannot quantify it, all the evidence is that many of the fine structures of this city, the facades of which are crumbling, are decaying because of the sulphur content in the rain that falls on this city. We have, as Senator Deenihan said, the frightening examples of other places in Europe. The Senator mentioned that in Sweden 4,000 out of 18,000 lakes were so polluted by acid rain that they could not sustain fish life. We have the example of Germany where the forests of Bavaria have literally disappeared and where the damage is assessed at a figure of £300 million per year. We have the example of the famous Lake District of England, Westmoreland and Cumberland, Windermere, Ullswater and so on where 11 lakes have degenerated to such an extent that they cannot sustain fish life. It is very sad, for an area that gave one of our finest nature poets, Wordsworth, the germ, the thought, the ideas with which to produce some of the finest nature poetry in the world. We have to face up to the fact that even though pollution may not be that much in evidence around us, and even though statistics seem to indicate that we are not a major polluter, we have to aspire towards the highest standards rather than the lowest standards. We have to be realistic. While our pollution percentage rate seems small on a global basis, if we take it per capita of the population, we are among the biggest polluters in Europe.

I welcome the measures contained in the Bill. It is certainly a step in the right direction. I welcome the section which states that local authority inspectors will have the right to make unannounced inspections into various enterprises. I would urge that where an offender is found and indicted there should be more than this, in that there should be a local authority presence in the premises, until such time as the operation is cleaned up. I welcome the introduction of air quality management plans, the special control areas and so on. Senator Deenihan questioned the capacity of local authorities to police, introduce, and implement the measures in the Bill. There is no question [822] but that it is very difficult for a poacher to become gamekeeper. Local authorities are in some cases wittingly and unwittingly, guilty of gross pollution in relation to sewerage, treatment works and so on. One may put it down to a lack of capital but there is a major question mark over the capacity of local authorities, to police, and to implement this legislation as long as local authorities are flouting the regulations.

Senator Deenihan referred to a report recently produced where it was stated by the tourist industry interest that the environment can be blamed for a tourism crisis. While we talk about pollution in the area of sanitation being caused by local authorities who are not being properly supervised, the report also draws attention to planning permissions and so on. The report rightly states that the environment is the cornerstone of the tourism industry and goes on to blame local authorities for the bungalow blight with particular reference to the implementation of section 4s which has led to rash building throughout the length and breadth of the countryside, which in turn has led to the despoliation of the landscape and the ruination of scenic views. The Bill before us is a considerable measure. If it is implemented it will do a lot to reduce the incidence of air pollution. I am worried about the existing plants which do not come within the ambit of it and I include Moneypoint in that. If it heightens an awareness of what has to be done, and if it does it, we will have done a good day's work for the community and for the environment.

Mr. Ferris: This is an extraordinary Bill. It is one we have been talking about for a long time. The actual scope of the legislation itself indicates, first of all, the existing problem we have, how we can address that problem and what new guidelines we can set down for future development to comply with EC and other directives.

In an excellent contribution, Senator Higgins seemed to be of the opinion that existing factories could continue to have [823] a particular standard applied to them and that all new applicants would have to have a higher standard. I hope the Minister will confirm that the Bill covers all existing enterprises, that they will all have to achieve the same standard we will be laying down for new applicants. If that was not the case it would probably be unconstitutional. It would be pointless to initiate legislation giving preference to existing plants which are offensive.

I share the sentiments of Senator Higgins that the creation of employment is a goal to which we all aspire but as members of local authorities we can never do that at the cost of the environment.

Irrespective of the type of development that now takes place in our country — and quite a lot of new technological developments have taken place — it must be possible to ensure, with all the new technology available to them, that industries and industrial developers, particularly the multi-nationals, should have written into the cost of their development some level of environmental control. If we do not do that, we will become the dumping ground of multi-nationals throughout the world which are forbidden in their own countries or even in underdeveloped countries from having enterprises which offend the environment. Because of that this legislation is very important. I hope local authorities will be able to meet the challenge this type of legislation issues to them.

I am a member of a local authority which is a planning body. Whenever we are faced with an application from a multi-national, a pharmaceutical or other such processing industry, we are almost incapable of assessing the environmental consequence of that type of development. We have had some of these developments in my constituency. Were it not for the expertise available to us from the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards we probably would have been incapable of making a decision in favour of siting a plant in what would be recognised as a fertile agricultural area close to one of the most important fish [824] rivers in the country and also right in the heart of the tourist area. One such development has been the subject of a court case, the results of which are widely known. It highlighted the inability of the local authority to come to grips with this new type of industrial development now coming on our shores, particularly in the pharmaceutical area.

I was delighted the court found in favour of the company because the company were a major employer and had given all sorts of assurances to all of us that what they were doing was within the required standards and to their knowledge was not responsible for some of the devastation that had taken place in the valley. These are the kind of challenges we will be faced with in the future. It is important that we should have an Act on the Statute Book which the local authorities can use in support of any stringent requirements written into planning applications.

The Bill is very comprehensive. In her opening contribution the Minister outlined in detail all the sections of public interest. When we decided to take the report on acid rain with it, that enabled us to look at the level of air pollution in which acid rain is directly involved. Statistics have been given indicating the level of acid rain in other countries, particularly in Europe. It must be reassuring to us, and to me in particular as a Tipperary person, that continental people have sold out their farms and enterprises in Germany and come to Tipperary to live and to farm organically. From the research they carried out it was the least likely county in Ireland to suffer from acid rain. That was the only reason they chose it.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: It has other virtues.

Mr. Ferris: And you are one of them.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I did not mean that.

Mr. Ferris: I did. They chose the county because they carried out expert [825] research into the damage caused by acid rain and the possibility of its affecting this country. They are farming organically successfully in the area now and are quite pleased with their decision. They have shown that organic farming in this environmentally clear area has repaid the vast expenditure incurred in the movement of their equipment and families to this country from the Continent which has been polluted by this tragedy of acid rain.

That does not mean we must not be worried about the possibility of emissions from Moneypoint or any place else that might lead to a build up in the environment which could give a level of acid rain. I have visited that enterprise and I have listened to the technical assurances of the people involved who had all sorts of documentation and expert advice available to say that our worries and concerns were unnecessary, that they were satisfied from their research that what they were doing was correct and within the acceptable standards. We must be ever watchful. We must not forfeit, for the sake of short term expediency, all the environmental benefits of which we have always been proud.

In addition to acid rain which is a major problem, we are subjected to air pollution. The Chernobyl disaster, as Senator Higgins said, should never have happened. The reality is that it did happen. If one further unit there had difficulty the consequences throughout the world could never be measured. Humans can err. Nuclear plants are not infallible. The nuclear plants on the British coastline have proven that their standards are not what we would want.

We have not yet been in a position to measure the damage caused by Chernobyl in spite of the fact that we were the least affected by this disaster. We have identified a higher level of radioactivity than we would normally expect in some of our produce and crops. I do not want to be a scaremonger. I want to be responsible in this area and all the levels found at the moment are well within the accepted levels of the EC but it is still worrying that because of particular atmospheric conditions and rainfalls in parts of the [826] country within a prescribed period after the disaster which polluted the air, parts of Ireland suffered unnecessarily. I am wondering what kind of redress any Government will have either at an international forum or the United Nations to ensure that the offending Government is held responsible for consequences which we are still unable to measure and which could affect the produce of animals at present grazing on land which was polluted by rainfall at that time. What redress will we have in the future? Money will not redress some of the health consequences of the Chernobyl disaster but I foresee, in the spring time particularly, an increase in the level of radioactivity arising out of that disaster because of the intake now by animals of some of the cereal crops produced in the rainy period which will now be used as winter fodder. I do not want people to get concerned about the increased levels that may arise in various meats which are produced from grazing at that time. We will have to contend with it. We have to hope that they will be within the acceptable international standards and the European standards; otherwise our markets could be in jeopardy. We can point the finger at the Chernobyl plant.

In this Bill we will try to ensure that various enterprises in this country meet certain standards. The Community has a major responsibility to ensure that plants within its jurisdiction will also have to toe the line and will have to be responsible for damage that is caused in the environment. In addition to the known damage done by acid rain and nuclear fallout we have the environmental pollution of foul air. Senator Higgins referred to this. All counties are suffering from enterprises which may not have a health hazard attached to them but they have the most appalling stench from some of their processing units. It is particularly obvious in the meat processing area. It is more than obvious in the processing of by-products. From a health point of view while they may create no problems, there is no doubt that they offend the normally accepted standard of foul air. This will affect our tourist industry, and people's [827] decisions about where they will locate other industries. It will also affect decisions by people as to where they want to live. It is a pity that with all the new technology available to industrialists the problem of foul air cannot be dealt with. If the Bill ensures that the local authority has the right to investigate it, it will have served a very useful purpose.

There are other people who have shown concern about this legislation, people such as the coal importers and other people who would be considered by some to have a vested interest but looking at the documentation they submitted to us for consideration, some of their worries can be justified. I hope the Minister, in her response, will take into account some of the views that have been expressed by people who use coal and distribute it for use within built-up areas. In winter, when atmospheric conditions are suitable you will get smog which hangs over an area particularly where they burn coal. In my post this morning I found an interesting document. It is taken from the Chief Environmental Health Officers' Annual Report of 1985-86 and I quote:

“Air pollution in Dublin continues to fall, according to Dublin Corporation statistics from the year April 1985-March 1986.

The figures, based on median readings for the Dublin Corporation monitoring stations, show an 18 per cent decrease in smoke level and a 24 per cent decrease for sulphur dioxide.

Significantly winter readings for all the stations was down by 15% for smoke and 73% for sulphur dioxide.

EEC limits for smoke were reached at only three stations — Rathmines, Ballyfermot and Old County Road — on more than seven days in the year. Ballyfermot is the only one of the eleven monitoring stations which exceeded the limits for more than three consecutive days. On the advice of the Warren Spring Laboratory, the monitoring stations at Ballyfermot and Rathmines are to be relocated as they [828] may not be recording accurate measurements. A new station has been commissioned at the Old County Road.

