Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1991 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 24 October 1991

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 411 No. 6

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[1659] Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  I had been speaking on the last occasion about the incidence of pollution in Lough Derg and the delays in setting up and commissioning the proper authorities to investigate the incidents which had been taking place. I should have acknowledged that the Minister had set up the environment research unit who, together with Teagasc, are investigating it. Some work was undertaken in the spring and summer of this year. Information should have been published about the sources of pollution affecting the lake. International fishing competitions had to be cancelled there because of algae growth. Delays in this area are raising doubts about the effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency. Perhaps the Minister can take powers to require the authority undertaking the work of this nature to publish interim reports giving a preliminary identification of the sources of pollution. Further examination at Lough Derg has been postponed until next summer, which means that we will not have a full report for two or three years. There is an opportunity to promote speedier investigation of pollution outbreaks so that they can be brought to the attention of the wrong-doers and the public much more quickly.

The agency will have the ability to draw up guidelines for environment impact statements. The agency may also assist a competent authority in the assessment of environment impact statements and may comment on them as the Minister would require.

The agency must be consulted before a decision is made to exempt a development from EIA requirements. There has been confusion because of the exemption clause. Some of this difficulty has arisen from the regulations published by the EC with regard to environmental impact. They regard anything under £5 million as [1660] exempt from particular kinds of environmental impact assessments. In my constituency there has been major difficulty as to whether developments under £5 million are exempt from the EIA. This has been the claim made by the Office of Public Works. They have claimed exemption and officers in the Commission in Brussels have intimated that it will be necessary to do a full study on this matter.

All of the confusion has led to what I can only describe as great difficulty on the ground in the area where the proposed development is to take place. I have no problem with the proposal to site the interpretative centre at Mullaghmore. However, as the work will be undertaken in what one would describe as virgin territory some kind of assessment has to be carried out. Our law in this area is very weak. Our Departments of State are able to proceed with developments without engaging in any consultation — they may engage in consultation with local authorities. I believe Government Departments are easily swayed by the word “consult”. The local authority in County Clare are vigilant about such issues as pollution, environmental control, planning and development. They have a very good track record in that regard. However, local authority officers are totally frustrated by the exemption laws. They have been placed in a hands off position in regard to the Mullaghmore development. I do not think that is a very good atmosphere in which to propose developments. I am not saying that there have been clashes between the respective officials but I appeal to the Minister to review the exemption law in regard to local authorities. As long as the law allows the Office of Public Works and other Departments of State to engage in planning, construct buildings and carry out other improvements in counties without consultation with the relevant local authority there will always be great difficulty.

I look forward with interest to the introduction by the Minister of regulations on environmental impact assessments and to hearing how she will direct the agency to compile these guidelines. I [1661] hope she will take into account the need to limit the exemptions so that there will be greater public accountability and greater liaison between the people working on the ground and the Departments located in Dublin.

Finally, I wish to refer to the conference on the environment which will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. I put down a parliamentary question to the Minister yesterday seeking information about Ireland's representation at that meeting and the preparations being made here for it. One of the problems in this regard is that there are no up to date reports on the conference which was already attended. We need to educate the public on what is going on in this area. I know that some people believe a new industry is being created as a result of environmental problems and the Green issue, with the publication of numerous papers and glossy magazines on the subject. There is much interest in this conference. If the debate on the Bill takes longer than expected, will the Minister publish information on Ireland's position in regard to the issues which are likely to arise at the conference in Rio de Janeiro and say whether we will be given an opportunity to debate some of these matters in this House?

Mr. Ellis: Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  While I welcome the Bill it is only fair to say that I do so with a guarded vision of what it may or may not do so far as our environment is concerned. I say that mainly because I believe we have a duty to protect our environment and to ensure that we strike a proper balance between environmental protection and industrial development.

I think everyone agrees that our environment needs to be protected. There has been a growing awareness over the past few years of the need for environmental protection. We are lucky in that we have probably the best environment in Europe. This may be due to the fact that we live on the periphery of Europe and are an island nation. However, because of this we are duty bound to protect our environment. We must look at what can [1662] be done by individuals and by the community in general in that respect.

Environmental protection comes under a number of headings—protection of our natural environment, protection of our environment from industrial developments and the effects circumstances beyond our control are having on our environment. The task of environmental protection has been carried out by a number of agences over the past few years, for example, the fishery boards who were environmental protectors because of the work they carried out.

When one looks at the operation of the fishery boards in the context of the proposed changes which will be brought about by the Bill it is imperative that we learn from the mistakes which may have been made by them. This is imperative for a number of reasons. The issue of inconsistency between the various fishery boards needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Accountability is another issue which needs to be addressed in this context. This is necessary in view of the fact that the proposed Environmental Protection Agency will be set up on a regional basis.

I have the height of respect for many of the people who operate our fishery boards. However, the big stick has been used unnecessarily in some cases to the extent that our environment has not been protected and no work has been carried out in this regard. The policy pursued by some fishery boards of prosecuting people for very minimal offences which are genuine accidents also needs to be looked at in the context of this legislation. I know people in my constituency who have been prosecuted by the fishery boards for offences which I believe were of a very marginal nature. If a farmer's silage effluent tank overflows and he deals with the problem before it reaches any water course, should he be prosecuted when he has done no damage to the environment. This has happened and it is wrong.

We all have a duty to protect our environment and farmers have probably more [1663] responsibility in this area, than have any other section of our community. Yet in some cases farmers have been prosecuted and have had to pay hefty fines and enormous legal expenses for the cost of the prosecution. It is wrong that legal expenses of £600, £700 or as high as £1,000 can be trotted out for District Court cases which are indefendable because of the state of the fishery regulations. Unless there is a reason for a long investigation and much legal work, it is wrong for a person to be told that the cost of legal proceedings in a fisheries case can amount to between £700 and £1,000. That should be redressed.

Where continued pollution occurs without any effort being made to remedy the problem the perpetrators of such acts should not be dealt with leniently by the law and everybody accepts that. Where people make an honest effort to improve the position and where the difference between carrying out the works and continued employment becomes marginal we are then heading into a very dangerous area. If the pollution is not of a toxic nature and is not causing major problems a respectable length of time should be permitted to allow the problems to be dealt with. Whatever State agency aid is available should be given to these companies to try to rectify the problem rather than, as happens in many cases, the company owners being hounded out of existence. In many cases the net result is that rather than deal with pollutant by means of proper treatment works, it is dumped in the hours after midnight into some stream or lake. It is a damning indictment of us that we allow such things to happen in Ireland.

The problem of emissions is caused by industries and we have to examine it. There should be proper assessment of all industries to see what effect emissions may have on the environment. I often wonder whether the necessary work is put into environmental impact assessments which are carried out prior to planning permissions being granted. The sector of the community likely to be hardest hit and put under most pressure after [1664] the passage of this Bill is the agricultural community. We all know that agriculture is an industry that does not have too much spare cash, to put it mildly. Many small farmers find that the cost of dealing with effluent and slurry problems goes beyond their financial capabilities. While grants are available there is a need for a type of slow moving — I do not mean terminally slow in the sense that one would be given five or ten years to carry out works — process taking up to five years to carry out remedial works. That cannot be objected to, so long as no major problems arise during that time.

We are all aware that farming is now becoming intense. When we compare our system of farming with that of our continental neighbours we see it is probably at the start-up stage. We should learn from the problems farmers in Holland and Germany experience. We have a duty as legislators to see to it that our agriculture develops along a co-ordinated and definite line in the years ahead and that our environment is not threatened.

It is imperative that samples are taken in the presence of the farmer, industrialist or those alleged to have caused the pollution. The reason I say that is that if a person is charged with drunken driving a sample of blood or urine must be taken in the presence of a garda and a medical doctor. Under the fisheries legislation, samples may be taken by any fisheries officer without a witness being present. It will have to be made clear that the alleged offenders must be given a sample of the polluted water for private analysis, if they so wish. Further, when samples are taken an independent person should be present. The accused person is entitled to be present when the sample is taken. He or she is entitled to know that the sample is genuine. I hope the Minister of State addresses that issue before the Bill is passed.

A number of EC directives on environmental protection has not yet been implemented by this country. We cannot seek a derogation because we failed to implement them. That has resulted in many attacks on our environment recently. We failed to implement EC [1665] Directive 667/90 and that should be examined by the Department of the Environment.

We should look also at the proposed regional system. While regional systems are good we must bear in mind that no two regions are the same. In this legislation, the regions should not cross county boundaries as happens with the fisheries boards. This is not the best way to implement these provisions. The reason I say that is simple. Local authorities, as planning authorities, should always be within one region so far as this legislation is concerned. The accountability of regional managers must be addresed. While it is proposed that the agency should be autonomous there must be accountability because we saw recently that people who were let out in their own little boat became little Ayatollahs, often not in the best interests of the State or of the community. We should ensure that the central board is in a position at all times to make available, on request, to the public or to Members of this House, any information sought unlike the present situation where fisheries boards are not accountable to Members of this House or, from what I can gather, to the Department of the Marine.

The appointment of agency members should be looked at. There is little use in appointing people to boards such as this who are not capable of dealing with environmental problems. We do not want another bureaucracy set up in the regions with little Ayatollahs who will try to keep information away from the general public, the members of the Oireachtas and the Minister of the day. I suggest each local authority should have at least one member on the regional board and the local authority should appoint an elected member.

European standards on environmental protection are questionable when compared with our standards. I appeal to the Minister of State to campaign for common environmental standards to be maintained especially by our near neighbour, the UK. I do no need to elaborate on my reasons for saying that. We have [1666] all seen the problems with regard to Sellafield; the east coast seems to be under threat from Sellafield. We must make sure that we are made fully aware of any problems that may arise in the UK nuclear stations.

The wisest decision ever taken here was not to have nuclear power stations. What we have in its place may not in the long term prove to be environmentally friendly when we take into account the acid rain which results from emissions from Moneypoint. The use of smaller stations might have been more in the interest of the country. If we had continued that policy we might have fewer environmental problems. More and more power seems to be generated in Moneypoint but perhaps even at this late stage we might consider the possibility of putting more hydro stations in place because they were at least totally environmentally friendly in most cases.

Many of our waterways are being polluted today and we are not all without guilt in this area. Many defective sewage treatment works are discharging effluent into the rivers. It is imperative to speed up the programme that has been commenced to dealing with effective sewage treatment plants. A recent report on the quality of drinking water should be urgently considered because in some cases our drinking water is not of the quality desired. We should be able to treat some of the problems, but an error can have severe consequences for communities in relation to defective water supply.

