All coal sold in Ireland for home heating must meet certain minimum requirements regarding sulphur content. Limiting the sulphur content of smoky coal helps to protect human health and the environment by reducing air pollution, especially in winter.
The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) has prepared an annual traceability audit system, known as SWiFT 7, for showing compliance with the 0.7% sulphur limit. Those placing smoky coal on the market must have the SWiFT7 certificate. They must also register with the EPA.
Use of the SWiFT 7 logo on product acts as a mark of quality to consumers and assists local authorities with enforcement.
The rules governing the sale of smoky coal outside Low Smoke Zones (LSZs) are in the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012. Under these, anybody who places smoky coal on the market, including retailers, for home use outside the smoky coal ban LSZs must ensure the following:
1. that the sulphur content of the smoky coal is no greater than 0.7% by weight, and
2. that a current certificate is held by the retailer showing the sulphur content of the coal is in compliance.
If you are a coal supplier and wish to know more about the regulations and reporting requirements, please contact the Environmental Protection Agency.
Note: it is illegal to sell or burn smoky coal in cities and towns that have been designated as smoky coal ban Low Smoke Zones, regardless of the sulphur content of the coal. The prohibition applies on the marketing, sale, distribution and use of all smoky coal in these areas.
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 most 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). They must hold a Certificate of registration to this effect with their supplier's registration number.
If the EPA is not satisfied that the product being supplied is compliant with the legal requirements it may refuse or revoke the registration of a bagging operator or fuel supplier.
The EPA maintains registers to support enforcement by local authorities. Persons who are required to register or with queries regarding registration can contact the EPA as detailed below:
Environmental Protection Agency
Solid Fuel Registration, Resource Use Unit
Johnstown Castle Estate
P.O. Box 3000
Tel.: +353 (0)53 916 0600
EPA Website: Coal Bagging / Fuel Suppliers Registrations
Local authorities enforce the Regulations. 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.
Fixed payment notices (or ‘on the spot fines’) introduced under the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 are in operation 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.
Local authorities carry 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 the environment section of your local authority.