It goes on:

In 1985 the Warren Spring Laboratory was commissioned by the Environmental Health Section of Dublin Corporation to carry out an assessment of the current smoke and SO2 monitoring network in the Dublin area. The Warren Spring Laboratory also recommended that the number of stations be reduced from 14 to 11 with monitoring being discontinued at Cornmarket, East Wall and The Custom House. This has been done.

That is an important quotation. If that is true, maybe some of our concern about environmental pollution in the Dublin city area is unwarranted.

I accept what Senator Higgins has said in regard to some of the most important buildings and monuments in this city. There is an erosion of the materials used in building apart from the discoloration and that must be caused by something in the atmosphere. If it is acid rain we would want to know about it. Perhaps it is by pollution from forms of fuel other than coal. Is it from diesel fuels, is it from a high lead content in petrol or what? If something is not done about it soon, this city could crumble. We are dissatisfied. The Minister has a responsibility for national buildings and national monuments and I know of his commitment in that area since coming to office. Many of these buildings are of interest to all of us. It is important that a proper analysis be carried out of the reason for the damage to some of our buildings within a stone's throw of this House and on the perimeter of this House.

I welcome the principle of the Bill. It has various sections which give local authorities a lot of powers. I hope they can match that power with manpower and confidence and expertise to be able to carry out their work. Local authorities have a lesson to learn. By giving them responsibility it will also ensure that the [829] public will be critical of the standards that local authorities implement whether in the area of sewage disposal which was commented on because in the past major towns had inefficient sewerage systems and local authorities were in a dilemma because they were responsible for the maintenance of water courses and pollution free rivers. They were allowing major towns to pollute rivers. Fortunately over the past ten or 15 years major improvements have taken place with Government assistance and with major sewerage and treatment works, and local authorities' records are beginning to improve in this area.

I have some reservations still in the area of tiphead control. A major issue with most of us at the moment is the relocation of tipheads because of the need to close down existing ones. It is our inability as local authorities to deal properly with existing tipheads that has created most of our problems in trying to relocate them. We have allowed burning to take place which creates air pollution, we have allowed scavengers — animals, humans and birds — to scavenge in tipheads and scatter it all over the place. We have allowed the approach roads to tipheads to be polluted by people who are just too lazy to go into the actual tiphead or who go at a time when the tiphead is closed and dump it on the roadside. All these responsibilities are in the hands of local authorities at the moment and they are trying to come to grips with them and they have major problems because of an attitude in the past by local authorities that if it was a dump it was a dump and it was treated as such. We know now that most of these areas can be reclaimed and used again for environmental purposes, for building purposes, for the provision of amenities, for sport and games and so on. They are not just waste pieces of ground. They can be brought back into useful life in the future. My own council is right in the middle of this problem at the moment and it is our inactivity in the past that has created the problems particularly for local authority members. Like the itinerant problem nobody wants to have a [830] tiphead near them. If we could wave a magic wand and get rid of the rubbish it would be fine but there are times when the management of councils do not take to themselves seriously the responsibility that is conferred on them under the County Management Act. They should make decisions and not be depending on local politicians who are trying to survive on the electorate or on the views of the electorate. You can find you are not matching the responsibility that is given to you as a sanitary authority with responsibility in that area. Some of our tipheads are a source of air pollution. I am satisfied that when this Bill is enacted it will heighten the awareness of all levels in local authority of the standards that we require of ourselves if we are to be seen genuinely to be able to implement standards for other people and to enter their premises and their property to ensure it.

It is an excellent piece of legislation; it is a very wide-ranging one and I hope that when ministerial orders are made to bring in various sections an opportunity will be given to existing factories to achieve the standards that we want. We should be able to do that without closing them down overnight. We should be conscious of the problems in trying to achieve these standards from an era in which there were very little standards if any. We were prepared to welcome industrialists with open arms and say: “You can start a factory in my area; I do not mind what you are doing so long as you employ people” but nowadays, thank God, we are a little more conscious of our responsibility and generally visitors to this country say that we have a very clean country and that we should be careful of our environment.

Admittedly some of the facilities we provide are abused by people. We do not have the best reputation in the area of toilet facilities, outdoor toilets, public toilets and so on, but environmentally we can offer more to any visitor, tourist or industrialist than any other part of the world and we should ensure that that is protected.

Mr. Howard: I have a few general comments to make on the Bill. I understand [831] that at least one other Senator wishes to contribute and for that reason I intend to curtail what I have to say.

I give a guarded welcome to this Bill. I recognise and indeed I support the objective of improving the quality of our air. I adhere to that principle and support the objective. There are very many positive aspects to this legislation. I would like, if more time were available to me, to comment on these but I realise that I am coming in at a late stage in the debate and that many of my colleagues have adequately covered what I regard as the positive part of this legislation. For that reason I want to say that I support the positive aspects of it and I support the objective of it as well.

There are certain aspects of the Bill that I look on with the greatest reservations. It is to these particular aspects of the Bill that I intend to devote my remarks. In doing that I recognise my failure to amplify what I regard as the positive aspects of the Bill and by focusing on what I regard as rather dangerous provisions of the Bill I know I am likely to be branded in a particular category and perhaps be classified as somebody not willing to give to the air the protection it deserves. I run that risk but nevertheless I am prepared to take a chance on it. I want to adhere to that.

A number of Senators have referred to the fact that this is mainly enabling legislation and that many of its provisions can only come into being on orders being made by the Minister of the day. That is fine but nonetheless we are providing certain powers that can be brought in by order under this legislation and consequently we have a duty to examine what their possible effect could be in extreme circumstances. A number of my colleagues have gone the road to Chernobyl and Sellafield. We had a discussion on acid rain, we deplored what had happened to the Scandinavian lakes and to the forests of Germany and other countries. There are other times when these same colleagues will laud to the skies the economic development of Scandinavia [832] and Germany. They will praise the standard of living and the employment opportunities that are available in these places and they will compare it with the economic development of this country and compare also the employment opportunities and the standard of living in these particular regions with those in our country. They will deplore the fact that we are in such a minus situation in that comparison. People should make up their minds what they want of this country in the future. There are people who would gladly utilise any power to ensure that we would have a totally pollution-free atmosphere, absolutely pure air, pure rivers and pure countryside, even if the cost of that was a totally depopulated Ireland. Therefore, we need to make up our minds which road we are travelling or what price we are prepared to pay. There are certain provisions in this Bill which if brought into effect, in my opinion, would represent an unjustified interference and curtailment with the liberty of the individual. People have spoken in this House in relation to this particular measure who, on other occasions, have almost lost their cool in their concern for the protection of the civil liberties of people. They ignored the real danger that exists in this situation. If this Bill was brought into effect it would amount to the destruction of the sanctity of a person's home which has been the last refuge of man since the dawn of history. That might appear to be a sweeping statement: I will deal with it in detail shortly.

I should like to comment on the Minister's speech. In particular I should like to refer to the statement that the environment cannot be sacrificed for development and neither should development be seen as the enemy of the environment. I totally share that point of view. I regret to have to point out to the Minister that in a statement further on we are confronted with a total contradiction of that aspiration where she says that localised problems have emerged in recent years, sometimes connected with a particular industry, in other cases related to activity such as mining or quarrying, sometimes [833] arising from changes in traditional ways of doing things, as for instance, the increased practice of straw burning.

The Minister went on to refer to power generation, industrial and commercial development, the domestic sector and transport sector as contributing to various pollutants which she referred to. Therefore, I would suggest to the Minister that if you follow the conviction that the environment cannot be sacrificed to development and neither should development be seen as the enemy of the environment, I do not know how you can reconcile that with the ideas or the viewpoints expressed in the later statement. There is a certain incompatibility between the two. I may be returning to these under a different heading later on.

I wish to refer to Moneypoint which has come in for a certain amount of criticism in this discussion. Moneypoint has been criticised in the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee. I have no objection to supporting the view that if equipment is necessary to control emissions from Moneypoint that should be provided. I do not accept that there is a conflict in relation to the cost of providing that equipment. The ESB stated that it would cost £400 million; another reputable source estimated the cost to be one-tenth of that but at present both Clare County Council and the ESB have commissioned An Foras Forbartha to monitor the emissions from Moneypoint. I hope when the findings of that study are available if is found that there is a necessity to install the equipment necessary, it will be done and I call on the ESB to do so. I do not want Moneypoint to be identified as a possible mini-Chernobyl in Ireland. People are building up hysteria with regard to Moneypoint. I am concerned because the development at Moneypoint on the Shannon estuary is the first major industrial development on the Clare side of the river. No doubt in its wake other important industrial development can take place there.

The Shannon Estuary is the greatest natural resource we have there. Therefore, when criticism is being made of Moneypoint and of the supposed dangers [834] that may emerge from it, a proper balance should be maintained in these arguments and due recognition given to the work being done by An Foras Forbartha on behalf of Clare County Council and the ESB in monitoring the emissions from it. I have also received some literature from an organisation called Earth Watch. This organisation have focused very strongly on Moneypoint. I detect an anti-Money-point attitude running through their submission. I am not criticising them for their viewpoint; I recognise their right to put their views on paper and convey them to the public. They should examine in greater depth the efforts being made by Clare County Council and the ESB to monitor the emissions from Moneypoint and to recognise that there are people with a concern in this field who are taking a positive approach to dealing with the dangers that may emerge from it.

I also welcome the submission from the Coal Information Council who have been quite helpful in providing informtion in relation to the level of pollution in Dublin. I regret that their submission was condemned last week as being the product of a well-heeled organisation with a vested interest. I value the information they supplied just as I value the viewpoint of organisations such as Earth Watch.

There is a new concept coming into this legislation, that is, the question of pollution charges, the question of their application and perhaps the temptation by tax-starved local authorities to look on them as a source of much-needed local revenue. I would like information on the long term effects that may arise from the implementation of these charges on industrial development and commercial activity even on a smaller scale. There is a lot to be said for the principle that the polluter pays. I am simply echoing the Minister's view and that of others but I am concerned that the same authority who will decide on the level of charges will also collect. Therefore, the local authorities will be judge and jury and executioner in relation to the level of charges and to whom and where they will apply.