We must consider as well the pollution being caused by afforestation. Rivers and lakes are beginning to lose fish life because the shedding of sitka spruce needles into the water cause an acid when they decay. We should look at this matter in the context of forest development. A lot of land can best be used for afforestation purposes but when heavily subsidising land to be forested, we should consider how it affects local communities, farming and the environment generally. These questions must be tackled sooner rather than later. [1667] We need new regulations with regard to planting near watercourses. The regulations should ensure that we do not have the sort of problems that are now beginning to appear in the West of Ireland with regard to pollution from forestry. Planning permission and environmental impact assessments are necessary before any plantation in excess of ten hectares can be planted. The present regulation is in respect of 200 hectares. The number of applicants Coillte Teoranta receive for aid for plantations of 200 hectares or more is very limited. In view of the need to do something about this problem I hope we will deal with it sooner rather than later.

It has not been proved that I am incorrect in believing that toxic waste is being dumped in landfill sites here. That is damning and dangerous. It appears that certain counties are prepared to allow this to continue despite it having been brought to their notice by public representatives. I wrote a complaint to a county manager recently about dumping and three months later I still have not received a reply. It is time the Department of the Environment looked at the amount of illegal dumping taking place in a county adjacent to this city — and it is not County Dublin. It is time landfill sites were properly supervised. We have a duty to protect the environment and to see that those who are responsible for administering environment protection laws, weak as they are at the moment, enforce them.

People outside of the gates of the House yesterday protested against the establishment of an incinerator in Derry. I sympathise with them. Unless we can be assured that the operation of an incinerator in Derry will be beyond reproach we must show our abhorrence of it. The operation of incinerators by non-State agencies will not be in the best interests of the community. If the proposed incinerator is erected in Derry we should be able to monitor it, and we should have every right to carry out any examination necessary to protect the citizens of this country.

[1668] While I welcome this Bill there is an urgent need to re-assess many of the things we are talking about. If we implemented the laws as they stand, there might not be a need for this great crusade with regard to Green politics here. We have had Green politics in all parties for the past 20 to 25 years. Every Member of this House could declare himself a supporter of the Green movement. We have a duty to ourselves and to our people to protect the environment. Once this Bill is passed I hope the rights of all citizens will be firmly protected, that a citizen will be allowed the right to defend himself against an assessment by a relevant officer, that the farming community and industry will be treated fairly and that those who are not directly involved in either sector will be fully protected.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  I am delighted this Bill is before the House but I have to say immediately that it is very sad indeed, and in a real sense it is a tragedy, that we did not have this debate two years ago when a far more robust Bill was brought before the House by my colleague, Deputy Alan Shatter, which was voted down by the present Government, including the present Minister of State, who did not seem to take the view at the time that there was in that Bill a framework on which this debate could take place and on which we might have made progress. I am even sadder that on looking through this Bill I find it has very much the same inspiration as Deputy Shatter's Bill but lacks some of the stronger elements included in that Bill which would have enabled us to achieve the objectives the Minister of State is now setting out to achieve more quickly and satisfactorily and with greater clarity.

It is a sad comment on the way parliamentary politics operate here, in particular by the Government, that two years later we are dealing with an issue which we could have properly dealt with at the end of 1989. There seems to be a great tendency in this debate on all sides and in all sections of the public to adopt [1669] the classic pose of Nero who fiddled while Rome burned. I intend to say a little more about that, but the talk about protecting individual rights — all of it legitimate — seems to operate on the assumption that in some way the environment and the atmosphere which surround us are renewable resources. They are not. I have gleaned from all the reading I have done on the technical side and from the experts at conferences that we had better wake up to the fact that the atmosphere around our planet and the physical environment of our planet are not renewable resources, they do not regenerate themselves. What we and the western industrialised countries, in particular, are doing is nothing more, nothing less, than using up finite resources at a rate which is only tending to increase.

If we look at it from that point of view, I think I would be justified in saying that we have not yet connected with the importance of this argument or, in our minds or hearts, with the problem of the protection of the environment, not to speak of the improvement of our environment. One of the dangers in a debate like this is that we use terms such as “protection” and “improvement” interchangeably whereas they are not interchangeable, they are two different things. In reality what we are talking about in this Bill and what will be talked about at the conference in Brazil next year is not the improvement of our environment; at the very best what we will be talking about is slowing down the rate of decay and the rate at which we are destroying the environment which surrounds us. That all sounds Cassandra-like and pessimistic, but it is a fact. All the measures we are taking in this Bill — I am not blaming the Minister of State for this, the blame goes much wider than that — are to stop our environment getting worse at the present rate, they will not improve our environment compared with what we see today.

It is fair to say also that there is still an air of what I would call self-satisfaction in Ireland about our environment. It shows itself in different ways. Deputy Ellis inadvertently showed some aspects a few [1670] moments ago. He wanted a series of reliefs for those who are accused of what he regards as minor infringements of our environmental codes, he wants people to have the right to have independent samples taken and to know that a sample taken from water on their farm or effluent from their industry can be double checked by them. That is a perfectly legitimate request to make but what it turns into in practice is another series of obstacles to stop us polluting our environment and making it worse as quickly as we are and to allow us to stick out our chests and say that we have managed to strike the proper balance between protection of the environment and protection of individual rights. The single central idea we all have to get hold of is that if we do not seriously protect our environment, the individual right to life of all of us and of millions and billions yet to be born, will be going to hell in a wheelbarrow very rapidly. That is the simple fact we have not concentrated on yet.

Again, I saw this a couple of years ago when our local authorities began to take more seriously than they had up to then, the business of ensuring that agriculture does not pollute our watercourses anymore than we think it has to. It is probably not very useful in a debate like this but we should start from the fact that all human life and human activity pollutes the environment. That may be too radical or too revolutionary a view to take, but it is a fact.

I talked to some groups of farmers when the local authorities started a campaign to ensure that our watercourses were properly maintained and protected according to our likes at the time. One of the things which inevitably cropped up was the spillage or the arrival, by whatever means, of animal effluent in our watercourses. We all know that when cattle drink they defecate in our watercourses. There is not much we can do about that but people got very indignant when it seemed there were servants of local authorities who had not realised that. One farmer said to me after he had an argument with a member of the staff of the local authority that the latter had [1671] expressed himself in very colourful terms about the standards they had to apply. I would not permit myself for a moment, Sir, to say exactly what he said to me——

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Go on.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  ——but the gist of it was the following: if God had meant to prevent birds defecating into watercourses he would have put their cloacal orifices on their backs. This shows that we do not like a concern with the environment to get in the way of what we are doing; we do not like having to tailor what we do and the way we run our businesses or our farms in a way which is going to be friendly to the environment.

I find there is great deal of smugness about these problems. If it is true, as many of us claim it is day in day out on a ritualistic basis, that we have a nice, grand, clean and green environment, it is not due to anything we have done; it is due primarily to the fact that there are only 3.5 million of us in this State and five million of us on this island, and we are far less industrialised than most of our neighbours. I do not accept for one moment the proposition that if we had anything like the density of population or the density of industrial activity as the United Kingdom we would necessarily be any better than they are in protecting our environment.

The Minister of State showed aspects of this smugness in introducing the Bill in the House last Tuesday. She gave the figures — offhand I do not have them — about the number of amendments to this Bill which were accepted in the Seanad. Some time ago I went to the trouble of going through the Bill as passed by the Seanad and the Bill as initiated and it is fair to say that the vast majority of amendments accepted in the Seanad were of a technical nature. They are not fundamental in terms of any policy change, they are not fundamental in altering anything in the Bill or in rectifying any of what I regard as deficiencies in it. The amendments were necessary [1672] and wise but all very technical amendments which, while they may have done much for the Bill in parliamentary and administrative terms, have not done much for it in terms of making it a better instrument to prevent the further deterioration of our environment.

The Minister of State was guilty of this kind of smugness we cultivate about our clean, green environment. In her speech she talked about “a natural resource which will never be exhausted if we take care of it”. She said that the decisions we make in future about what type of development we want will have to take this into account. I will quote the really dangerous part:

Much of our recent economic recovery can be attributed to industries which are dependent on a clean environment, for example, food, agriculture, electronics and tourism.

There is more but that is the gist of the Minister's remarks in that connection. I do not wish to be offensive but I regard that as nothing more than ritualistic claptrap to divert attention from the real issues.

The Minister mentioned all the clean industries, such as electronics. There is an article in the current edition of World Link by a Mr. John A. Bohn, President of Moody's Investor Service about the effect of environmental action programmes on the credit rating of firms. He looks at the costs they will have to meet to get their act cleaned up and what effect that will have on their credit rating, their stock market position and so on. He refered to costs and said:

The greatest risks are faced by firms in which hazardous waste or particulate matter are generated during normal operations. These include the chemical, rubber and plastics, petroleum, pharmaceutical, pulp and paper, heavy manufacturing, steel, mining, electronics and electrical equipment industries.

It may well be that the food and electronics industries — and the others to which the Minister referred with [1673] approval in this ritualistic claptrap — are ones which like to come into a clean environment but we cannot be sure that they will leave a clean environment after them. I intend to come back to that matter because the electronics industry, like the food industry, is capable of having some fairly nasty stings in its tail. As long as we keep perpetuating this nonsense, that by our great effort we have a clean, green environment in this lovely little country of ours and that we need these clean industries, we are walking ourselves straight into trouble. The real danger is that it infects — and affects — the way we approach the drafting of a Bill like this which will be central to the future in regard to what we do, not to improve our environment but just to stop it getting worse at the kind of rate at which it has been deteriorating for the last 20 years or more.

We know, of course, that the food industry which may like to have a clean environment to start with can — and does — pollute our environment. We have problems with effluent, with the treatment of raw materials, the use and treatment of offals and with smell, a matter which is not dealt with in the Bill. I will come back to it later. We can see umpteen examples of it all round the country; there has been a problem with part of our food industry chain as a result of the BSE scare. It is now no longer economic, because there is no demand for it, to manufacture meat and bone-meal from carcases. Meat and bone-meal was made not only from the offal and the bones of animals killed in our meat factories, it was made from the carcases of casualty animals, the ones which died on farms for all kinds of different reasons, those which were knocked down by cars or which broke legs falling into ditches and so on.

There is now no market for meat and bone-meal. What is happening? Increasingly, all round the country, those carcases are simply being dumped. In the good cases a pit is dug, the carcase is thrown in, maybe a bit of lime is put on top of it and it is covered. In the bad cases — and there have been quite a few [1674] over the last year or so — in a corner of a field one will find five or six bullocks or a few sheep which have been thrown there because nowadays there is no knacker picking up the carcases and bringing them to the meat and bone-meal plant. It very clearly shows the danger, the minute the economic shoe pinches here concern for the environment goes out the window pretty fast. There is no reason in that context for the kind of smugness that says this is a grand little country, lovely and green and lovely and clean.

