Written answers

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Department of Environment, Community and Local Government

Air Pollution

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
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To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government the action he is taking to address air pollution from industries here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57529/12]

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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Under the National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive 2001/81/EC, Ireland was required to reduce emissions of transboundary air pollutants below agreed national ceilings by 2010. The four air pollutants concerned (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia and volatile organic compounds) contribute to acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone. Revised emission ceilings for 2020 were agreed earlier this year at a Meeting of Parties to the UNECE Gothenburg Protocol. This will be given effect in EU Member States through a revision of the NEC Directive, with a proposal to be published in the second half of 2013. The most recent provisional monitoring results from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in respect of Quarter 1, 2012 show levels of sulphur dioxide, ammonia and volatile organic compounds are below the 2010 emission ceilings. Emissions of nitrogen oxides, mainly from road traffic, continue to present a challenge. While these emissions have significantly reduced over the period 1990-2010, they remain marginally above the 2010 ceiling. The EPA monitoring data will be finalised shortly.

Reductions in pollutants from industrial sources have been achieved through effective licensing of industrial installations by the EPA. All industrial installations in Ireland are subject to the licensing, monitoring and enforcement requirements of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) regime. The activities of companies operating with an IPPC licence are monitored by the EPA to ensure that the terms of their licences are respected, including in relation to emissions. In addition to the requirements of IPPC, the provisions of the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) 2001/80/EC also apply to combustion plants with a thermal output of 50MW or more. The LCPD aims to reduce acidification, ground-level ozone and particles by controlling emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) from power stations running on solid, liquid or gaseous fuel.

Ireland developed a National Emissions Reduction Plan (NERP) under Article 4 (6) of the 2001 LCPD, which is a mechanism that allows “existing plants”, as defined in the Directive, to achieve the environmental objectives of the Directive in a cost-effective manner through the installation of abatement at selected qualifying plants. The NERP option was chosen because it provided both an environmentally ambitious and a cost-effective compliance route for Ireland. The ESB and other national operators made a commitment to achieve emission limits for SO2 and NOx from existing plants that were significantly more ambitious than the minimum requirements of the LCPD. In the period from 2008 to 2016, emission reductions are 27% more ambitious for SO2 and 46% more ambitious for NOx emissions.

The LCPD has now been recast by the Industrial Emissions Directive 2010/75/EU, in respect of which my Department is currently preparing regulations to achieve transposition into national legislation. As part of the transposition process, my Department is assessing appropriate compliance options for older plants set out under the Directive to ensure that operators continue to commit to ambitious targets that strike the appropriate balance between protection of human health and the environment and cost effectiveness of the abatement solutions.


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