[835] One section of this Bill concerns me most of all. I refer again to the Minister's speech where she sets out her views in relation to the range of powers required by the Minister for the Environment and the local authorities to deal with certain types of farming activity. Reference is made to wind-blown dust arising from land use. There is no type of farm cultivation on a windy, dry spring day that will not rise to wind-blown dust and if section 25 of the Bill is to be used with all the powers contained in it, we are simply saying the power will be there for a local authority or a pollution officer of a local authority to say “no cultivation of land”.

The Minister is shaking her head. I want to be reassured on this point. Wind-blown dust can arise from other types of agricultural activities as well, such as the spreading of lime and fertilisers. There are a number of areas involved but particularly where cultivation is concerned whoever has decided that wind-blown dust becomes a punishable offence under this legislation is effectively saying to the landowners that they cannot cultivate their land. The power is certainly there for an authorised officer of the local authority to say that wind-blown dust arising from land used——

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mrs. A. Doyle): For mining and industrial purposes.

Mr. Howard: The Minister may explain it when she is replying to Second Stage. There is reference to “Wind-blown dust arising from land use”. There could be a comma there and then you could have “for mining” and also “for quarrying”.

Mrs. A. Doyle: There is no comma.

Mr. Howard: I suggest it is the Minister's responsibility to put the comma or the full stop at that point, or indeed make it absolutely clear that——

Mrs. A. Doyle: There is no comma.

Mr. Howard: Very well, but I would [836] like to have an absolute assurance on the record of the House that wind-blown dust arising from farm cultivation is not a punishable offence under the legislation. When that is clarified I will be quite happy. Further on, it was stated that the legislation will prevent the burning of straw, the burning of waste and the burning of any other substance that may cause air pollution. I hold that the burning of straw, hedge trimmings and of other waste arising in farming is a practice that has been there over the years. I am not satisfied we should give power to an authorised officer of the local authority to come in with this sweeping prohibition on the burning of hedge trimmings, straw and so on. I believe it is a dangerous interference with the liberty of the farmers who will, on occasion, require to dispose of that type of surplus material.

In relation to Senator Ferris and his great pride in the fact that people have left Germany and central Europe to engage in organic farming in County Tipperary, I am sure the Minister and the Senator recognises as well as I that one of the vital components of organic farming is ash. If they cannot burn their straw, if they cannot burn their hedge trimmings they will be saying goodbye to County Tipperary.

Mr. Ferris: They can do it without polluting the air. According to the Minister's statement they can burn it underground.

Mr. Howard: A standard practice in farming in the west, and I am sure the Cathaoirleach is aware of this also, is the burning of lime. Many small farmers have engaged in that practice over the years, but under the power vested in an authorised officer of a local authority, that practice can no longer obtain. It is an activity that will in future be a punishable offence under the provisions of this legislation.

Section 14 of the Bill provides that an authorised person shall for any purpose connected with this legislation be entitled at all reasonable times to enter into any premises and bring therein such persons [837] or such equipment as he may consider necessary for the purpose. Subsection (2) says: “An authorised person shall not, other than in a case of urgency, enter a private dwelling... “If, in the opinion of that authorised officer it is a case of urgency, then he may enter the private dwelling of any person at any time and he may bring with him such persons or such equipment into that home as he considers necessary for his purpose. Apart from the Offences Against the State Act there is no other legislation that attacks the sanctity of the home to the same extent as does this legislation. It is an invasion of the sanctity of a person's homestead. It is an attack on the liberty of the individual and I request the Minister strongly to reconsider the powers that she is prepared, in this legislation, to confer on the authorised officer of a local authority.

There are other provisions in the Bill which could be dealt with on Committee Stage, but I want to reply briefly to a number of them. In section 4 of the Bill air pollution is defined, and there is a reference to flora and fauna. Again, it is necessary to have a balance in this particular area. I come from the county where the Burren is located and where the fauna and flora is quite unique. While I totally support its preservation and the need to preserve it, I am also conscious that there are people who are gone over the brink, as it were, on the other side and who, in their determination to ensure that the flora and fauna cannot be under any threat or imagined threat, have been influential in preventing landowners in that area from controlling the spread of scrub, from spreading the fertilisers on their land and from cultivating their fields there. If there is a body of opinion who believe that the fauna and flora, for example, in the Burren is to be preserved I support that, provided there is an arrangement that that land be taken into public ownership. However, I do not accept that the risk of any supposed deterioration in the flora and fauna of the Burren be eliminated at the cost of depressing the income and livelihood of the landowners in that area. Having [838] experience of the extremes that certain people will go to and the disadvantages that certain landowners have been placed under in the Burren area, I simply draw attention to the fact that this particular reference is in section 4.

Section 7 deals with the interpretation of “authorised person.” An authorised person may be appointed in writing by the local authority but he can also be an authorised person appointed in writing by a person specified for this purpose. I would need to know who is the person specified for the purpose of appointing this individual. Is it the Minister we are talking about or is it some official in his Department? I am also concerned that in the definition of “fireplace,” for example, we are talking about the grates and the stoves that you will find in dwellings and private residences.

There is also reference to a public place. I am conscious of the fact that last night one of my colleagues attended the Seanad at a late hour in relation to his concern about what he regarded as an injustice being inflicted on the travelling people. I cannot understand how it escaped him that a public place, as far as section 7 of this Bill is concerned, means any street, road and other locations. Obviously the power will be there in this Bill to prevent travellers lighting a campfire, which is part of their culture.

I am concerned about the scale of penalties that are included in section 12, but perhaps that is something we can deal with when we come to Committee stage. I am also conscious that I have gone on for some time here but I want to refer to section 25, where the Minister may by regulation prohibit or restrict, the emission into the atmosphere of smoke from any premises; he can prohibit or restrict, subject to such exceptions as may be specified, the burning of straw, waste or any other substances at such premises and such times as may be specified.

I believe there will be power in section 25 for the Minister to restrict by regulation the emission of smoke from private dwellings. It is conceivable that we could go down the road where a Minister of the day would simply say: “No smoke from [839] private dwellings”. That power is being provided in this legislation and it is a question of the extent of the power we are prepared to provide first to the Minister and, through the Minister, to authorised officers of the local authority.

I referred on a number of occasions to authorised officers of the local authority. In the vast majority of cases I am satisfied that they would be reasonable people and that their interpretation and enforcement of their powers under this legislation would be reasonable and acceptable. However, you have always to provide for the situation where you find — and it is reasonable to expect you would find within the number of local authorities we have — at least one crank, one individual with tunnel vision, who would use to the disadvantage of very many people the powers he would have conferred upon him through this legislation. For as long as there is that risk, that even one individual would utilise these powers in a way that all of us would find objectionable where the individual or private citizen is concerned, then we must recognise we have to make provision to prevent it being used in that way.

I am also concerned with certain powers in section 28 of the Bill, where the High Court “may, on the application of a local authority or any other person, by order, prohibit or restrict an emission from any premises where the Court is satisfied...”. In other words, we are providing the opportunity and the power for any crank to have access to the High Court. To put my fears in perspective, one crank in County Clare would have the power when this legislation is passed to go to the High Court and shut down Moneypoint, even if in the opinion of the local authority such course was not necessary. I believe it is sufficient and adequate for that power to be restricted to the local authority in each area and that is how it should be.

I am concerned at the power being given to the Minister in section 53 of the Bill. In a nutshell, that is the power that would enable the Minister to decide what type of fuel may or may not be used for [840] a fire in a private dwellinghouse. I believe that power, particularly when you look at our society, could certainly be used in a manner that would disadvantage further those who are already disadvantaged in our society. I believe there is need for many of the powers and provisions in this legislation, but there is need also for the Minister to look again at the provisions, particularly at those I have referred to, to ensure that there is a balance in this legislation. I feel at present that balance is lacking. I believe there are many aspects of the powers that are being provided in this piece of legislation that require a detailed examination, first by the Minister between now and Committee Stage and by the House when we discuss the Committee Stage.

When I decided not to enumerate the positive points of this legislation in my contribution but to simply focus on those I found to be objectionable, I ran the risk of being categorised as being pro-pollution and so on. Nonetheless, the fears I have held in relation to these powers are genuine. I have expressed them as best I could in the time available to me and I invite the Minister to consider the dangers I feel exist. Perhaps she has the capacity to reassure me that the fears I have raised are not well-founded and that the operation of these powers will be on a basis and a level that I have not correctly estimated. If so, I am sure that many of my fears could be allayed.

I conclude by saying that I am always nervous of legislation that attacks the freedom and liberty of the citizens, particularly in their own homes. I am concerned that some local authority official can decide there is urgency and that he can invade, with other people and with what equipment he considers necessary, the private dwellinghouse of a citizen of this country. That is a far-reaching provision and there is certainly need to examine it. I referred to the restrictions that I feel are being placed on agriculture through certain aspects of the legislation. The point has been adequately made by Senator Hourigan and other Senators and I look forward with interest to the Minister's reply.

[841] Mr. Durcan: I would like to join with other Senators in welcoming this Bill. The first sentence of the explanatory and financial memorandum spells out very clearly what this is when it states:

The purpose of the Bill is to provide a comprehensive modern legislative framework for the control of air pollution in order to meet national requirements and to enable full effect to be given to relevant EC Directives.

In so far as this Bill presents a framework of that nature I welcome it. I believe the Minister and her officials have got the balance right in providing that framework. I emphasise the word “balance” because I believe that in a Bill of this nature there are many competing interests and it is our job as legislators, to ensure that the correct balance is achieved.

In that regard I do not agree with the closing remarks of Senator Howard when he asked: what do we want? Which road do we want to travel? Which road are we travelling? We cannot speak about the issues which this Bill addresses in terms of any specific road. We must see the issues in terms of many different roads. Our job as legislators is to get the balance right between the various directions in which competing interests are looking.

It is also right and timely that we consider this legislation at this time. In the past 12 months we have particpated in or observed the acid rain debate. We have been aware of the Sellafield and Chernobyl problems. We have been aware of the arguments in relation to the burning of coal in Dublin city. We have also been aware of the effects of air pollution on agriculture. One need only recall the tragic Hanrahan case in County Tipperary to be aware of the possible effects of air pollution on agriculture in general. In the light of this background, it is right and proper that we consider this Bill at this time. I think Senator Higgins said in his comments that we need comprehensive pollution legislation.