The Minister cited the electronics industry as one which has a place in this grand, green, clean little environment. Is the Minister of State giving any consideration to what happens to the waste from the electronics industry? The industry produce very interesting ones, all kinds of rare metals, heavy metals of some kind and metals which do not degrade easily. They are not biodegradable, they must be disposed of because, with the best will in the world, the technology in that industry, although very well advanced, cannot eliminate the problem of waste completely. What happens to the solvents used? What happens to the waste from all these processes which etch these marvellous circuits? We must deal with that problem and there is no point in trying to pretend that the electronics industry is an unambiguously clean one and the kind we need here.

Another area about which we hear a great deal of ritualistic claptrap is our tourism sector. We have all heard the stories — we repeat them ad nauseam, mostly to ourselves, because we cannot attract Americans and others in big enough numbers — probably apocryphal about the German tourists who love coming here because they can go for a walk in the rain. Their plastic raincoats are not corroded by the acid rain and they think it is wonderful that their jackets are not holed or streaked. We think this is wonderful, that they will all flock here to wear the rain-jackets without getting them corroded. Are we doing much about it? I wonder.

[1675] I travel round this country on a regular basis and I hope to continue doing so for a long time. If you keep your eyes open, what do you find? Atrocious visual pollution, I am not even talking about the built environment but what we see dumped in the most unlikely places. There is an area of bog near where I live. I live in the heart of the countryside although there will be a major bypass a couple of hundred yards from me in a few years when the Minister for the Environment gets around to giving the money to Kildare County Council to get on with the job.

There is an area of bog near my home, totalling about 800 acres, and beside it there are about 500 or 600 acres of forestry plantation, coniferous plantation of the kind Deputy Ellis was rightly concerned about. Beyond that again there is another large stretch of bog. This is a great country — that area should long ago have been classified as a disadvantaged area but this Government cannot get around to doing that.

That is a place where I like to walk. The bog area is used for summer grazing on a commonage basis. It is extraordinary to see the rapidity with which that environment is deteriorating. Over the last winter, for example, I found substantial quantities of rubbish dumped there. One can find there all those items typical of those that can be found all over the country, the new plastic oil cans, plastic containers in which heavy duty oil is sold for lubricating farm machinery or trucks, bits of lorry cabs, ubiquitous fertiliser bags, bits of exhaust pipes and so on. They are brought out to these bogs because they can be dumped in the furze bushes where the neighbours cannot see them. It is easier to do that than to go to the local authority and get an agreement with whoever is running the local landfill site to take these materials from you.

The same is happening in the Dublin mountains less than 12 miles from here. In one part of the Wicklow mountains, beside Lough Dan, it is proposed to open a nature park or a park of some kind that would be preserved. That is a lovely area, [1676] and I am concerned that people are talking about opening an interpretative centre there. Most people who go there do not need an interpretative centre to tell them that what they are looking at is precious. Beside that — I have this on very good authority from people who go there from time to time — if one turns off the main road and goes as far as the bog where people still cut turf, where my father cut turf during the war, when I was young, one can find dumped all kinds of scrap metal, not just the kind of scrap metal from dealers but that which results from fabricating things with metal. There are metal shavings and long coils of metal wire made from a metal working process. There is clear evidence that people are bringing stuff there to burn, and I find that appalling. On my way home if I look across from the Naas Road to the Dublin mountains I can sometimes see a fire burning. At one time I thought people were burning furze but it is more likely to be some obnoxious stuff which is brought out there by those who cannot be bothered to use the ordinary landfill sites to get rid of that kind of rubbish.

That is happening in a highly scenic area less than 12 miles from here, in circumstances where it is visible to the public, and it just keeps happening. That is the grand, green, clean little country we live in. We do not have the mental culture to do what really needs to be done, to keep our environment from being polluted. Have we the mentality to deal with that? I do not think so.

A case arose recently in Naas—indeed it is still going on — of contamination of a local water supply. People became ill and did not know what was going on. It was rumoured that there was a problem with the water supply from the Sunday's Well source but the first reaction from the local authority was to deny that. Gradually it became more and more apparent that there was a problem with the water supply, and the supply was disconnected. In that case there was a gradual release of incomplete information and advice to the people. Meanwhile the problem was getting worse and more and more people were becoming [1677] ill. Some of them were applying the old remedies that people apply when their children get stomach upsets. People in the affected areas of the town whose children were getting ill, vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea, wondered what to give them to settle their stomachs. One of the sovereign remedies for an upset tummy is flat 7-Up, and it can be flattened by adding water to it. Consequently, unsuspecting parents were giving their children 7-Up mixed with this contaminated water and wondering why their children were becoming more sick.

This happened because people did not get information from their local sanitary authority. It was only when the situation became really serious, ten days after the problem emerged, that any comprehensive advice and guidance was given to householders, but by that stage 16 children and one or two adults were in hospital and a quarter of the population of Naas were groggy, had lost weight or were suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea, all the problems associated with the illness.

In that case the local sanitary authorities first reaction was the standard one in all these difficult problems — let us keep the lid on it, above all let us not create panic. In that case as in most other cases that is the wrong reaction; it is what continually results in people being ill. It can be lethal and it does not solve the problem. The proper reaction of course is to start from the beginning as if the worst had happened; hit the panic button, assume the worst and then deal with the problem. One's reaction to such a case can always be de-escalated if one finds one has done more than is required to deal with the problem. If one reacts gradually, with a phased response one will never get on top of the problem and the result is that people continue to get ill, the problem becomes worse and will be more difficult to deal with.

That is a case that has been of concern to me and to a few thousand people in Naas, but it is not unique. The same approach was taken by the relevant authorities to the problem at Two Mile Island, and exactly the same approach —[1678] although they were more rigid about it — was taken by the appropriate authorities in the case of the Chernobyl disaster. If you under-react you will never deal properly with a problem; if you overreact from day one you may do too much but you will always be sure you have done as much as can possibly be done to sort out the problem.

I wonder if that is the kind of approach that is going to be taken by the Environmental Protection Agency and the local authorities when the provisions of this Bill are passed into law? The scale of the problem we face here is far greater than is usually recogised. There is a completely inadequate understanding among the general public of the effects of industrial, agricultural and municipal effluent and emissions. That was typified by a report I heard of yesterday — I am speaking very much at second hand because I have not seen this report. Apparently the ESRI have turned their attention to the problem of cleaning up the emission from the generating plant at Moneypoint. As far as I am aware, the cost of putting state of the art scrubbers into the stacks there is in the region of £200 million. I gather now that it is being seriously proposed that it would be more economic to spend that money in Eastern Europe to clean up some of the pollution there than to spend the money in Moneypoint. That might very well be true if the European Community were paying for it all.

The rest of the proposition is what amazes me, that if scrubbers are put in the stacks at Moneypoint they will reduce the total level of emissions, but because the emissions go higher they will travel further and the remainder will fall in Dublin, and it is a bad idea to pollute Dublin. Apparently, that is part of the economics of this proposal. If that is done it will pollute Dublin and depollute the parts of the country that are now affected. It is more economic to spend the money in Eastern Europe and allow east Clare, Tipperary and the Midlands to be continually affected. If that is the kind of economic analysis being applied in this country by a responsible organisation to investment in cleaning up our [1679] environment, there is precious little hope that we will get much sense out of environment policy for a long time to come. We can see the evidence of an inadequate approach to effluent treatment all over the country: we have instances in Dublin; including the row about the quality of the water in Dublin Bay; we had the row about the pollution of Cork Harbour; and the row over the sewage discharge into Lough Swilly. There is another incident the Minister of State knows quite a bit about, the row over the sewage scheme for Kilcullen, County Kildare. The Minister of State had the great kindness and goodness to come down to Kilcullen by co-incidence I think a day or two before the last local elections and to announce solemnly that the Kilcullen sewage scheme was getting priority. I am sure that her colleague in the locality, Senator Dardis who is also councillor John Dardis was delighted to hear the good news, as were the people of Kilcullen. It was a couple of weeks later, when the election was safely out of the way and Senator John Dardis with his beam-end safely ensconced on a seat in Kildare County Council that we found out exactly what “priority” means. Priority means that nothing will happen for at least 18 months. Meanwhile in Kilcullen we still have the problem of raw sewage going into the Liffey causing a hell of a smell around the place and leaving the people downstream from Kilcullen worried about what is flowing past their lands, in some cases what is flowing into their taps, or what their children are swimmimg in.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It has been there a long time; Deputy Dukes did not provide the money when he was Minister.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  A Minister who belongs to a party who do not make promises and who are breaking moulds, comes down to Kilcullen and pulls off one of the classic political ploys — she promises something on the eve of an election and tells us [1680] afterwards that it does not mean anything for the next 18 months——

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  The Deputy should quote what I said.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  ——for the next 18 months at least.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  That is exactly what I said.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  I can quote it all, I can get The Leinster Leader and The Nationalist and we will see all the accounts that were written up. The fact is that the Minister played fast and loose with the environment that day for electoral advantage.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I was there two years and there was no election.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  I have to say it may even have worked. I wonder what kind of priority it had two years before that, if top priority means that nothing will happen for 18 months.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It had no priority, when you were Minister for Finance. It was never even considered.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  When I was Minister for Finance and the Minister was on the then Opposition benches she argued about public expenditure and did not want a red penny to be cut off the Estimates. That will not wash. The Minister has ditched every principle she ever had.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  You, Deputy, doubled the national debt when you were Minister for Finance and you did not provide for the sewerage either.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Chair is experienced enough to know that oftimes a friendly tete-à-tete like this can develop into what would be disorderly conduct and I would not wish that to happen to either Deputy Dukes or the [1681] Minister of State. Will the Deputy address the Chair, please?

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  As always, Sir. I am grateful for your mellifluous advice but I can assure you, Sir, that this ain't friendly and it aint't a tete-à-tete.

These kinds of instances are very commonplace and they happen frequently all over the country. However, they have one thing in common, they are partly the result of a very slapdash approach to the job before us of implementing legislation. Deputy Ellis dealt with part of the psychosis behind that. Deputy Ellis was objecting to prosecutions where a genuine accident happened. That all sounds very reasonable until one realised that the Two Mile Island incident was a genuine accident and that Chernobyl was a genuine accident. One either decides to prevent it and punish when it happens, because if we do not do that rigorously one will never do it properly.

