Sulphur Standard for Smoky Coal Sold Outside Smoky Coal Ban Areas for Residential Use
Approximately half a million tonnes of bituminous (or ‘smoky’) coal was imported for household use in 2010, resulting in the release of over 4,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the air we breathe. Limiting the sulphur content of smoky coal helps to protect human health and the environment by reducing air pollution, particularly during the winter months.
Since 2002 a Voluntary Agreement between the Minister and the Solid Fuel Trade Group (SFTG), the industry group representing the majority of solid fuel importers, limited the maximum sulphur content of bituminous (or ‘smoky’) coal to no greater than 0.7%. The Agreement which expired in July 2011, successfully reduced noxious emissions to air which result from the use of smoky coal in residential dwellings. Smoky coal can be legitimately sold and used outside smoky coal ban specified areas.
In June 2011 the main provisions of the Voluntary Agreement were placed on a statutory footing in order to safeguard the environmental and related human health benefits that had been achieved. The requirements governing the sale of smoky coal outside smoky coal ban specified areas are now set out under the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 326 of 2012), which consolidated all regulations governing the sale and use of solid fuel into a single instrument.
Under these Regulations, anybody who places smoky coal on the market, including retailers, for residential use outside the smoky coal ban areas must ensure the following:
- that the sulphur content of the smoky coal is no greater than 0.7% by weight, and
- a certificate is held showing the sulphur content of the coal is in compliance.
Note: it is not permissible to sell or burn smoky coal in cities and towns that have been designated as smoky coal ban specified areas, regardless of the sulphur content of the coal, as a prohibition applies on the marketing, sale, distribution and use of smoky coal in these areas.
An interactive map is available which includes an eircode search facility, where you can enter the eircode of any premises to see whether or not it falls within a Low Smoke Zone. Individual maps of the Low Smoke Zones are also available .
The National Standards Authority of Ireland has prepared an annual traceability audit system, known as SWiFT 7, for demonstrating compliance with the 0.7% sulphur limit, and this provides the certificate to be held by those placing smoky coal on the market
The Regulations require certain operators in the residential solid fuel supply business to register with the EPA. Those who must register include all fuel wholesalers and distributors of smoky coal but only those retailers for whom 50% or more of their total annual sales proceeds are from smoky coal. This requirement does not apply to the majority of solid fuel retailers for whom the sale of smoky coal is not their main business activity. However all retailers who trade in smoky coal must ensure that their fuel wholesalers are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and must hold a record to this effect with their supplier's registration number.
The EPA maintains registers to support enforcement by local authorities. There is currently no charge for registration. Persons who are required to register or with queries regarding registration can contact the EPA at the address below:
Environmental Protection Agency
Solid Fuel Registration, Resource Use Unit
Johnstown Castle Estate
P.O. Box 3000
Tel.: +353 (0)53 916 0600
Fax : +353 (0)53 916 0699
Website: Coal Bagging / Fuel Suppliers Registrations
Following registration with the EPA, the Minister encourages the use of the above SWiFT 7 logo on product, which can act as a marque of quality to consumers and assist local authorities with their enforcement activities.
The EPA can refuse or revoke the registration of a bagging operator or fuel supplier where it is not satisfied that the product being supplied is compliant with the legal requirements.
The Regulations are enforced by local authorities. A local authority may bring a prosecution under section 11 of the Air Pollution Act 1987 for breaches of the Regulations. The EPA also has an oversight role in the enforcement of these regulations as set out in the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (Registration of Coal Baggers and Suppliers) Regulations 2011
Under the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 (no. 20 of 2011) the maximum fine amounts for breaches of the above Regulations have been increased to
€5,000 on summary conviction. The Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 also introduced fixed payment notices (or ‘on the spot fines’) for certain offences relating to the supply and sale of solid fuel. Persons found to be marketing, selling or distributing smoky coal in breach of the Regulations are liable for a fixed payment notice of
€1,000. Fixed payment notices of up to €500 can be applied against solid fuel wholesalers, distributors and obligated retailers who are not registered with the EPA.
Leitrim County Council carries out inspections of fuel merchants and retailers to ensure compliance with the Regulations. Complaints regarding the sale of prohibited fuels or smoky emissions should be reported to: Leitrim County Council, Environment Section
Environment Hotline 1890 205 205 or email email@example.com