Debate adjourned.

[842] Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.

Mr. Durcan: Before lunch I was speaking about the need for comprehensive pollution legislation. When we consider this Bill we must bear in mind the fact that in the past 20 years we have had a considerable amount of legislation which, in one form or another, controls our environment. Such legislation imposes upon local authorities an obligation to control or to police. One need only reflect on legislation like the Gaming and Lotteries Act, 1956, the Planning Acts of 1963 and 1976, the Fire Act of 1981 and the Litter act, 1982 and, indeed, the Dangerous Substances Act that the Minister has just mentioned, in order to realise that there is now a vast corpus of legislation which imposes on local authorities an obligation to police in one way or another. All this legislation deals with our environment. Much of it deals with damage, potential damage, injury, potential injury, abuse or potential abuse, of our environment in one way or another.

All this legislation is concerned with pollution in its broadest sense. We have the Fisheries Consolidation Act, 1959, which was amended by recent legislation. This legislation again concerns itself with the obligations of the central and regional fisheries boards to a limited extent in relation to water pollution. I mention these statutes because I believe their existence in the light of this Bill raises one question. That question is: is the existing system of pollution control in its broadest sense satisfactory, or should there be some more all-embracing anti-pollution agency, whether on a national level or on a local level? We have already had the debate in recent years as to whether the control of water pollution should be a matter for local authorities or a matter for the fisheries boards. We saw sucessive Ministers for Fisheries expressing different views on that. The consensus now is that this could be left within the ambit of the fisheries boards. I am asking, Minister, whether all of the anti-pollution agencies should basically have some form [843] of central control mechanism. One form of pollution can intermingle with another form of pollution. It seems to me to be unsatisfactory that situations can develop whereby pollutants of various kinds are being pursued by different agencies.

I would like to refer now to some of the specific provisions of this Bill. Section 4 of the Bill defines air pollution. I must say I find the definition of air pollution contained in this section to be satisfactory. I regard it as satisfactory because it is a broad definition. That definition is: “`Air pollution' in this Act means a condition of the atmosphere in which a pollutant is present in such a quantity as to be liable to — (i) be injurious to the public health, or (ii) to have a deleterious effect on flora or fauna or damage property, or (iii) impair or interfere with the amenities or with the environment.” I find that definition satisfactory. It is a broad definition. It is a definition that is satisfactory, but what I find unsatisfactory is the inclusion of the First Schedule in this Bill. That is the schedule which follows on section 70 — the interpretation section. A pollutant is defined as any substance that is specified in the First Schedule, or any other substance or energy which, when emitted into the atmosphere, either by itself or in combination with any other substance, may cause air pollution. Why bother having a First Schedule at all? Why bother specifying with exactitude that certain matters are pollutants as is specified in the First Schedule to this Bill? The Bill would be better without the First Schedule. In so far as exactitude is required in this regard I believe that exactitude could be achieved by ministerial regulation. There should be a broad definition in relation to legislation of this nature. Specific definitions give vent to unnecessary litigation. A broad definition can achieve a more satisfactory result.

I want to pass on to section 5 of the Bill, which is a good section. It is a section that the Minister commented on in the course of her own speech in this House [844] as to whether the phrase “the best practicable means” was or was not a satisfactory phrase. I think that it is a satisfactory phrase. Certainly, bearing in mind the growth context of the section, it is a satisfactory phrase.

I want to pass now to section 8 of the Bill. The section says the Act shall apply to premises belonging to or in the occupation of the State. I certainly welcome that provision. I am aware that anti-pollutant agencies, who will be local authorities, can prosecute. I do not find any section which confirms that a local authority itself can be prosecuted if the local authority causes air pollution. The local authorities will be the prosecuting agencies. The local authorities will be the policing agencies, but will the local authorities themselves be subject to policing? I would like to see a situation where nobody or no corporate entity will be above the law so far as air pollution is concerned. We have all seen, in relation to other forms of pollution and particularly water pollution, situations where local authorities have been prosecuted by fishery boards who are the relevant prosecuting authority there. I am unhappy with the fact that there appears to be no clear indication in this Bill that a local authority can be prosecuted. We are all aware that local authorities, in many instances unwillingly, have caused pollution or have been responsible for pollution. I would like to be assured that no local authority would be above the law so far as this matter is concerned. This is a matter to which I will be returning again on Committee Stage.

Section 7 of the Bill deals with some of the points raised by other speakers. They were of interest in relation to the invoilability of the dwelling house. I agree with the point made. I believe one's dwelling house should have a certain sanctity about it. That is a sanctity which has been recognised in our legislation of various kinds. We preserved that sanctity in our capital tax legislation until relatively recently. The makers of our capital tax legislation in 1974 exempted the principal dwelling house from the effects of that legislation. Other legislation which gives [845] officers of various kinds power to enter upon a dwelling house is the subject of very stringent constraints such as the possession in the hands of that officer of a warrant signed by the district justice or somebody else. In this case the definition of a private dwelling is very limited. It reads:

“private dwelling” means any building or structure or any part of any building or structure... which is used, or intended to be used, solely for human habitation but does not include (a) a curtilage or garden...

That is a very definite departure from the standard statutory definition of a dwelling house. A dwelling house always included the garden and the curtilage. The best example is the concept of a dwelling house which is found in the fisheries code. The fishery officer who suspects that somebody has in his or her possession fish unlawfully captured may only enter the dwelling house, garden and curtilage with a warrant. Officers of a local authority who are anti air pollutant officers can sit in somebody's back garden and wait there for 48 hours until they can go into the house, having given due notice. I find that an obnoxious provision. I would like to see the definition of a dwelling house broadened. It is very unsatisfactory and unnecessarily limited as it stands at the moment.

There is a provision in the Bill which makes the local authority the policing agency. In particular I will refer to the definition of the local authority contained in a section of the Bill which provides for the purpose of this Bill that all local authorities, with the exception of urban district councils and town commissioners, will be policing authorities. The Minister should not provide by statute that urban district councils will not be relevant to local authorities for the purpose of this Act. I say that bearing in mind the fact that many of our towns are large towns with urban district councils. One can mention the towns of Dundalk, Ballina or Castlebar which are very large towns with their own problems — problems which are not found possibly in the county area [846] which is governed by a county council with which that urban council has a close relationship. I accept that the county has been used as the policing structure for other legislation, for example, the Fire Act. This legislation, which is enabling legislation and is a framework for control, should not exclude urban district councils. I ask the Minister to bear that point in mind and perhaps consider expanding the meaning of the phrase, “local authority” between now and Committee Stage.

Section 12 deals with penalties. The purpose of this legislation must be to ensure that we have a balance as between vested interests and the environment. I believe that the Bill gets that balance right. The purpose of section 12 must be to ensure that if somebody upsets that balance, or if somebody crosses the white line between the two opposing forces, there must be a penalty which is effective and enforceable.

In relation to conviction in respect of a summary matter, I accept that the fine of £1,000 is reasonable. In respect of conviction or indictment, I do not accept that the £10,000 fine is satisfactory. It should be higher. Furthermore, in so far as the continuing fines are concerned in respect of both summary conviction and conviction on indictment, the level of fine should be increased to the maximum level accepted in respect of summary matters for that type of prosecution. It should be extended to the full £10,000 in respect of conviction on indictment. In relation to summary offences I do not believe one will run into constitutional difficulties. Something should be done to make this situation satisfactory.

Another point I should like to make is in relation to penalties and also relates to sction 28 of the Bill. That is the section which gives local authorities the right to make application to the High Court for an injunction. Both section 12 and section 28 must be re-examined to see how effective they can be. The statutory injunction provided in this Bill is the very same as the type of statutory injunction available [847] in the Planning Act, 1976. My understanding is that that procedure is somewhat cumbersome. It should be possible for a local authority, in respect of a breach of either the Planning Act or the Air Pollution Bill, to make application to the Circuit Court for the injunction that is sought. I cannot see why that power is limited to the High Court. It is making the matter unduly expensive and cumbersome. Where something is policed at local level by a local authority, it is possible that the remedy should exist within that local area. I ask the Minister to look at that between now and Committee Stage.

In relation to the prosecution on indictment in section 12 my understanding in relation to the Planning Act is that this has not worked in practice. This is something which may have to be tried before a judge and jury. I would find it difficult to see how one could get a satisfactory result if one were prosecuting a large milk processing plant in east Mayo before a jury which consisted of Mayo men and women who had supplied the produce that keeps that plant going. Those are the facts of the matter. One must be realistic. I do not want to be more specific about what I am talking about. A person who has been made amenable to the law should have the rigours of the law applied against him if an offence really exists. There should be no escape route by virtue of local feeling, circumstance or vested interest. If one ascertains what the situation is in local authorities in relation to the operation of similar powers under the planning Acts, one finds that some are not operating in a satisfactory way.

I welcome Part III of the Bill which deals with the licensing of industrial plant. That is a very satisfactory and much needed provision. Perhaps there are powers already under the industrial legislation which we have and under the planning Acts and fire Acts. The situation is much more satisfactory from the point of view of air pollution under this Bill.

The operation of this Bill will cost money. The operation of the fire Act will cost money. It would seem that the local [848] authorities do not have the manpower or the time to check all premises in respect of which they have a statutory right to check under the fire Act. I hope funds and expertise will be made available to local authorities to ensure that Part III of this Bill, when enacted and enforced, will be able to operate in a reasonable way.

Part IV of the Bill deals with the establishment of special control areas. That is a provision which I welcome. Part V of the Bill deals with air quality management plans and standards. The Bill should also provide for a statutory obligation to be imposed on local authorities in connection with the statutory review by them of their development plans to deal with the question of air pollution. I do not like the idea of a separate air quality management control plan, but I believe that local authorities should instead, when dealing with the review of their development plan, consider the question of air quality management. It should become part of the development plan for each local authority area. That brings us back to the point that we must make this Bill open to all local authorities. We must impose the obligation on all local authorities but in all cases where it is possible and suitable we must impose the power on local authorities to police this Bill.