Public opinion is evolving on these issues but not fast enough. I will now deal with the kinds of things we do not seem to be sensitive about. A while ago I spoke about the use of metals in the electronic industry — where they use several fairly rare metals which will be in the environment for a long long time to come. Many of them will have very serious effects on health if they get into the food chain or the drinking water supplies or came in contact anywhere near the human organism. Yet we are pouring a great many of these metals into the environment every day. It is not just the electronics industry, in case they feel I have singled them out for particular attention, but many other industries as well.

We all have transistor radios. From time to time men use battery powered radios — although in my view they do not give you a very good shave. Our children have toys that run on batteries. We in this House use dictaphones that run on batteries. When you get to the point where the transistor is fading or the dictaphone is not working properly, you take out the old battery and throw it in the bin. What happens to the used battery? In most [1682] cases in this country it goes into a landfill site where the various acids and metals bubble away, polluting our environment for ages.

We use plastics at an enormous rate. Indeed many people in this House use paper hankerchiefs which come in a plastic pack. I bet many gentlemen in this House use disposable plastic razors which they throw away. We all use ball-point pens; people in the public service use ball-point pens issued by Oifig an tSoláthair to beat the band. All kinds of plastics are used in promotional material which we may keep for a while and then throw away. If you go to the opening of a firm you will get this lovely little keyring with a little battery operated light so that you can find your way into you car or house at night — they seem to think that people who go to these promotions will need their keys late at night. One gets many of these little things, all made from non-biodegradable plastic which sooner or later one throws away without any thought of what we are doing to the environment.

We all use paper at a great rate. One does not stand up in this House without paper in one's hand. Our absent friends in the Press Gallery go through reams of paper every day, yet do we ever think about it?

Yesterday I received this promotional packet — which I am sure most Members got — a cardboard box made from 100 per cent recycled paper which contains samples of recycled envelopes and the promotional letter printed in non-toxic ink. They say they can produce any type of envelope and it will be printed in non-toxic ink. At a fair bet 95 per cent of this promotional literature coming to Deputies will be vertically filed as we call it, into the waste paper bin, or else it will be left on the shelf in the office as something we must get around to doing whenever we have time. It will not happen.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  They were sent only to recycled politicians.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Santa Claus did not come to everybody.

[1683]Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  Deputy Stagg, I hope you never have to get recycled because you cannot even find the handlebars.

Let us concentrate on the issue. I wonder if anybody in our public service is looking at this question or something similar, and asking if we should not use recycled paper in the Houses of the Oireachtas or in the public service because it is being used elsewhere. Undoubtedly somebody who says that will be smiled at and everybody will think it is a little naive and childish, but it will not make much difference. They are right for as long as people think in that way — that it is a grand idea, that it is for the freaks or the ingénue but does not have much to do with the real world.

Meanwhile, firms who have a perfectly good eco friendly commercial idea are scrambling around carrying out commercial promotions and growing only very slowly where in fact they are producing something that is much more worth while than, for instance, what is produced by various people such as those whose products Deputies will again be spending time looking at in the next few weeks. I am thinking of those who produce glossy Christmas cards on unrecycled paper and printed in highly toxic ink.

It is not part of our culture yet to look systematically at those issues, and that is part of the reason we have reached the point at which we need a Bill that contains the kind of powers set out here; indeed, perhaps we need a Bill with even greater powers.

What of glass recycling? We all use glass, though many of us have moved away from using this product in a great many ways, but do we consider recycling glass? The Minister of State has been very active in this regard and has promoted the bottle bank idea all around the country. However, even the most successful of those projects here or in any other European Community country will indicate very clearly that they receive only a small proportion of the potential amount of material they could get. Only a small proportion of what is recyclable is coming [1684] through the system to be recycled. Again, that is because we do not have that culture and because we think that people who go on about such matters are grand, are nice people, but are a little off the wall and are not to be taken too seriously. As I said at the beginning, that is because we have not latched on to the idea that we are talking about here not about improving our environment but about stopping it from getting worse, and it has been getting worse for decades.

Then there is the current argument in relation to toxic waste disposal, about the incineration of toxic waste and about the transport of toxic waste. I wonder how seriously we take this matter. Deputy Ellis made the very fair and reasonable comment that there are concerns in many parts of the country that landfill sites are being used for the dumping of toxic waste which should not be dumped in such places. If we were to consider the situation in relation to toxic waste nobody would take more than a day or two to come to the conclusion that without the production of any toxic waste in addition to what we have already in storage, in landfill sites, in backyards or in factories all over the country, there is more than enough toxic waste to keep a vast plant going for years if we were to try to get rid of that waste. But then we have an argument about whether a toxic waste disposal unit is needed.

I must say that I find the current argument about the proposed Mayfield Plant in Derry to be completely unreal. It seems to start off on the basis that there is no problem in the matter of the disposal of toxic waste, that people can sit down comfortably and argue about whether such a plant is needed. The reality is that there is already more than enough toxic waste lying around the country to keep a vast plant going for many years.

It is obvious that we have to reduce the production of toxic waste — that is another day's work; it will take time but there is no doubt that it has to be done. However, in the meantime it is idle, dishonest even, to pretend that all of the toxic wastes produced in different plants [1685] in this country can be effectively dealt with on site in the facility in which they are produced. It is mischievous to say that. On this issue I find the Green lobby to be completely unreal. They are saying that toxic waste incineration plants should not be built because that would only encourage people to produce toxic wastes. As I said, that argument ignores the fact that we already have toxic wastes, but it strikes me as being tantamount to saying that we should not train any more doctors because as long as there are doctors people will be encouraged to become ill. Such an attitude is not “green”; it is burying one's head in the sand.

Some of that argument was heard in the House yesterday at Question Time when the Minister for the Environment was doing his usual soft-shoe shuffle around the issue and not giving any answers. He has issued invitations to tender for the provision of a toxic waste incineration plant, but he has not said where such a plant will be constructed. That is a burning question, if I may be pardoned the pun. He has not said where the plant will be sited. I wonder what is in the Minister's mind on this issue. I do not know whether the Minister of State can tell us about that, sometimes I wonder whether she really agrees with her Minister or whether we will hear her on the radio next Sunday worrying about this disagreement between herself and the Minister and saying that the Government might fall on that issue next week. If the Minister and the Minister of State are serious about the issue — and I hope to God they are — they will have to give some idea of where such a plant might be situated because for as long as we do not know of their intentions in that regard there will be confusion and suspicion. Such an atmosphere on an issue of this kind is not an atmosphere in which any sensible decisions will be made, because for as long as there is confusion and suspicion and nobody knows where the plant will be situated, everyone will be running out the old NIMBY principle — if it is going to be here, not in my backyard. For as long as such an attitude exists all [1686] that we will have in our backyard is more and more toxic waste that could be dealt with by a properly constructed and properly monitored plant. Let us forget the nonsensical argument about transport, because we know for a fact that wherever the plant is situated toxic waste will have to be transported to it. We will not be able to afford, nor will people accept, any attempt to deal with the elimination of toxic waste on site everywhere it is produced. That would not be sensible, economic or even environmentally friendly.

The Bill adopts the principle of aiming for the best available technology not entailing excess cost — the BATNEEC principle, as it is called. I should like to hear the Minister of State tell us why that particular principle underlies this Bill. In my view, it is not self-evident that that is the way we should go. It raises a series of questions. We are supposed to follow the line of adopting the best available technology not entailing excessive cost, but who makes the definitions? Who defines “best”? There could be many arguments about that.

After that, who defines “available”? We may agree on what the best technology is, but we could have endless arguments about whether it is available. We could also have endless arguments about whether it is affordable, which is part of the “available” issue, and that is where the real difficulty starts. Who defines “entailing excessive cost”? What is “excessive cost”? What is excessive cost for an industrial operator, a farmer or a local authority may not be considered by the Minister of State or her departmental advisers to be excessive cost. How would that cost be measured? Would there be a measure that includes the external costs of the investment concerned or the external costs of not adopting what wisdom has decided is the best available technology? I strongly suspect that the principle of the best available technology not entailing excessive cost will be fruitful ground for argument and will be used as a way out by a great many people involved in environmentally unfriendly activities in the years ahead and that [1687] there will be endless argument about it. There are some alternatives of course.

There is the best practicable means principle, the subject of some comment recently in a report produced by the United Kingdom Comptroller and Auditor General, National Audit Office, on the control and monitoring of pollution. I found in the report of the inspectors' activities the following:

Determining the best practical means of pollution control has had to take into account financial and commercial consequences as well as environmental factors. Decisions and follow-up in individual cases that is not really relevant to what I am saying. Under the concept of best practicable means implementing necessary pollution controls at individual sites could be deferred over an agreed timescale after taking into account the cost and commercial implications for the industry sector to which the firms concerned belong and provided by any deferment was environmentally acceptable. This approach provided for similar processes in different firms or plant to be authorised to operate in the interim to different emission standards.

That is another possible approach, an alternative to the BATNEEC principle but, seems to me, to suffer from some of the same difficulties because it takes into account financial and commercial consequences as well as environmental factors. For example, what weight does one give to commercial and financial consequences and, on the other hand, what weight does one give to environmental factors? That leads me to the question that, since there are problems with the BATNEEC and BPM principle, why should not we adopt the precautionary principle which is quite simply and what I recommended we should do in the case of the Naas water supply problem and incidents of that kind? Why not assume the worst from the very beginning and act accordingly; assume that any process that comes before one for licensing will produce the worst results of which it [1688] is capable; do not license it and continue not to license it until one has a perfectly satisfactory, demonstrable reason for saying: now, that we have all those controls in place, now that they have been agreed, whatever the cost — and let the market decide whether or not the cost is affordable — then, and only then, will we license it. I should like the Minister of State to give us, some of her thinking on that because she has not done so either here or in the Seanad debate. I should like to know why this Bill goes for the BATNEEC principle because it is not self-evident that that is the best way to go in these matters.

We have a great tendency here to clap ourselves on the back for having a grand clean, environmentally pure little country. Perhaps that is because we are an island. Perhaps it is because we are good, God-fearing people as well, although I have my doubts about the whole idea. but we are not. Environmentally there are no islands on this planet. We are all connected up to everywhere else, if not by land then by sea and the sea is quite a good carrier of various problems, pollution and others. There is not any way we can get away from sharing the environment with the rest of this planet. We must examine the situation in global terms, where we have some things to learn. Perhaps, looking at what is happening all around us, there are some indicators as to how strong we should be in the action we take under the provisions of this Bill.

