HOUSEHOLDERS in Donegal who traditionally burn coal or turf to heat their homes will be hoping for a mild winter with the long-heralded country-wide ban on smoky coal coming into effect on October 31 and the retail sale of turf to be banned on the same date.
Even though the price of home heating oil has dropped this week, it is still double what it was this time last year.
After October 31 householders will have a grace period to burn any stocks of smoky coal they already have in before moving to smokeless coal.
Only those people with turbury rights to harvest turf and the family or friends they sell or gift the turf to, will be able to burn turf.
Retail outlets such as shops, petrol stations or fuel depots and online sales of turf and smoky coal will be banned from October 31.
Unlawful turf sales in retail outlets, local newspapers and on online platforms will be penalised under the Air Pollution Act 1987 from this winter onwards.
Donegal County Council will be responsible here for enforcing the clampdown.
Local authority staff are to be trained up and a fund of €250,000 to be available for “pilot enforcement projects”. It comes as over 300 “turf for sale” adverts were this week on display on DoneDeal.ie.
A spokesperson for the Department of Environment told the Donegal News this week that “relevant media companies will be contacted in due course to be appraised of their obligations and a specific enforcement campaign for online sales will be in place once the regulations come into effect”.
He added that “by restricting the sale of turf via retail and online sales channels, the new regulations aim to reduce the sale and supply of turf into larger urban areas where turf-cutting does not actually take place, thereby reducing its overall use”.
The new draft regulations form the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications which will become effective from October 31, will have been approved by the EU.
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan finally signed off on the regulations after months of contention from rural TDs particularly over the turf issue.
Mr Ryan said that the rules do not affect the rights of those who cut and sell turf to friends and neighbours, but denied that he had “rolled over” on the changes.
The main effect of the proposed regulations will be to bring an end to the sale of smoky coal, which is the “main contributor to air pollution in Ireland”, he said.
The regulations will also restrict the sale of wet wood, small bags of wood will be required to have a moisture content of less than 25 per cent.
The Donegal News this week spoke to Johanna Tinney of Tinney Fuels in Letterkenny regarding the smoky coal ban going nation-wide and the public’s awareness of the law change.
“I think people are unsure of what was going to happen as the proposed country-wide smoky coal ban was to have been introduced on a number of occasions in the past and didn’t happen. It is not very widely known that the ban is coming in on October 31.
“A 40 kg bag of smokeless coal is currently €30 but prices are changing all of the time. While we can still sell smoky coal to be delivered outside the Letterkenny smoke free area, that will change on October 31. A 40 kg bag of smoky coal is now €29 but we will not be buying any more in because of the ban coming.
“Between the price of oil, electricity and coal, I don’t know what people will do this winter,” she added.
Meanwhile there has been a reduction in the price of home heating oil of around 20 per cent.
However those who have not filled their oil tank since this time last year are in for a shock having paid €650 for 1,000 litres a year ago to an average of €1,240 for the same quantity now.
Donegal home heating oil prices this week ranged from €1,215 to €1,300 for 1,000 litres.
This week the Chairman of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland, Michael Kilcoyne, called for the VAT charged on home-heating oil to be reduced.
The government however have said it was unable to secure a deal with the EU to allow it reduce the VAT on home heating oil.
“Home heating oil is an essential commodity for people. People on fixed incomes such as the elderly will face a choice this winter of heating their homes or feeding themselves. The VAT on home heating oil should be reduced and it should be removed entirely for people on fixed incomes,” Mr Kilcoyne said.