As I said at the outset, it is timely that we are considering this Bill at present in view of international developments in this area, in view of the way the world is developing, and in view of the things which we see round us every day of the week. There are differences between town and country in relation to air pollution. I am fascinated when I come to Dublin for two nights a week to find the smog that has dirtied the curtains on my flat bedroom. There is a definite smog, which is created by the atmosphere. I am fascinated by the smog which affects painted walls in this city and is visible for anybody to see. I am fascinated by the facades of Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland which I think are the best examples of why we should have an Air Pollution Bill. If one looks at the bank which has been cleaned and the other [849] building which is standing in all its dirty glory, one can see the need for this Bill.

Senator Ferris said that this is an extraordinary Bill. I do not know why he used that phrase, but what I found extraordinary about this Bill was the fact that it was presented to us on 10 February, 1986. It is interesting to examine the amount of external interest which there was in the Bill. I believe that there are vested interests who are worried about this Bill. I was grateful to receive three separate documents from Coal Information Services who assured me all the time that they were concerned with air pollution, a fact which I accept, but nevertheless I was interested to observe their interest. I was also fascinated to read Frank McDonald's article in The Irish Times earlier this year and to read the article on behalf of Coal Information Services which attempted to contradict many of the things which he said. I was fascinated to receive a document from Waterford Foundry Limited and a document from Irish Fireplace Manufacturers' Association and, finally, a very interesting document from Earth Watch. It is seldom in dealing with legislation that we receive so many representations from so many diverse bodies.

That brings me to the point where I started by saying that this is a Bill in which we have to get a balance. There are conflicting interests. There are interest groups, but I believe that this Bill does get the balance right, subject to teasing out the specific points I mentioned.

Mr. McDonald: I, too, want to take the opportunity of welcoming the Air Pollution Bill, 1986, to the House. It is certainly an opportune time for the House to think very deeply on the problems of air pollution. As a member of the joint committee I remember that we devoted a considerable amount of time to this question. We are glad that the Government are taking measures to endeavour to contain and, perhaps, control air pollution. If we are to make comparisons with other jurisdictions, air pollution is not a huge problem in this [850] country yet. There are some problems adjacent to industrial plants but I am confident that with the help of this Bill, notwithstanding the points that have been very fairly raised by other speakers in this debate, the Department of the Environment will create a balance to ensure that we can look forward to a considerable industrial expansion, and the creation of additional jobs, while at the same time striving to keep the environment in which we live free from pollution.

Section 45 deals with this area at some length. I would like to ask that the Minister for the Environment might in consultation with his colleagues in the Departments of Industry and Finance find a way of grant aiding if possible up to 100 per cent and if not 75 or 80 per cent the cost of providing the pollution controls in industrial plants. That is very important. Similarly, in the agricultural sector I should like to see a 100 per cent grant for the provision of effluent tanks adjacent to silage layouts. That is the only way that people are going to be encouraged to conserve the natural environment. If the Government were to do something like that then we could justifiably increase dramatically the fines and penalties that ought be imposed on people who carelessly pollute either the waterways or other parts of the natural environment. Unless the powers of our planning authorities are strengthened at this time it will be very difficult to undo the wrongs that we could very quickly experience here.

Some months ago we had a very full debate on the problems attached to Sellafield. The committee dealing with the problem of acid rain, with the co-operation of the ESB, went and looked at the new ESB power station in Moneypoint which, when all the units are commissioned, will be using several million tonnes of coal per year. This will have a considerable effect on the environment. The estimated cost, given to the committee, of the machinery and necessary equipment to offset the air pollution expected from that plant is frightening. We have got to get a balance here.

[851] If we want to keep this place as a green and misty isle, as we have known it for generations, then if we put up a plant — and I agree with many of the points made by my colleague, Senator Howard — additional money is necessary in order to make the Moneypoint plant fit in more easily with the environment in the west of Ireland. The ESB has an obligation to provide the necessary equipment to ensure that the midlands and the rest of the country are not polluted and that we do not make a contribution to the acid rain in Europe. While the obligation mainly lies with the ESB to provide the capital for this work, it is in the national interest that the Government should grant aid such facilities to the highest possible extent.

The planning regulations especially in relation to environmental matters have not been strict enough and I trust that this Bill will give local authorities the means and the powers to ensure higher standards of safety and protection for the environment. In relation to industrial plants, the removal of polluting substances from the streets and drains is the easiest control to obtain. We also have noise pollution in the entertainment world as well as in factories. We have no legislation to deal with that. The most dangerous kinds of air pollution would emanate from a nuclear plant, but the pollution that the public notice comes from industrial plants wafting obnoxious smells to one's nostrils. The IDA and the planning authorities should co-operate to a greater extent to ensure that special grant aid to control pollution will be made available to all industrial plants. As one crosses the plains of Kildare on a three or four mile stretch of road, one notices a considerable amount of air pollution, emanating I suspect from the meat plant. There are many industrial chemical plants in the country. In the midlands we have a small plant which gives very good employment. Nevertheless the obnoxious air pollution from them is a cause of worry for very many people residing close to the plants. I know that the management in practically all these [852] cases go to great expense to endeavour to combat that. We have to find a balance to protect industrial jobs and to ensure that the public will be able to live in comfort, be able to walk out in a pollution free atmosphere and not have to close their windows.

Section 16 has not been mentioned to date in this debate. It will oblige processers, manufacturers or refiners to give information to county councils. Section 16 (i) (a) says:

the occupier of any premises within their functional area, within such period (being not less than fourteen days after the date of the service of the notice) as may be specified in the notice, to furnish in writing to the authority such particulars as to—

(i) any activity or process being carried out on the premises,

Does the Minister foresee a problem from chemical plants who would fear an infringement of their formula patent rights, if the local authority asked what was being manufactured there? There is a very serious implication in that section and I would like to be reassured that if we succeed in attracting chemical plants or processors, they will not have to bare their souls and give their formulae over to the opposition. I am quite sure there must be industrial espionage here as there is anywhere else. It is a small point but it is one with which I am sure the industrial sector might not feel happy.

Many Senators mentioned agricultural husbandry. As I read the Bill, that section deals with a public place. Since farms are not public places, we in the farming community should be exempt from that. However, there is a definite problem. Several times during the year farmers have spread slurry either from cattle, pigs or poultry, It causes a certain amount of air pollution but it has to be disposed of. There is no other way of doing it. The farming community need protection here. The other alternative for the farming community is to allow the slurry to run off into the rivers and lakes and cause [853] a different kind of pollution. As an agricultural country, we have to make up our minds on our order of priorities. The use of sprays whether for pesticides or crop protection, if the wind is blowing the right way, could cause a certain amount of air pollution. It would not stay on the air as long as with slurry spreading in dry weather but that also constitutes a small problem. I should like to be reassured on this problem with regard to sections 25, 26 and 27.

We would all agree with the conclusions of the joint committee report drafted by Senator Robinson, on acid rain. The committee went to great lengths to assess the problem. We heard expert opinion on the deterioration of the environment here. It is a great basis for looking at the Air Pollution Bill. We on the joint committee were very concerned that the case for anti-pollution measures is seen mainly in economic terms. Environmental policy has a fundamental importance, independent of the vagaries of the economic climate and aims to safeguard the potential for future development by preventing the despoliation of natural resources.

The joint committee were relatively happy, after the visit to Moneypoint, which is going to be the best test of whether or not the authorities can control air pollution. In a relatively short period of time, perhaps in one year or two years we will see a huge input of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere from that plant which is down wind from at least a third of the Republic. There is a monitoring station on the Slieve Bloom mountains north east of Moneypoint and it will be interesting to see what effect this huge plant will have when it is consuming several million tonnes of coal per year when all of the units are commissioned.

Unless the Government and the Department of the Environment are able to control this new pollutant there is not much use in introducing an air pollution Bill which gives local authorities the power to harass individual industries or perhaps the housewife burning coal or whatever. While it is important to ensure that the individual does not significantly [854] add to pollution, I do not expect too much from local authorities. For instance, in the dumps in Tullamore and Portlaoise which are controlled and maintained by the county councils more often than not there are fires which do not seem to be controlled. Depending on the way the wind is blowing the smoke goes across the public road, choking people driving at 45 or 50 miles an hour. The nuisance does not last too long, but there are a number of houses adjacent to both these nuisances. I would not depend too much on the effectiveness and efficiency of local authorities if they are not 100 per cent capable of controlling their own acre or two acre dumps on which they are spending a considerable amount of money.

I mention those two dumps in support of the case I am making. We are asking county councils, every month to undertake additional supervisory roles, but there does not appear to be the finance to implement these directives. That is a serious problem the Department will have to take on board. There is not much point in asking local authorities, all of whom are constrained by rather tight budgets, to undertake additional work without providing any finance to do it. I am against the idea of having legislation up-to-date, with sets of new controls if the councils have not the wherewithal to implement and to police controls. It only gives fuel to cranks. These cranks say that the legislation gives them rights and they insist on the local authority implementing the legislation to the letter of the law. The only thing stopping the local authority from doing so is that they have not got the finance, or the personnel to carry out the provisions of the Act. That is the case with a large number of EC regulations that have been introduced here over the last number of years. The administration passes them on but the finance necessary for our local authorities to be effective and efficient is missing.

Senator Howard made a very strong point regarding straw burning which is specifically mentioned in the Bill. This can be a nuisance. Burning of straw is not a widespread husbandry practice. It is [855] probably confined to the larger grain farming areas adjacent to Dublin and the cities, where several hundred acres of land appear to be growing without any great break and with no obvious rotational system. It seems to be an asset for those farmers to dispose of the straw by burning, which controls some stubble rot and so on. If the wind is blowing in the wrong direction it may affect drivers on the roads or people living nearby. In a cycle of 365 days of the year, as straw burns very fast, one is talking about a couple of hours per year in any one location or townland. I do not see why it should be written into the Bill.