The Minister of State on Tuesday last referred to the position in the European Community. In my view there is nothing of which to be enormously proud in the state of the environment or indeed environmental action within the EC. Nonetheless I would have to recognise that progress has been made. I spent four years of my life working in the Commission in the EC. One of the services with which I was directly involved was that of the environment protection service. The Minister of State will agree with me that it is in recent years only that that service has come to be recognised as [1689] anything more than a face-saving adornment along with the consumer protection service and the rest of the Commission services. I am glad to say the Commission have now given it a more central role, that we have a more self-consciously militant environmental policy being urged on us by the Commission. But there is a long way to go.

The Minister made what I believe to be the kind of reference that gets in the way of real discussion here when she spoke about Germany. I should like to quote the relevant passage from her introductory remarks to the House; I will not comment on the English:

Suffice to say that the strongest economy in Europe is Germany and it is no coincidence that the Germans consider strict environmental controls to be an essential ingredient in their continued prosperity.

Of course that is the kind of statement that suits the case the Minister of State was making. But one must ask oneself: is it true; does it really reflect the reality? I do not think it does. What the Minister has said forms a very small part of the picture. Germany is strong industrially, not because today they have strict environmental controls but because, yesterday, they could not have given a damn about environmental controls and built up a position of industrial strength for which they and we are still paying today. I do not know whether the Minister of State has spent much time in Germany but they have serious problems there. As we know, acid rain has devastated forests in Bavaria. There is still serious pollution in the Rhine. There is blight in huge areas in Germany. I do not know whether the Minister of State has ever done so but I would recommend to her either a drive by car through the Ruhr or to fly over it. One can spend a long time driving through the Ruhr and never be out of sight of smoke stacks, cooling towers, electricity transformers or power lines. And Germany is not the only one. Last year I had occasion to travel by train from the Adriatic coast of Italy, across the [1690] northern end of the peninsula to the Mediterranean side — all the way, even in the mountains, one finds great gashes of industrial development, and all the paraphernalia that goes with it, that is an insult not only to the built environment but, much more importantly, to the physical environment, the atmosphere and the soil people have to live on.

Take a drive through the Netherlands, as I have done many times, drive say, from Brussels to Amsterdam. Take that trip through the Netherlands when, for most of that journey, one is never out of smelling distance of a chemical plant of some kind. We know that they have major problems with disposal of animal effluent from a highly intensive agriculture. Those are problems that the EC must deal with. In a sense I suppose one can give the negative reflection of those problems when one listens to the Austrians who talk about what they have done to the environment. Their proud boast these days is that the Danube leaves Austria cleaner than it comes in. Probably they are right when they say that. Let us not fool ourselves that the EC, its environment programme and those of its members states are things about which to be congratulating ourselves because they are not. They have only slightly reduced the rate at which they are ruining their environment.

Then one looks at what is happening in Central and Eastern Europe, all part of the same ecological system. I had the opportunity this year to visit both Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Talking to people there about the environment would make one's hair stand on end. They have the most enormous problems, with industrial pollution rampant, with acid rain, again, a major problem. I am told there was a television documentary transmitted here in the past week or two about a town in Romania — where tons and tons of soot and metals land every day, not every year, on the town, one in which everybody has health problems, where life expectancy is considerably less than what is commonplace even in Romania, which is not one of the best places to live on the face of this planet.

[1691] Another example was when Russian troops were moving out of East Germany, leaving their bases there, when they found they did not have the equipment necessary to bring back all of the oil they had at their bases. What did they do? They spilled it out onto the ground, leaving a major pollution problem to be dealt with by the people now in charge there. There is a huge amount of work to be done there, a huge amount of environmental damage to be overcome.

Further east we can look at the Soviet economy. We have in our Library a study of the Soviet economy produced by the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It deals with a series of investigations into environmental problems in the Soviet Union. God knows how many pieces the Soviet Union is about to break into. For some time they have had state of the environment reports. The 1988 state of the environment report identifies 290 ranges of severe ecological conditions, covering 3.7 million square kilometers — one-sixth of the total land area of the Soviet Union or ten times the size of a unified Germany. They occur all over the place. There are 33 of them in western Siberia, 28 in eastern Siberia and 22 in the north European section of the Soviet Union. We usually associate eastern Siberia with tundra, spruce forests and plains, yet there are 28 ranges of severe ecological conditions within that area. The 1988 report indicates that about 62 million tonnes of primary pollutants are emitted annually into the atmosphere from industrial facilities and another six million tonnes from mobile sources. It does not take long for all that to work its way around the globe and into the atmosphere of our grand, green little island. The effects on humans cover a range which is frightening. Two-thirds of sourced water in the Soviet Union does not meet existing standards — and we think we have a problem in Naas. Underground water supplies are seriously polluted and in 600 cities sewage water is not purified in a satisfactory manner.

[1692] A section in the report deals with life expectancy in parts of the Soviet Union. In some parts life expectancy is not more than two-thirds and in some cases not more than half that common in OECD countries. We may say that this is a problem for people in central and eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union but it will end up on our plate sooner or later, not just because we have rightly taken it upon ourselves to assist in the development of those economies but because the effects of pollution like that spread. If they are churning out 36 million tonnes of primary pollutant into the atmosphere and they continue to do so, it will affect us. It is part of our environment too.

Other dramatic changes have taken place in the Soviet Union. The Aral Sea today is much less extensive than it used to be. Some time last year I saw photographs of fishing and trading vessels stranded on salt pans where there used to be fairly deep water in the Aral Sea. It is drying up because water is being drawn off and pollutants are being pumped in. Lake Baikal, once one of the wonders of nature, is suffering from Europhication. Nobody seems to have any confidence that this problem can be properly dealt with. Deputy Ellis spoke earlier about using more hydro-electric power because it is environmentally friendly. I invite him to visit the Soviet Union where major hydro-electric power stations have destroyed the environment in a number of areas. They were part of the inspiration for one of the maddest and most gradiose projects ever conceived, namely to divert the north-flowing rivers of eastern Siberia to make them flow south and to build hydro-electric stations on them and irrigate the land. Those projects have had a deleterious effect on the environment. Happily some of the bigger ones have been cancelled in recent years because the resources were not available to carry them out.

The Soviet Union is not the only country creating major difficulties with rivers. A whole species of salmon is about to disappear in the north west United States due to exactly the same kind of river management programmes.

[1693] I read during the past year the work of an American naturalist who wrote a series of four books about a journey across the United States at each of the seasons of the year. One particularly fascinating book gives an account of a trip from the east coast to the west coast during the autumn in the late fifties. I would love to find somebody to finance him to do the same trip today and to tell us how the environment compares with that of the late fifties. Wilderness areas in all countries are becoming less and less wild. They are being polluted and affected by our failure to do the kind of things this Bill sets out to do in a fairly modest way.

What kind of development model have we for the rest of the world? It is part of the same environment that we live in. We are pushing western development models on the Third World. What are the likely consequences of that? What will those development models do to the environment not only of the Third World but to our environment? They can only have catastrophic effects. There is a large volume of literature on this topic. The Minister might be familiar with the well known book, The End of Nature by Bill McKibbon. It has become a kind of cult book in that people who read it and talked about it have become freaks. It presents the arguments in such a simple way that it is difficult to argue against them. It is the kind of thing that is pushed to the sidelines and characterised as a prophecy of doom because we all know that human ingenuity will save us. Will it? He makes the point that in 1985 40 per cent of the population of the western industrial countries were car owners. At that time 1 per cent of the population of the Third World owned a car.

What would be the consequences of bringing levels of car ownership in the Third World even to 1985 levels in the west? That is a part of their aspiration, part of the development model we constantly urge on them. If by the year 2025 energy consumption in the rest of the world reaches current western levels, we will have increased the energy load on the environment by five and a half times. [1694] Even today the energy load is proving to be unsustainable. We are all getting the collywobbles about fridges and CFCs. What would happen, for example, if the level of fridge ownership per thousand households in China alone was to reach the level it is today in Western countries? There would be a huge expansion in CFC emissions and a huge multiplication of the problems of which we are now becoming aware.

I want to pose another question. One of the first things a Chinese industrial family do when they get a bit of money is to buy a transistor radio. Radios are rather expensive in China but every family wants to have one. They measure part of their progress by their acquisition of these kinds of consumer capital goods, brown goods. What will happen to all the batteries used in those radios if the rate of transistor radio ownership per family in China even reaches the point we were at in the sixties? This is a huge potential new source of pollution, not to speak of the pollution which will come from the waste products involved in producing those batteries in the first place.

Can we in conscience say to the Third World that they must not follow that development model because it is bad for the world environment when they know perfectly well that we have got to our present state of material comfort with that model? I do not think we can. We cannot preach anything to them unless we clean up our own house first.

It has been well remarked that we are hooked on fossil fuels, which is part of our problem. The current edition of The OECD Observer has some very interesting things to say about the degree to which we are dependent on fossil fuels. We are making some progress but this is very slow. It points out in an article entitled “Energy, the Environment and the Drive for Efficiency” that the IEA countries, that is the 24 members of the OECD minus Finland, France and Iceland, have been successful in reducing the amount of energy required to produce goods and services, thus limiting carbon dioxide emissions, not least because of a reduction in the share in the total primary [1695] energy supply of carbon based fuels. It continues:

Indeed without the 25% decline in energy intensity which has occurred since 1973, IEA countries would have emitted about 19% more carbon than they did in 1988.

The article goes on to talk about the potential effects of future developments on energy use. The curious part of the article is that it says that even though we have become more energy efficient in given operations, our culture still tends towards using more energy. It continues:

Structural change in road transport and in residential and commercial building has tended to offset these reductions. In construction, for example, the trend towards smaller families has increased floor space per capita and, as a result, energy consumption. And in the office the increased use of air conditioning has tended to increase intensity. Electrical appliances, too, are more widely used. In road transport there have been massive increases in traffic, outweighing improvements in the fuel efficiency of individual vehicles, and recent trends towards larger and more powerful vehicles have offset earlier improvements in fuels economy.

In the IEA countries which, by and large are all Western industrialised countries, there have been improvements in energy efficiency. While on the one hand we are becoming less energy intensive per unit of output, on the other we are becoming more energy using because we are living and acting in ways which give us more opportunities or create more situations where we use energy. Even if we are doing well, we might be standing still.

The really hair raising implication of this is that if we push on Third World countries Western development models we may make them less energy intensive per unit of GNP. We will also be pushing on them a culture which will give them more and more reasons to use energy in different ways so that the kind of energy [1696] intensity we have today is something they will aspire to in the future and we will have to deal with all of the results of that on our environment, atmosphere and the soil under our feet.

