The Environment Minister Phil Hogan has issued a public consultation on the possibility of extending the ban to the Co Donegal town – one of four with populations over 15,000 not currently covered by the laws.
Any change would force homeowners who do use fires to switch to the more expensive smokeless coal.
The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous fuel (or ‘smoky coal ban’) was first introduced in Dublin in 1990 in response to severe episodes of winter smog that resulted from the widespread use of smoky coal for residential heating.
The ban proved effective in reducing smoke and sulphur dioxide levels and was subsequently extended to other areas. The ban now applies in twenty cities and towns.
Air quality monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown levels of particulate matter (PM10) are lower in these areas than in towns where the ban does not apply.
Research indicated that the ban in Dublin resulted in over 350 fewer annual deaths. An estimate of these benefits in monetary terms put the value at over €20 million.
Additional benefits of the regulations have also been identified through the stimulation for householders to switch from using solid fuels, which generally are less efficient and more polluting, to more efficient and less polluting gas and oil. The associated reduced fuel costs to consumers were estimated at €184 million per year.
The minister said the purpose of the consultation paper is to inform and assist a review of the smoky coal ban regulations to ensure that they remain fit for purpose in safeguarding air quality by limiting harmful emissions of air pollutants arising from the use of residential fuels.
The consultation paper reviews the regulations to date and identifies relevant considerations relating to their effective implementation in the context of developments over the twenty years since their introduction.
Minister Hogan said: “The smoky coal ban has been effective in reducing air pollution with proven benefits for human health. This has lead to improved quality of life in cities and towns where the ban applies. It is now time to review and modernise the main provisions of the ban to ensure its continued effectiveness.”