Farmers are not free to burn bushes as hedge trimmings all year round. There is prohibition in the bird hatching season. That is one of those laws which the gardaí when they were on the bicycles 40 years ago were aware of but now gardaí are in squad cars. There must be ancient legislation dealing with docks and thistles and so on that has been left on the shelf. These pieces of legislation are so deeply covered in dust that people have forgotten about them. Nevertheless, that provision is in a Bill and it leaves one to wonder. I ask the Minister to look at that straw burning provision again. In my experience driving to Dublin two or three days of every week for the past 30 years, there is only one small area in county Dublin where the practice of burning straw occurs. However right across the country we have the problem with slurry spreading. The best way to effectively deal with that is to offer 100 per cent grants if possible, to have effluent pits put in to try and control the pollution. It would be preferable to have grants confined solely to pits designed to conserve the quality of the environment and the quality of the air.

I am glad to have had the opportunity of speaking to this Bill. I hope it will be implemented and administered, ensuring a balance, so as to conserve, wherever possible, the quality of the environment but having regard for the provision of employment and the creation of jobs. In this legislation, we have the benefit of a [856] number of documents and aides-mémoire from Coal Information Services, Coal Importers and from a number of other interested professional bodies and industries. All this information will be of great benefit on Committee Stage, which having regard to the large number of sections in this Bill will be an interesting Stage.

Professor Dooge: I thank the Minister of State for introducing the Bill to the Seanad. We have had a long, thorough but, unfortunately, an unduly fragmented debate on the Bill. I apologise to the Minister of State for the undue fragmentation of this Second Stage debate. Since I am technically the sponsor of this Bill, I am glad to be able to say a few final words in support of it. I am very glad to see a comprehensive Bill on air pollution. When the Bill appeared it made me quite nostalgic. I went back to the records of Seanad Éireann for 2 August 1962 when there was a Local Government (Sanitary Services) Bill. I hope the House will indulge me if I quote from what I said at column 1264: I said:

It is a very great pity that the Minister did not introduce a separate Bill in regard to air pollution. The problem is an extremely important one and I would ask the Seanad to bear with me while I indicate the reasons why I think the problem is so important that it should be tackled in a separate measure; that the whole problem, indeed, should be tackled in a different manner from that in which the Minister has tackled it in this single section of this Sanitary Service Bill.

I suppose the Bill was worth waiting for. I am not quite so sure it was worth waiting 24 years for, but at last we have a comprehensive measure here. I hope that the measure will be applied in a comprehensive fashion. We still have a real chance to avoid the worst aspects of the problems of other countries.

There are two problems. The problem of local air pollution and the problem of trans-boundary air pollution. In regard [857] to trans-boundary air pollution, our problems are relatively minor. I remember being at a scientific meeting in Sweden, concerned with the problem of the acidification of the Swedish lakes, and the lecturer showed a map indicating the percentage of the pollution which was causing this frightful problem which was killing the Swedish lakes that was coming from each country in Europe. It was with great pleasure that I noted that this small western Ireland was virgin white with no number entered within its boundaries. It should be a matter of pride in the major problem of the killing of the lakes, and the killing of the forests that of all the monitoring stations, ours is the base, the one against which they are all measured.

We have other real smaller scale problems. We must tackle this with thoroughness and with honesty. We have been tacking this problem with honesty. Both ourselves and the British in the EC have been resisting the extension of the Geneva Agreement and the Helsinki Protocol. To a large extent, the British have been resisting it on the ground that it is not conclusively scientifically proved that all these things are completely linked together. Therefore, they cannot expect them to control their power stations. We, on the other hand, have been saying quite frankly, that we are sorry that we are against this, as we cannot afford it. While from a pure point of view of the control of pollution this may not be a very commendable attitude, the honesty of that attitude is commendable. It is the only way to tackle this problem.

Discussing this Bill helps us to appreciate also that, in regard to the problems of energy and environment, we should always look at the total picture. We have heard a great deal in recent months arising from the Chernobyl disaster about the fact that this is the end of nuclear power because the dangers are too high. If we had applied in the past to the development of steam power during the industrial revolution the criteria now being applied to the nuclear energy industry, we would not have had the industrial [858] revolution based on coal. That is no reason why should now apply 19th century standards to our problem, but it means that we should look at them properly.

It saddens me that people when talking about these problems have now got to the stage we have seen during this debate of realising that there is a very heavy environmental cost in regard to steam plant, but we do not even complete the picture. We do not seem to worry. When we talk of ten deaths and possible other effects in Chernobyl, we do not remember the black miners who die in the South African coal mines. We do not remember the Polish miners who die year after year producing coal for the conventional power stations. Not only in regard to these problems of air pollution, but in regard to the whole question of energy, the question of the total cost, economic, environmental and social costs, there is a tendency not to count the full costs of one's favourite method of producing energy.

I hope the Minister will implement this Bill with vigour as rapidly as possible but, above all, with honesty. It has been a long debate. Most of the advantages of the Bill, most of the difficulties raised by the Bill, most of the things that can be said against the Bill have been said. It is pointless to repeat them at this time. I welcome the Bill. As most Senators have said, it is by and large a worthy measure.

I again thank the Minister of State for introducing the Bill here and allowing Senators to express their opinion to the extent that they have.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mrs. A. Doyle): I thank the very many Senators who took time to prepare very worthwhile contributions to this most important Bill. I am glad Senator Dooge feels that the Bill was worth waiting 24 years for. I welcome his comments in relation to it as I do all the others.

[859] Air pollution is an extremely wide subject and there has been a growing understanding in recent decades of its causes and effects. The main causes lie in the very ordinary activities by which we produce goods, rely on transport for commerce or leisure, provide ourselves with heating, lighting and cooking, and generally use the energy needed to maintain our 20th century standard of living. Directly or indirectly, through the demand they place on energy production, all of these activities result in some polluting emission into the air.

The effects of air pollution have also become better documented. Localised effects include injury to health, buildings and vegetation. The longer range effects include the process of acidification, with its damage to lakes, forests and soil.

The present Bill can be said very broadly to achieve two things. The first is to harmonize Irish legislation with a tendency in most industrialised countries towards a specific statutory code for control of air quality. The UK Clean Air Acts, starting from 1956, were the pioneers in this area and supported measures which proved highly effective in abating problems of smoke. The US Clean Air Act, 1970 together with major amendments of 1977, have given a lead to the next generation of legislation, formulated in greater awareness of the polluting effects of sulphur and nitrogen oxides.

The second broad achievement of the new Bill is as a further important step, following on the Planning and Water Pollution Acts, towards completing the body of Irish law on environmental protection. Up to now air pollution control in Ireland has had to rely on a patchwork of dated legislation and, more effectively, on general powers under the Planning Acts. While this ad hoc approach has served us reasonably well, the increasing complexity of air pollution, both in its technical and international dimensions, supports the case for a separate statutory system.

This brief background to the Bill [860] should make it clear that it is not, as Senator Fitzsimons has alleged, a reaction to EC pressure. The Bill's provisions are designed first and foremost to protect and enhance the Irish environment. But air pollution has a real international dimension and the EC Environment Action Programme, and similar programmes of other international bodies, are validly concerned about this. We should not begrudge co-operation in these programmes but realise that they are fully in Ireland's interests.

Many important points have been made by Senators and I will now try to reply to the main ones briefly. I will refer to every point on Committee Stage. Senators O'Toole and Fallon spoke about the need for increased resources, both financial and staffing, to implement the extended powers which the Bill will give to local authorities. I accept that these are important concerns, but Senator Fallon in particular seemed to acknowledge that they must be addressed on a much wider basis than would be possible under this Bill. Senators familiar with the local government system know well that the main sources of revenue financing for local authorities, such as the rate support grant and rates, are non-specific in character and are designed to cater for much of the range of local government services. This non-assigned character of local authority finances is what gives individual local authorities discretion to order priorities differently between different services. It would be inconsistent with this principle to provide separately in this Bill for matters proper to general local government legislation. It would also be inconsistent with the view, which I support fully, of increasing the autonomy of local government in this country.'

However, I fully accept that the entire area of the financing of local government and the structure and functions and role of local government is an area we must debate and debate urgently. There is a lot of dissatisfaction with it at the moment but I did find rather interesting the line coming through several of the contributions to this Second Stage from [861] Senators which gave an indication of their attitude towards local government and the role they feel it should play. Apparently, when there is something rather distasteful to be done or where we have to face up to duties rather than just wallow in our rights as local councillors it should be a managerial function only and when there are some laurels or some kudos it should be a reserved function of the members. We have to be very honest in this area and really decide what we want from local government. Will it continue to be a rubber stamp system or do we really want proper powers for local councillors. If we do they must accept the duties that go with those rights. This is one of the many areas in which this type of legislation would have to be considered.

Having said that, the Bill does, of course, make certain financial provisions. Section 35 enables the Minister to prescribe fees for licences under the Bill, which would accrue to local authorities. Section 32 envisages local authorities being able to recover from industry the costs of certain air monitoring operations. I emphasise the costs of certain air monitoring operations. A couple of Senators were concerned that some local authorities might use this provision as an excuse to add on service charges of a certain type in certain areas. We can recover costs of air monitoring operations.

Section 22 would also enable local authorities to derive an income from charges to be levied on emitters. Finally, section 45 provides a statutory basis for a scheme of grants from the Minister for the Environment towards the costs of adapting premises to the requirements of a special control area order. Senators can be assured that the new role which the Bill confers on local authorities will be very much part of our evaluation of local government financial needs during the annual estimates process. In other words, we will be acutely aware of any extra costs this legislation may impose on local authorities and hopefully they will be catered for in the forthcoming estimates.

Senators McGuinness, FitzGerald and [862] Fitzsimons and a number of other Senators were concerned that the Bill does not deal sufficiently with emissions from vehicles. It is true that the Bill has been designed principally to deal with emissions from stationary sources and that it does not take over the powers which exist under the Road Traffic Acts to control emissions from vehicles. A number of points must be made, however, to put this matter into perspective.

First, it is a fact that neither in Ireland nor in many other parts of the motorised world have road traffic controls by themselves been especially effective in achieving environmental objectives such as better air quality. This is why at EC level, and within other international environmental bodies, the emphasis is now on vehicle emission controls which will not principally depend on driver behaviour.