There is a great deal more at stake for us than the maintenance of this green clean little island of ours because we will also be affected by what goes on in the Third World, by how much energy they use and the increased emissions they put as a result into the atmosphere. That scenario for the future underlines the fact that we are very late at national level in getting to grips with this problem. There is a great deal more I could say but the literature on this subject is abundant and I am sure the Minister of State has it all at her disposal.

We congratulate ourselves on not having any nuclear power stations in Ireland. I honestly believe that is one aspect on which we should congratulate ourselves. It is dreadful to contemplate that every time a nuclear reactor is commissioned we set off what is literally a time bomb which will tick away not for hundreds of years but thousands of years. Of course, we do not see the whole picture. Every time we manufacture a medical tool which uses radiation for measurement or any other reason we set off another little time bomb which will also tick away for quite a long time. Every time we manufacture and commission a new very sensitive high technology state of the art industrial measuring device that uses radiation we set off another one of those little time bombs. Every time we commission a new machine, as we hope to do more of, to help cure people of some forms of cancer we set off another little time bomb which will be around for thousands of years. I am not talking about nuclear submarines which travel to the bottom of the sea in the Arctic; I am talking about machines we use day in and day out which are little time bombs and which remain time bombs long after they have come to the end of their useful life.

We have to do something about these little time bombs. We have to find ways of rendering them less dangerous. We have to reprocess them and the nuclear [1697] fuel. What do we do when we have nuclear fuel to reprocess? We pack it up in containers which protect the public and ship it to Sellafield, the place we all love to hate and which we all demand the closure of. Yet we send our nuclear waste to be reprocessed at that plant because it is the nearest and most convenient reprocessing plant to us.

It is long past the time we began to discuss the real issue and real effect of the Sellafield reprocessing plant on us. It is time Members of this House stopped trying to con the Irish public into the naïve belief that if we shout loud enough this plant will be closed down. To tell the House the God's honest truth, while I have a certain feeling of congratulation for the Minister for Energy, I also like to see him wriggle because when he was a Fianna Fáil Opposition Deputy he came into this House and claimed that there was absolutely no difficulty in finding perfectly unassailable legal grounds for the Irish Government to demand the immediate closure of Sellafield.

He is now the Minister in this Government who has to tell the Irish public that he cannot find a compelling reason, a sufficient legal armlock to put on the British Government, to make them close down Sellafield. He says it as infrequently as he can manage to get away with saying it. It is a pity we do not have more of the truth about that whole issue, not alone the political truth here but the economic truth over there. I do not know what the opponents of Sellafield think about it. There are people on this side of the House who still perpetuate the myth that in some way we can engineer a situation — if that is the right word — where Sellafield will be closed down. I do not know what they will do about the rest of the problems.

About two years ago we began to have serious fears here about what was then adumbrated as a proposal in the UK to deal with the nuclear reactors from decommissioned nuclear submarines. We got very annoyed, and quite rightly, about an idea that they were supposed to be considering, which was to encase the [1698] offending bits of these nuclear submarines in concrete or some other material and dump them in a trench some few hundred miles to the southwest of Ireland in the Atlantic. We said: “No, you cannot do that” and we were right. Then there was a proposal that they would use old used-up coalmines in the northern part of England to bury nuclear waste that could not be reprocessed any further. Quite rightly and understandably the people who lived over those coalmines objected strongly. The deus ex machina was a proposal to dig deep tunnels under the Irish Sea to store all this material and we objected to that and said: “If this stuff is too dangerous for your people to accept on your territory, there is no way we are going to have it under the Irish Sea where it will do us damage.” That is an illustration of the difficulty we face. We do not want to see them getting rid of bits of decommissioned nuclear submarines southwest of us in the Atlantic, we do not want to see them burying it under the Irish Sea and the British do not want to see them burying it in old coalmines in the UK. What happens? All this stuff is still sitting somewhere above ground — as safe as it can be made — and nothing new is being done with it. At the same time we are sitting here with our smug satisfaction that we do not have any nuclear problem here, quietly exporting our material for reprocessing to Seallafield and we are saying, close down Sellafield. What is the logic of it? Is that the NIMBY principle? Are we going to say to them: “Close down Sellafield” and convince the French that they should have this operation on their territory and hive off the problem in that way? Are we saying that Seallafield should be closed down and that we should convince the Czechs, who have not woken up to this problem yet, that they should have the operation on their ground? I know we will not say to them: “Close down Sellafield and remove the whole operation to somewhere beside Chernobyl” so that they can do with the reprocessing plant what they did with a power station in Chernobyl.

[1699] The fact is, whether we like to or not, we are part of the system — although only a small part — and we need nuclear reprocessing plants. It is about time we started talking about dealing with that problem rather than fooling ourselves into the stupid belief and the anti-environmental belief that we can close down the only one that is near to us without something else being done to replace the activity and the facility it can offer to the rest of the world. In all conscience we have little authority to lecture or to give out to the rest of the world until we have decided what we are going to do about the waste we can process here, or, are we going to keep on making the argument that any toxic waste produced in Ireland has to be sent away, not just out of our lttle green Republic but off our island and even away from the neighbouring island, because it is too close to us? Those are the issues we should be dealing with in relation to the environment, but we are not going to deal with them by the kind of sanctimonious claptrap that has passed for arguments about Sellafield and toxic waste disposal in Ireland for the last five or six years.

I said earlier there were proposals in Fine Gael's 1989 Bill, brought forward by Deputy Shatter, that are not in this Bill. I would like to mention a few. We proposed that the chairman and the board of the Environmental Protection Agency be appointed by the Dáil with a procedure similar to that used for the appointment of the Ombudsman so that we could have proper parliamentary involvement in what is going to be a key area of our national life in future. That is not in this Bill and it is all the weaker for it. I have not heard any argument from the Minister of State as to why she proposes to do it her way rather than the way we proposed. I would think — although maybe after the events of last week where nothing was discussed in the Dáil — the Minister of State and her Minister would prefer things not to be discussed in here; personally, as a Member of this House I think these things should be discussed here and the [1700] Dáil should be involved in making as many of those decisions as it can be.

We provided for a Dáil committee on the environment which would provide this House with the means of keeping itself informed on environmental issues on what is being done and what progress is being made to deal with those problems. I think, Sir, it is important that we should do that, because although there may be scribes — not present at the moment — who write about us in disparaging tones from time to time, one of whom said the other day he thought there was only about a quarter of us worth keeping, there is not even a quarter of them there, so that is a comment on themselves. Whatever we may think, people listen to what Members of this House say with varying degrees of scepticism. If we are not properly informed in this House about the key issues of our environment and of preventing any further deterioration of our environment I do not think we will be able to do our job properly. That was the reason we proposed in our Bill an environment committee of this House. I would have thought that a Minister of State who belongs to a party that belongs to a Government that says they want to see Dáil reform should agree with us on that point.

It is pernicious that people in this House who are listened to by the general public do not have under the provisions of this Bill any lever, any window into the argument about what is happening to our environment or any influence in what public policy is going to do apart from the passing of an Act. They have very little else because this Bill provides for reports to be made at three yearly or five yearly intervals so that this House will not be able to discuss reports on a regular basis that would get us plugged into the debate and the effort that has to be made on our environment.

We proposed greater access for the Environmental Protection Agency to documents and records of Departments and State agencies. That is not contained in this Bill. That will constitute a very serious limitation on the scope of the [1701] action that the agency will be able to take. We also provided for a supervisory role for the Environmental Protection Agency over the operations of Government and State agencies in the environment area. That too is not in this Bill. That is a very serious lack because there is absolutely no reason whatever, in logic or in commonsense, that public agencies, the State, local authorities, semi-State bodies should not be subject to the same public controls and publicly accountable controls over their activities as private operators. In some cases we have reason to believe it is even more urgent in the case of some State agencies than in relation to private operators.

In Deputy Shatter's Bill we provided for control or stop orders with an appeal mechanism; but there is nothing of that kind in this Bill. The reason we made those provisions was to allow the agency to take immediate action when a problem arose rather than having to wait for all the procedures to be gone through, and the problem worsened, before any action could be taken to remedy it. There is no reference in this Bill to pesticides. That is an area of major concern in relation to the environment which should properly be brought in. We have air pollution and water pollution in this and we should have specific reference to pesticides. Pesticides are one of the elements that cause serious environmental problems.

The Minister of State, towards the end of her speech on Tuesday, talked about sustainable development. She said:

This Government are committed to sustainable economic development. Essentially, that means that in the pursuit of economic development to meet the needs for the present generation we must not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs. I have no doubt that the greatest legacy that we can leave to future generations is a clean, unspoiled environment because that is our single most important natural resource.

Bravo, we all agree with that. I compliment the Minister on the beautiful phraseology she used, but what does it [1702] mean? What is “sustainable economic development”? Could the Minister of State give us any concept of what is the “sustainable economic development” to which the Government are committed? Does it mean that there are some kinds of industry that we will not have, that there are some kinds of costs that are not too great for us to incur for the sake of our environment? Does it mean that we want to see an economy that stops adding polluting materials to our environment, not that observes the standards we lay down for additions?

Environment control legislation as we have known it up to now is based on the proposition that one can pollute the environment as long as one does it according to the rules, the criteria and the specifications laid down in the law. We are not stopping pollution. We are guiding it, we are controlling it, but we are not stopping it. The proper concept of sustainable economic development is economic development that does not add any more to the pollution of our environment. That is a very different concept from what is in the Bill — the best available technology not entailing excessive costs. That is not necessarily sustainable economic development. It may be economic development that can carry on for a bit longer than uncontrolled pollution, but in the long term it is not sustainable economic development. I would like the Minister of State to tell us what she has in mind by sustainable economic development and to tell us how long she thinks that kind of economic development she has in mind could be sustained.

We are not without advice from our own resources on this Bill. The Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities produced its report No. 6, dated 5 December last year, entitled Aspects of EC Environment Policy and it produced eight recommendations. The first was that

The provisions of the Directive on freedom of access to environmental legislation should be transposed into national law as soon as possible.

[1703] I am not at all convinced that the provisions on public information in this Bill meet that requirement and there is a question that there are limits to public access to information on this Bill. The Minister of State has not explained satisfactorily why the limits there are contained in this Bill.

Recommendation No. II says:

Information available to the public under the provisions of the Directive should be supplemented by authoritative assessments of risk in environmentally-sensitive areas.

