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12 Aug 2022

Offaly turf war declared as Minister Ryan seeks views on controlling peat use

Offaly turf war declared as Minister Ryan seeks views on controlling peat use

Turf drying on an Offaly bog

OFFALY Fianna Fail TD Barry Cowen has pledged to fight against proposals to ban the cutting and burning of turf.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan TD, leader of the Green Party, has launched a public consultation on solid fuel regulations, in advance of an expected ban on the use of all smoky coal.

Currently, smoky coal burning is outlawed in all towns with a population of over 10,000, including Tullamore.

However, the consultation will also examine the use of other solid fuels, including peat and wood, with the Department of Climate Action saying regulation would improve air quality for the benefit of all.

The department says rules on the maximum moisture content level at which wood be can sold could be introduced because wood with high moisture content is significantly more polluting than wood with low moisture content.

The Climate Action Department also said EPA research shows that the contribution of peat to air pollution levels is significant.

It said consideration needs to be given to options which may restrict the sale and marketing of sod turf, while respecting the traditional practice of turf cutting for personal use only.

The Green Party Senator in Offaly, Pippa Hackett, Minister for Biodiversity, welcomed the consultation, which opened today (Thursday, February 18).

“The quality of our air is fundamental to our health. In 2018, there were 1,410 premature mortalities arising from air pollution in Ireland and many people in this country suffer horribly from respiratory diseases that are exacerbated by poor air quality. In turn, that puts pressure on our health services,” Minister Hackett said in a statement.

“So it’s timely that we should have a public consultation about how we can lessen the harm from the fuels we burn in our homes – the fuels that pollute our air. Some fuels are more damaging to our health than others. Smokeless coal and seasoned wood, for instance, are less harmful to regular coal, turf and green wood.

“Retrofitting will help to reduce our dependency on burning fuel to keep our homes warm, and Midlands counties have been the first to start retrofitting local authority homes, which will help the air quality here.

“The purpose of this consultation is to get the best ideas on how to change our fuel-burning habits to reduce deaths from air pollution, and to ensure a better quality of life for those with breathing difficulties. I would encourage everyone to have their say.”

Speaking on the Claire Byrne Show on RTE this morning, Minister Hackett played down speculation about a “ban” on turf and asked people not to jump to conclusions now but to read the consultation document first.

In advance of the opening of the opening of the consultation, Deputy Cowen pledged at Wednesday night's Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting to oppose any moves to ban turf.

He said Fianna Fail will “resist and reject” what he said were Minister Ryan's proposals to “outlaw households using turf whether cut by themselves or purchased from commercial cutters”.

He said retrofitting will continue to drive down turf use anyway and added that it is important that Fianna Fail “win this argument” with the Minister.

The public consultation is open until 5.30 p.m. on Friday, April 2 next. It can be accessed online at https://www.gov.ie/en/consultation/5de58-public-consultation-on-the-development-of-new-solid-fuel-regulations-for-ireland/

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