Limitation of vehicle emissions is now being approached primarily through controls on fuel inputs and on vehicle design. The present Bill, through Section 53, will be fully competent to provide environmental regulation of all vehicle fuels. Already, the permitted lead content of leaded petrol has been reduced this year in Ireland from 0.4 to 0.15 grammes per litre and unleaded petrol has recently been introduced on the Irish market. I welcome it wholeheartedly. Both measures will be of major benefit to public health and the environment.

Measures are also being negotiated at EC level to require cleaner vehicle engine technologies. These would be implemented in Ireland through the type approval system. Proposals for petrol engines, on which substantial agreement has been reached, provide for large reductions in emissions of CO (Carbon Monoxide), NOx and hydrocarbons. New proposals to reduce smoke emissions from diesel engines are likely to be agreed at the next EC Environment Council in November. These diesel engine improvements will have a major impact in Dublin where vehicle emissions, principally from the CIE and other diesel fleet, account for approximately 14 per cent of smoke levels.

[863] I do not think, then, that we lack for powers to exercise proper control of vehicle emissions. The division of legislative responsibility for them may not present the appearance of tidiness, but it should not inhibit effective action.

I am confident that under the impetus of this Bill and of impending EC requirements, the relevant provisions of the Road Traffic Acts will be used more vigorously in future to control emissions from moving vehicles. If certain proposals at EC level are followed through, we may well see an extension of mandatory vehicle testing to certain private vehicles. This measure would, in my view, be entirely appropriate for implementation under the Road Traffic Acts and I see no reason to duplicate powers or to transplant them to the Air Pollution Bill.

A number of Senators were inclined to doubt that a serious smoke problem exists in Dublin. They regard traffic fumes, particularly those caused by CIE buses, as the prime contributor to air pollution in Dublin.

I have already attempted, in my opening contribution, to show the complexity of sources contributing to air pollution in Ireland. Industry and power generation, through their contribution to SO2 and NOx, vehicles, through their contribution to NOx and smoke, and domestic premises, through their contribution to smoke, all play a significant part in polluting our atmosphere.

I have no wish at this stage to be dogmatic about what is the single greatest pollutant or where remedial action should be most immediately directed. What is important is that the Bill provides a framework for dealing with all of these matters and for combining different evaluations of our problems into one coherent strategy.

Having said this, it is relevant to point out that, by the external test of EC air quality standards, smoke pollution is the area in which Ireland currently has its greatest air pollution problem. Air quality standards, designed both to protect human health and the environment, have [864] been prescribed by the EC in respect of lead, smoke and SO2 and NO2. Ireland has neither approached nor exceeded the relevant limit values for lead and SO2 and while the NO2 directive is not yet formally in force, we expect to observe all of its limit values also.

The same is not true of EC limit values for smoke. At various times since the Directive came into force in 1982, we have had exceedances in parts of Dublin of the three day limit, the 98 percentile limit, and the winter mean limit. We are obliged to bring about a situation in Dublin, by 1993 at least, where no such exceedances will occur at any time.

Some Senators, have mentioned a generally lower level of smoke pollution experienced in Dublin in 1985-1986. The facts are, however, that despite lower median smoke levels than last year and the notably windy weather which helped the dispersal of smoke, there were five breaches of EC smoke limit values in the Dublin area in the 1985-86 winter. Three separate values were breached at Ballyfermot, the 98 percentile of daily means for the year, the limit for more than 3 consecutive days and the median of daily winter mean values. Crumlin and Rathmines also breached the 98 percentile value of daily means for the year. Clondalkin, in the County Dublin monitoring network also exceeded this value, although because of gaps in the monitoring performance at that station, we do not regard it formally as a breach of the EC limit value. This is the first time, incidentally, that smoke in Dublin County has reached problem levels in relation to the EC Directive.

Senators McMahon, Belton and Howard were concerned that the Bill might be giving local authorities powers which they could exercise unnecessarily. They mentioned the possible influence of pressure groups in the air pollution area and with this in mind, they called for a tightening of the discretion of local authorities, or at least for close supervision by the Minister.

I do not accept that the likelihood of pressure groups, or other political interests, being involved in air pollution [865] issues should be a reason for limiting the competence of local authorities in this area. In fact, to assume as much says more about local councillors and local authorities than it does about the pressure groups, which brings me back to my earlier remark that we must decide what we want of local government in the future. I am for strengthening it. In fact, in my opening contribution to this debate, I made the opposite argument. The whole premise for local government is to allow suitable issues having a local impact to be dealt with by democratically elected bodies at local rather than central level.

In practice, we rely on local authorities to reach sensible decisions in the matters entrusted to them, having regard to all the interests involved. As regards the present Bill, the same kind of consultative and deliberative procedures which are found in much of our planning and environmental legislation have been built into it. It is no less respectful of all interests in the community — domestic, industrial and environmental, than other local government and environmental legislation.

Senator FitzGerald regarded it as important that local authorities should have some scientific basis for their actions under this Bill. Senator Hourigan and Belton made similar points. As far as relevant EC standards are concerned, these are distilled from comprehensive international research, including work carried out by the World Health Organisation. It would be wasteful of resources if local authorities were to attempt to duplicate such research. However, where a local authority propose to introduce a special control area order under Part IV of the Bill they will invariably have to justify their proposals at an oral hearing, in the same way as with other proposals affecting private interests. The Minister, in considering whether to confirm a local authority proposal, will have to be satisfied that this justification has been rigorously provided by the local authority.

Senator Fitzsimons mentioned that the housing grant schemes do not encourage the use of closed stoves which burn fuel [866] more efficiently and was concerned that chimneys could be banned under this Bill. In my opening speech, I accepted that the harmonisation of housing and air pollution policies in certain areas may have to be considered more fully. The Bill does provide for the concept of “approved fireplaces” and “approved fuels” thus recognising that ordinary or bituminous coal can be burned in enclosed stoves with reduced smoke emissions and that chimneys are necessary in such cases. Under the new house grants scheme, a chimney can be used with a gas heater taking the place of a normal fire grate.

Senators Ryan, Hourigan, Howlin and others dealt at some length with the other subject matter of this debate — the Joint Committee Report on Acid Rain and the general question of Ireland's position on the draft EC Directive on Large Combustion Plant. My main comments on this issue have been set out in my opening speech, but in deference to the interest which has been evident in this debate, I feel that I should return to it again.

The first point to be made is that the draft Directive on Large Combustion Plant is an extension of an already adopted Parent Directive on Industrial Plant which Ireland will be implementing in full through Part III of this Bill. The existing Industrial Plant Directive will require the licensing of all new plant in accordance with standards based on the best available technology not involving excessive costs. Initially licensing will apply only to new industrial plant, but the intention is gradually to bring in existing plant also.

Any new ESB generating plant (other than hydro or nuclear) exceeding 50 MW in output will be subject to this licensing requirement.

In practice, this will mean ESB proposals having to pass through a procedure much more explicitly geared to the requirements of air pollution control and of new technology than the planning system under which Moneypoint and other power stations were approved.

The draft Directive on Large Combustion Plant is an attempt to develop even more specific Community controls, [867] involving emission limit standards on new plant and aggregate emission limitations on existing plant, in relation to power plant only. In Ireland, such controls would almost exclusively affect the ESB, with probably only one existing private plant being covered by them.

I should say at this stage that the exact nature of the limitations envisaged for the draft directive is not now clear. A proposal involving considerable changes from that studied in the joint committee report was made by the Dutch Presidency to the June Environment Council, but failed. The way forward on the draft directive is now unclear.

Ireland's general attitude on the draft directive has been to reserve our position because of the onerous economic implications, while acknowledging the genuine environmental concerns of those countries favouring the proposal. When a definite new Community proposal emerges, we will review the Irish position as appropriate.

At this point I want to say a few words about existing plant and how this Bill may or may not apply to it. Many Senators expressed concern in this area. Most of them had Moneypoint in mind and I know Senator Ferris had a particular factory in his own constituency in mind, which has caused some discussion over the months and years. The licensing system under Part III will automatically apply to new plant only. However, section 30 (2) enables the Minister by regulation to apply the licensing system to existing plant as and when this is desirable. We will, in fact be considering from day one which categories of existing plants should be brought within the licensing system immediately. There is every likelihood that large plant like Moneypoint and the kind of plant which Senator Ferris referred to will be licensable from a very early stage. Pending the coming into operation of the licensing system for existing plant such plant will be covered by important sections of the Bill, for example, Part II of the Bill places a general obligation on the occupiers of all premises other than private dwellings [868] to use the best practicable means to limit and if possible to prevent air pollution. Additionally, section 26 enables the local authority where they are concerned about air pollution to serve a notice requiring the occupier of a premises to take certain measures to prevent or limit air pollution.

Where urgent measures are required the local authority are enabled to take the necessary action themselves. All of these provisions will have full force in relation to existing plant from their commencement. Quite frankly, the answer to whether there will be retrospection in relation to existing plant is yes, there are provisions for retrospection on all of the existing plant where it might be deemed necessary.

A number of other points were made. Senator Ryan's contribution was a well articulated philosophy of environmental protection, and as such it ranged much more widely than the present Bill. I was impressed with much of what he had to say. I believe the Department of the Environment, despite their re-naming and more explicit environmental role since 1977 still have a long road to travel in promoting higher standards of environmental protection.

Senator Howlin and, indeed, Senator Deenihan also spoke about the importance of Ireland's unpolluted image. We will increasingly need these higher standards as we continue to urbanise and industrialise. I believe that the present Bill is an important step on this road.

Senator Hillery referred to the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Energy Board who are responsible for the safety and control of radioactive emissions, appliances or installations. Local authority involvement in an instance such as the Chernobyl accident would relate solely to their emergency planning functions. The Nuclear Energy Act, 1971, makes the Department of Energy responsible for nuclear energy and safety. I agree fully with Senator Lanigan and others that co-operation at international level is essential to protect us against the damages of the nuclear industry and trans-boundary pollution generally. I [869] pressed this view very strongly at the last Council of Environment Ministers in June. I would like to quote directly from what I said at the time, to put it on record in response to the Senators who have referred to this area. I said:

Public sensitivity in all our countries to the environmental hazard posed by nuclear installations has become more acute since the March Council. Indeed, I cannot stress too much the level of Irish public concern in relation to nuclear safety.