I do not think that that is provided for in this Bill. I do not find in this Bill even what seems to me to be the minimum step of putting public authorities of all kinds automatically under an obligation to produce an environment impact statement on the plans they have. They are not obliged to do that under the terms of this Bill and I cannot see any reason why they should not be obliged. I am not insulting anybody when I say that any county council, any corporation or the Office of Public Works are just as capable of polluting the environment as any private operator and need the supervision of a dispassionate objective State agency just as much as anybody else. Nowhere have we seen that more clearly than in the recent argument about the Mullaghmore Interpretative Centre to which my friend and colleague, Deputy Carey, referred earlier this morning. A lot of energy has been wasted in discussions about that when it was obvious from the beginning that one of the things needed in order to allow both sides of the argument to make any sense of it was an environment impact statement. We are going to have that, not because the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works reclining up there, volunteered to have it——

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  Very much so.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  ——but because they were embarrassed into it, because they found after a bit that the Commission of the European Communities in turn had been [1704] embarrassed into saying that “they would not give the money for it if we did not produce an environment impact statement”.

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  That is not true.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  Commissioner Carlo Ripa di Meana had to come along and write to the Minister and tell him that he would not get the money unless he produced an EIS.

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  You know more about it than I do.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  We should make sure that in this Bill we do not even have to have that argument because we should bring all those public authorities——

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  You are embarrassing Donal.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  He is denying it. We should bring all those public authorities under the same requirement to produce an environment impact statement. The whole country is going beserk about these blasted interpretative centres. The best interpretative centre I have ever come across in all my years of admiring the many natural beauties of our country are my own two eyes.

Mr. V. Brady: Information on Vincent Brady  Zoom on Vincent Brady  The party does not think that.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  I can tell you, you are no adornment to the environment, for your unfortunate leader at the moment. Recommendation No. III says:

Environment Action Programmes should be published annually by Government and should include an assessment of achievements under the previous year's programme.

I will come to that later on but there is one place in this Bill where reviews or reports are required every five years and another place where they are required every three years. I do not know why we have to wait three years and five years [1705] for these things but it is certainly not what the Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities had in mind when they made that recommendation. Recommendation No. IV was that the national environment agency should be established as a matter of urgency. I agree with that. Recommendation No. VIII was that

Ireland's record in implementation and enforcement of EC environmental legislation should be improved and maintained at a high level.

I agree with that also.

I am sure the Chair will forgive me for not going into recommendation No. V which talks about this argument that is going on about Johnstown Castle. In the favourite phrase of the Taoiseach, I will stand aside from that argument. I am afraid it is, like a lot of the noxious substances that are poured into our environment these days, an argument that will generate a lot more heat than light.

I will turn briefly to the Bill because there are a number of issues that seem to me to require more comment than we have had from the Minister of State. The Bill makes provision for a series of regulations and orders in relation to different matters. I commend the Minister of State on the fact that a number of the most important of these regulations and orders are made under what I choose to call the positive procedure in this House — in other words, the draft is brought before the House and no effect is given to it until a motion approving the draft has been passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas. There are cases where orders and regulations may be made under the provisions of this Bill under the negative procedure, that is, they will come into effect and will continue to have effect unless they are annulled by a motion of this House within 21 sitting days. I would seriously recommend to the Minister of State again that, if she has any interest in democracy and parliamentary procedure, she look at that again. I do not believe that those orders should be a regular feature of our legislation. They are a very bad idea as they [1706] allow Ministers to go off into the wild blue yonder to do things without any proper control in this House.

The Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill claims that Part IV provides for an integrated pollution control licensing system. We will go into that matter in more detail on Committee Stage, but I wonder if that is true. The main reason I wonder about that is that the Bill provides in a number of respects not only for the Agency to be the licensing authority but to be the judge and jury of their own record when it comes to reviewing licences. That is not satisfactory. We proposed a different procedure for dealing with that problem in the Bill Deputy Shatter brought forward. Nothing I have seen in this Bill or nothing I have heard from the Minister of State convinces me that this problem has been dealt with properly.

I am not going to go in detail into the sections of the Bill except to repeat what I have said before: that the amendments made to the Bill in the Seanad are more technical than anything else. I am not insulting anyone when I say that in terms of policy they do not amount to a row of beans. We have a definition section which states that “noise” includes vibration. It is grand to know that the definition of “noise” includes vibration but on a purely physical level noise is a vibration at different frequencies. One does not get noise without something vibrating. One does not hear me making noise without my vocal chords vibrating. To say that the definition of “noise” includes vibration is something of a tautology. Does it say anything more than that?

The reason I ask this is that in a later section of the Bill there is a provision which states that public authorities can be exempted from the provisions of the Bill in relation to the control of noise. They can exempt authorised agencies from the provisions of the Bill in relation to the control of noise which immediately raises the question of what is noise. There is no definition of “noise” in the Bill.

Neither is there any definition of “smell”. I have heard learned discourses [1707] on the difficulties of defining “smell”. At least twice a day I have to pass a meat factory. I am delighted it is there because it employes a great many young people in my town and provides a service for farmers. As you know, Sir, better than anyone else sitting in this House at the moment, there are always arguments about prices but that factory produces a hell of a smell from time to time. That is not the only place where you get that kind of nuisance but it is cold comfort to people who suffer from that to tell them that we are not going to do anything for them in this Bill because we cannot define “smell”. I wonder if the Minister of State has given any attention to that matter.

I was never a chemist or anything like it but to my knowledge a smell is produced by the suspension of certain materials in the air and by the fact that certain chemicals are carried in the air and when they reach our olfactory nerves they produce a reaction which is called smell. It seems that if one were to set about doing the job properly one could define smell, or noxious smells at least, as the presence of certain elements in the air. I recall the experiments we used to do in my science classes at school years and years ago when one could produce fairly ripe smells with bromine and chlorine and their various compounds. I do not know what we might call, the salient elements are in the smell which comes from meat and bone meal plants, or most meat factories, but it seems that it should be possible to define the matter suspended in the air which gives rise to the smell. That is an area of nuisance we might look at. I am not being facetious about this but we know very well that bad smells can make people sick. We should not just pass over this area as being too difficult to deal with and to let people go on getting sick because we can not find a definition to put in the Bill.

Section 5 contains the BATNEEC principle which I have already mentioned. I wonder why we refer in section 5 (3) (b) to the Air Pollution Act, 1987, only and why other forms of pollution are not dealt with. Section 12 deals with [1708] the cost of prosecutions and provides that certain costs will be paid to the agency. There are other provisions in the Bill which deal with payments to the agency by way of costs and charges. Would the Minister of State, when replying to the debate, like to comment on the fear which was raised in the Seanad and I think in this House already — it is a very real fear — that the existence of the possibility of the agency recovering costs in a number of ways, including charges, might take the pressure off the Exchequer to fund the agency's operations properly? I have to say that I do not see any evidence in this Bill of any great intention to ensure that the agency will be funded properly. For example, the agency will have to set up specifications and standards and will have to do a lot of research if they are to do this properly and this costs money. I have not been convincecd by anything we have seen yet that we will see any net increase in the allocation of resources to environmental action. If we do not see any net increase we will not see much improvement by way of a reduction in the rate at which we are polluting our environment.

Section 15 provides for immunity for the agency in certain circumstances in relation to “damage to property or other loss alleged to have been caused or contributed to by a failure to perform or comply with any of the functions conferred on the said agency or body”. Therefore, people will not have a claim if they suffer damage or loss as a result of the agency having failed in their duties. I would like to know why it is necessary to put that in because it seems an agency of this kind should be under the maximum possible pressure to ensure they fulfil their obligations.

Section 21 speaks of the director general and committee which will be put in place. As I said, it is my belief that the Alan Shatter Bill of 1989 produced a far better procedure and I would prefer to see that procedure substituted for the one here. As long as we are talking about the procedure provided for in this Bill I note that three of the people who will make up this committee will be the managing [1709] director of the Industrial Development Authority, the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women. I would like to know why those three people are included and the reason many other people, who might be just as well qualified as the very excellent people who are now respectively the managing director of the Industrial Development Authority, the general secretary of Congress and the chief executive of the Council for the Status of Women, are not included. Each of those three people is an excellent person. While I would not agree with everything they say I admire them all. They are very able people, but why are those three people or functions picked out when there is a wide range of choice?

Section 27 deals with the advisory committee which it is proposed should be set up. On the whole I am sure it is a very good section which we might look at in more detail on Committee Stage. Under section 27 (16) (b) the Minister may remove from office a member of the advisory committee if, in the opinion of the Minister, he has become incapable through ill health of effectively performing his duties or for stated misbehaviour. So far, so good. However, it goes on to say that he may be removed if the Minister considers it necessary or desirable for the effective performance by the advisory committee of their functions. I agree that people should be removed if they have become incapable through ill health of performing their duties or for stated misbehaviour. Will the Minister of State tell us what she or the Minister have in mind in leaving it to themselves to judge that the removal of a person appears to the Minister to be necessary or desirable for the effective performance by the advisory committee of their functions? I do not like provisions in legislation which give Ministers mysterious, murky and opaque powers of that kind. If the Minister believes that there is a reason for removing a person it should be an objective reason. I will not go into any more of the inferences we might take from that.

[1710] Section 29 is an important one which deals with the staff of the agency because they will be very important in carrying out the work of the agency. However, the impression I have from the Bill — and everything that has been said about it — is that the staff of the agency will be garnered from various agencies already in existence, from the former An Foras Forbartha, local authorities and so on. This section does not give me an assurance that we will see any net extra resources of staff applied to the agency. I ask the Minister — I referred to this before — to look at the UK National Audit Office report on the pollution inspectorate. There is much in it about the kind of staffing they believe is needed to carry out their job and indeed the level of research expenditure which is also needed. They do not intend to do this by taking in staff from existing local authorities. There is nothing in this section about the level of provision of staff but there is quite a substantial amount regarding how negotiations will be carried out between the agency and the unions to persuade staff to move to the agency from other employment.

Section 44 deals with the provision of services to the agency. Again I must ask the Minister of State whether she can give me any indication that the provisions of the section will produce any net new resources which will be devoted to the functions provided for in this Bill. If they do not the Bill is doomed to failure from the beginning.

Section 58 relates to the agency's work in relation to drinking water. On the basis of our recent experience in Naas and other places the current provisions are not satisfactory. To the extent that the section is based on current provisions it is likely to need very substantial modification.

Section 60 deals with landfill sites for waste disposal; there again we need to look very carefully at the section because nobody can argue against my contention that there is a crying need for a very substantial improvement in the way we deal with landfill sites. Deputy Ellis raised a problem in this regard. We know [1711] there are instances where landfill sites have been used to dump toxic waste. I will make another simple point in that connection, anywhere you go you can tell you are coming near a landfill site because you can see the rubbish for miles on the approach. Rubbish of all kind is polluting the environment and we do not have a proper way of making sure that our landfill sites are properly managed.