I went on to say:

This concern is not just confined to the issue of radioactive discharges to water but also embraces the possibility of radioactive emissions to the atmosphere. Accordingly, while the Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant has been foremost in the public mind in Ireland, other nuclear plants have not escaped attention.

I continued:

There is now increased awareness of the transnational nature of nuclear safety, in a way which would lend support to Ireland's proposal for the introduction of an international dimension into supervisory arrangements. If, as we now clearly know, the effects of certain incidents at nuclear installations cannot be confined within national boundaries, then it is difficult to dispute a valid international interest in supervising measures to prevent such incidents.

This Bill does not alter that and it expressly precludes the situation in relation to the Nuclear Energy Board having the prime responsibility in this country. This Bill does not alter that and it expressly precludes any concern with radioactive emissions into the air. Local authorities do not have the expertise to deal with radioactive substances and the provisions of the Nuclear Energy Act, 1971, remain the relevant ones.

This country's position is similar to that of other countries who have no nuclear installations themselves but are at risk [870] from accidents in other countries. Our safety, therefore, depends on internationally agreed operational standards, information requirements and international inspection forces. The Government are continuing to demand the establishment of a Euratom backed inspection force to determine independently the safety of nuclear installations.

Senator Hillery asked that the results of the study being carried out by An Foras Forbartha in the Burren should be made available to the public. As I understand it, An Foras are actually checking the validity of the on-going monitoring being conducted by the ESB in co-operation with the local county council. At all events, I see no difficulty about making relevant results available as soon as the system is properly established.

Senator McGuiness made an interesting contribution which touched, among other things, on damage to buildings from air pollution and the need for prompt implementation and enforcement of the Bill. I agree with the concerns which she expressed on both of these counts and I intend to approach implementation of the Bill accordingly.

Several other Senators referred to the damage being done to our historic buildings and, indeed, to all buildings in Dublin city. Tragically much of it is irreversible. Notwithstanding the delay, it is time we took action now to prevent any further damage and to prevent any of the lovely new modern structures being built meeting the same fate in years to come.

Senator McGuinness was also concerned at the exclusion of domestic premises from the otherwise general obligation of section 24 to use the best practicable means to limit air pollution. This exclusion is on grounds of practicality rather than of principle. Indeed, similar considerations are behind the exclusion of single dwelling houses from the general duty on property holders of fire prevention under section 19 of the Fire Services Act, 1981. It would just be excessively complex to enforce the use of [871] the best practicable means in relation to the 900,000 houses in the country.

None of this means, however, that the Bill cannot control smoke or other emissions from domestic premises. This is likely to be the main purpose of Part IV of the Bill, which provides for the creation of special control areas. Within these areas, an intensive regime of air pollution controls will be possible in relation to houses or any other premises specified in the relevant order.

Senator Fitzsimons was anxious that the Bill should cover other areas; he mentioned smells and noise. My understanding is that smell is fully comprehended in the definition of “air pollution” as well as by the nuisance provisions of the Bill and, therefore, subject to the various controls of the Bill. This is something we can look at more closely on Committee Stage.

Noise, of course, is not covered by the present Bill. As far as I am aware, most modern environmental codes deal with noise separately from air and water pollution, or from waste issues. I agree fully with Senator Fitzsimons about the desirability of more explicit controls on noise, but I feel we should take one step at a time. It would not be practical to combine detailed and specialised noise provisions with the present Air Pollution Bill.

Senator Hourigan, Senator Deenihan, Senator Howard and others had strongly held views about the inclusion of the provision on straw burning. Senator Howard and I had a little cross talk during his contribution about what I had said in my opening speech on Second Stage. For the record I will repeat that sentence lest there is any ambiguity. I said:

It provides a range of powers which can be used by the Minister for the Environment and local authorities to deal with a variety of situations — emission 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.

[872] We are only concerned about those aspects if they give rise to air pollution. I would like to draw the Senator's attention to our definition of air pollution. If straw burning gives rise to air pollution it would have to — and I quote from the first page of the Bill, Part I, the definition section:

“Air pollution” in this Act means a condition of the atmosphere in which a pollutant is present in such a quantity as to be liable to —

(iii) impair or interfere with amenities or with the environment.

It must be present in the atmosphere in such quantity as to be liable to cause air pollution and damage. I should like to assure the farming community and Senators who have so vigorously represented the views of the farming community that I believe they have little to fear. However, the whole issue of straw burning being in the Bill at all is not one on which I have any particularly fixed idea and I will be quite happy to debate that aspect again on Committee Stage. As it is now, I would have absolutely no fears and I assure those Senators who expressed fears that I hope they are without foundation.

With regard to Senator Fitzsimon's view in relation to section 14 impinging on domestic privacy, a thorough discussion would be very appropriate on Committee Stage on this whole area. Many Senators subsequently mentioned this aspect. I am glad these points have been brought to my notice so that we can have a good look at them between now and Committee Stage. The whole area of impinging on domestic privacy is an aspect I was reluctant to introduce. It is very difficult to see how else a special control area order applying to domestic dwellings could have been enforced.

We also had some difficulty — I think it was Senator Durcan — in relation to the definition of “private dwelling”. We have a very restrictive definition of “private dwelling” in the Bill. This definition is required because private dwellings are excluded from the obligations under [873] section 24 (1) on the occupier of a premises to use the best practical means to limit and, if possible, to prevent an emission from the premises. It would be unreasonable in the normal way to require such equipment, appliances etc. to be used in private dwellings of which there are now close to one million in the country.

In the interest of protecting air quality it is essential therefore that the exclusion relates only to bona fide private dwellings and that it does not extend to any type of operation being carried out in the back garden or shed which could give rise to air pollution, for example, the recovery of metal from scrap. Therefore, the curtilage of the garden of a private dwelling is excluded from the definition as is a multi-dwelling building e.g. an apartment block. However, a boiler house containing a central heating boiler for the dwelling is included in the definition of a dwelling house. Again, from an information point of view, it is an area that I would be quite happy to return to on Committee Stage if further clarification is deemed necessary in terms of what we are trying to provide for in the Bill.

There are many other individual contributions. I just want to refer to them briefly. Senator Fitzsimons spoke in favour of extending the electrified rail network in Dublin on the basis of reduced emission from traffic. I am sure the Senator appreciates this is somewhat out of my province, being a matter primarily for the Minister for Communications, the new Dublin Transport Authority and CIE. I agree with Senator Fitzsimons's assessment of the likely environmental benefits but these of course would be only one factor in a very complex assessment.

Senators Higgins and Durcan considered that the penalties provided for summary conviction were inadequate in the case of a large company, for example. However I understand and indeed I am prepared to discuss this with the Parliamentary Draftsman in the interim, that as they are set out they are at the maximum level applying to summary offences. Apparently, the Constitution [874] does not allow higher penalties to be imposed in the District Court.

A number of Senators referred to the need for environmental education and I support fully the value of such education. In recognition of this, the Bill will enable local authorities to support educational programmes and to publish results of surveys, investigations and research. In this context the forthcoming Year of the Environment which is to take place from March 1987 to March 1988 will increase public awareness of air quality and environmental matters generally.

The local authorities to which we are extending the provisions of this Bill were questioned also. Senator Durcan in particular wanted urban councils to be included in our definition. Generally speaking, it is not anticipated that the non-county boroughs and urban districts would have the resources, financial, manpower or technical fully to carry out functions under this Bill. However, should the situation arise where it was desirable that such functions should be carried out by an urban authority this could be arranged by transfer of functions under regulations made under section 21. In any event it may be expected that local authorities will consult fully with the urban councils within their area.

Senator Durcan made a number of other interesting points with regard to the appropriate court at which matters arising under this Bill should be heard. In particular, I refer to his view that under section 28 a local authority should be able to apply to the Circuit Court rather than the High Court for an order prohibiting or restricting an emission. I note that there are similar provisions in the Water Pollution Act, the Fire Services Acts, and the Planning Acts and they all relate to the High Court so between now and Committee Stage I will have the matter examined. His other point regarding certain offences under this Bill being tried by a jury will also be considered.

Senator McDonald was concerned that confidential information acquired by local authorities under section 16 in relation to industrial processes could be [875] given to competitors. To decide on a licence application, in a local authority we need detailed information in order to set appropriate conditions for the protection of the environment and public health. Local authorities will respect the confidentiality of such information as they do acquire from the details required under the Planning Acts and the Water Pollution Act.

I think I have replied to the main points, particularly to the points that arose several times. As I said at the outset, I will deal on Committee Stage with any points I have inadvertently omitted and I shall welcome a thorough discussion of the different aspects then. I hope we shall have a very interesting debate as there has been such a broad interest in this Bill before us. I have been very impressed generally with the interest shown in the Bill not alone by the Senators but by the various groups on all sides, from Coal Information Services right across the spectrum to the earth watchers and all of those that are somehow in between in their views in relation to it. I think receiving information and indeed aides mémoire, as the Senator referred to them, from the interested parties and the various different interested groups is a very true part of the democratic system provided of course that sensible and due consideration is given to all aspects and that the result is a balanced view and one that achieves what we set out to achieve.

I would like to commend all those groups who obviously, regardless of their particular standpoint have the best interest of our environment particularly in this case air quality, at heart. I look forward very much to Committee Stage and to continuing this debate. Before I conclude I would like to quote again a sentence from my Second Stage contribution some months ago and I think it particularly relates to the references by many Senators to balance and to having the proper attitude to this most important area. I emphasise that the environment cannot be sacrificed to development and neither should development be seen as [876] the enemy of the environment. Both are essential ingredients in our efforts towards economic growth and improving the quality of Irish life which after all is what we are all trying to do.

Question put and agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Next stage?

Professor Dooge: It is proposed to order the next Stage for Wednesday, 5 November.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 5 November, 1986.