Section 61 deals with the performance of their statutory functions by local authorities. Curiously, it provides that where the agency are of the opinion that a local authority are not doing their job they may request a report from them. Why are we adopting that approach? It is a bit naïve to expect a local authority to make an objective and useful report on their own shortcomings, which is what this section seems to require. Subsection (3) (b) states that local authorities can be penalised for a failure, without reasonable cause, to comply with a direction from the agency. How will “reasonable cause” be defined because elsewhere in the section local authorities are absolved from giving effect to directions if they can show that they do not have the necessary funds to comply with the direction or that those funds cannot reasonably be made available by the local authority? That seems to indicate local authorities can get out of their obligations under the Bill by saying that they do not have the money and, therefore, the Minister cannot require them to do the job. Is that what the section means? If local authorities can be relieved of their obligations because they do not have the funds then it seems to me that smart local authorities will use their funds for everything except the requirements of the Bill and put the onus for its implementation on the Minister because they will say it is separate from their normal funding. It is not satisfactory that that kind of doubt or possible confusion should be in the Bill, it should be very clear.

Section 63 deals with the environmental monitoring programme. Again I have to ask whether the local authorities will have the resources to do that [1712] because, if they do not, the provision will be a dead letter. Later, in the same section, it says that if the agency are not satisfied with the performance of the local authority — and find they are not doing the job — they can monitor the agency and local authority. However, the costs of carrying out that monitoring will have to be borne by the local authorities. If the local authorities do not have the resources to carry out the job in the first place how will they find the resources to cover the cost of the agency?

Section 66 (7) provides that the agency shall, at intervals not exceeding three years, prepare and publish a report on the monitoring operations of local authorities and so on. Why not more frequently? Section 68 provides for a state of the environment report which has to be produced within a period of five years after the establishment of the agency and in every fifth year thereafter. Why five years? If we wait for five years for a report on the state of the environment we will very often find that it will be sadly out of date because much can happen over that period.

Section 69 deals with environmental research but, again, there is no indication that we will have a proper level of resource provisions for research which will be a key part of equipping the agency to set standards to carry out monitoring and all the other jobs set out in the Bill. Section 70 deals with environmental impact assessment, to which I already referred. I do not like the idea that public authorities are exempt from that. This Bill should fill that gap and make public authorities subject to the same requirements as private developers as regards producing environmental impact statements.

Environmental audits are dealt with in section 72. The question of funding for research will be a key issue here. Codes of practice are dealt with in section 74. I would like to ask a very simple question: why does section 74 state that the agency may do certain things rather than stating that the agency shall do certain things? Section 76 deals with environmental labelling. I would like to hear more about [1713] this on Committee Stage. Environmental labelling is an extremely complex matter. It has what to my mind seems to be unexpected complications. I went to the trouble of reading a recent OECD report on environmental labelling in OECD countries. It is a very useful report which shows a number of things, not least of which is that we are very far behind in our approach to environmental labelling.

Although it is referred to in the Bill, and in the Minister's speech, I am not at all impressed with the first approach by the European Community to environmental labelling. It has taken an unconscionable length of time to get that far. When I was with the Commission, from 1977-80, we started work on drawing up specifications for environmental labelling of products, but it is only this year that the Directive is putting pressure on member states to put the scheme into effect. Germany started in 1978 and they now have 3,600 labelled products in 64 categories. The Nordic countries, Austria, Portugal and France are to start this year and by 1992, it appears, 22 OECD countries, excluding Ireland, will have an environmental labelling scheme.

However, there have been problems. In a number of countries attempts have been made to make the scheme self-financing — which is always a useful thing to be able to do — but they found it difficult to do so. Their method of making it self-financing was by making a charge for the approval of a label. There is also the problem of categorising products, where it is possible to discriminate against some products that have no environmental side effects by giving an environment label to ones that do. One of the examples given in this report is of the difficulty that would arise when an environment label is given to a propelled deodorant. One is saying that when account is taken of its full effect on the environment it is relatively better than most other propelled deodorants. However, one does not have to give an environment label to a stick deodorant because it does not contain or emit anything that would harm the environment. One could argue — we may have a long [1714] and intimate discussion on this on Committee Stage — that stick deodorants are more preferable in environmental terms, certainly if one leaves the question of olfactory nuisance out of it, than propelled deodorants. They are some of the difficulties that will have to be dealt with when we go about setting up a scheme of environmental labelling.

There is an exemption in section 82 for what are to be regarded as “exempted developments by local authorities”. That comes back to the question I raised earlier, why should there be any area of our planning laws from which local authorities, being themselves developers, should be exempt? Section 86 gives rise to the difficulty which I mentioned earlier, that this Bill makes the agency the judge and jury in their own case, an unsatisfactory method of proceeding and one the Minister should rethink very seriously.

Section 95 deals with discharges to sewers and involves sanitary authorities in the granting of licences for such discharges. Again, I have to ask about the question of resources. Will the sanitary authorities have the experience and expertise to participate constructively in that process? Section 98 allows the agency to undertake certain functions either in addition to or in lieu of local authorities. The Minister of State has not explained why that provision is there. I would like to know the reason because it seems on the face of it to create the possibility of a confusion of responsibilities, and all agree that confusion of responsibilities in relation to the environment produces only one result, damage to the environment.

I mentioned the problem of noise and the fact that there is no definition of it. It is provided in section 106 that that section shall not apply to noise caused by aircraft or “such statutory undertaker or local authority, as may be prescribed, in the exercise of powers conferred on it by or under any enactment in such circumstances as may be prescribed”. I can understand why the section does not apply to noise caused by aircraft — that is regulated for separately — although I [1715] cannot see any prima facie reason why there should not be a link between the activities of this agency and the regulation of noise from aircraft. That is already the subject of international agreements and specifications of different kinds. I would like to know why an exemption can be made for noise caused by statutory undertakers or local authorities in such circumstances as may be prescribed by the agency. It seems that a noise nuisance is a noise nuisance no matter who causes it, and it is no consolation to people who are suffering badly from the effects of noise pollution to know that the noise is caused by somebody who has a licence to do so from the Environmental Protection Agency.

There are many areas where the provisions of the Bill are inadequate, open to question and do not meet our need not simply to control pollution but to try to reduce the rate at which we are damaging our environment. I confess that although I am normally a sanguine person in relation to questions of the environment, even with this Bill, I see the future as being only gloomy. The only question that arises is to what degree we can slow down the rate at which it becomes even gloomier.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  I have listened with interest to Deputy Dukes's speech and there is no doubt he has not lost his oratorial skills since he moved to the backbenches. While I found his speech to be full of interesting comments on his experiences on the international scene, and no doubt a well researched speech, I question the length of it; it went on for about two hours. I hope the committee dealing with Dáil reform will consider putting a limit on Second Stage speeches. I say that not because I have been waiting to contribute but because I believe that Deputy Dukes's contributions could have been made in a more concise way.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  If the Deputy could convince his colleagues to set up more committees to deal with Bills we might make much more progress.

Mr. T. Kitt: Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Deputy Dukes said some [1716] interesting things on the global perspective but as regards our country his contribution was rather negative and non-progressive. In the earlier part of his speech he said we have a clean environment because we have a small manageable population. It is true we have a small manageable population, but surely that is our greatest advantage. The fact we are arriving at this legislation rather late puts us at an advantage in that we can learn from elsewhere. The Government have taken a number of initiatives in recent years and we must compliment them on that. For example, the legislation in relation to smog has made life much more tolerable for many people and has had a beneficial effect on the health of many in the Dublin area. Legislation in relation to the pollution of our rivers has been effective and I for one have noticed a dramatic decrease in the number of fish kills in the recent summers, in particular. While I accept the point that we have a small manageable population there is no doubt that many good things have been done as a forerunner to this legislation.

I look forward to seeing this Bill on the Statute book as soon as possible as the Minister requested. In the course of his speech Deputy Dukes commented on Sellafield, and I will refer to that later. I found some of his comments fatalistic and having listened to some of the views he expressed one would feel like throwing in the towel although he did paint a true picture of the global scene.

We can make a positive contribution. We are perceived internationally as a country with a clean green image. However, we have done some positive and progressive things to enhance our image. I believe the Environmental Protection Agency Bill is a landmark piece of legislation. The implications of the Bill extend far beyond the boundaries of our island. It throws down the challenge to us as legislators to become leaders in the field of environmental preservation and protection in the European Community and indeed worldwide. The fact that we are introducing this legislation a little later than some of our European partners [1717] may ironically be an advantage in that I am convinced we will get it right on this occasion. We will have better legislation than many of our EC partners. Indeed we are fortunate that our country has not been ravaged and destroyed environmentally like so many other industrialised nations.

We have a country, a product, that can be saved not just for us but for our children and indeed our children's children. Ireland is perceived internationally as a country with clean air, clean rivers, green fields and a breathtaking landscape. It evokes the words of Yeats: “I will arise and go now and go to Inisfree” which conjures up the true image of Ireland. This environmental beauty is without doubt our greatest natural resource. It must not just be protected but preserved for all time, for generations to come. The speedy enactment of this Bill is essential in order to demonstrate clearly our commitment to preserving our natural splendour while at the same time allowing for controlled industrial expansion which will fit comfortably and be closely compatible with our natural surroundings.

The Minister for the Environment laid the foundation for the introduction of this legislation when he initiated the Government's excellent ten year environmental action programme, a clear blueprint for all of us who are concerned about the future development of this country. Having shown this type of leadership at EC level I see no reason the European Environmental Protection Agency should not be located in Ireland. After all modern technology means that Ireland's peripheral geographic location can no longer be seen as a reason for not locating this agency in this country.

The Environmental Protection Agency will rise to the challenge presented by the desire and necessity to protect our environment and at the same time encourage new and progressive industries. The regulatory functions allocated to this independent agency allow for research and the implementation of environment programmes. The agency are rightly given the power to penalise [1718] and prosecute violations as defined under Part I, section 11. There has been considerable progress in pollution control among the farming community in recent years. The number of fish kills was much lower this summer. Farmers must continue to play their part by availing of the scheme of grants to assist them in carrying out pollution control works. There has been considerable Government investment in this area and I hope that the blatant destruction of our waterways and lakes is a thing of the past.

The Environmental Protection Agency will in the long term operate under the umbrella of the European Community Environmental Protection Agency. It is noteworthy that the practice of introducing new taxes and levies on environmentally unfriendly goods and services is being adopted by the European Community Environmental Protection Agency. Similarly, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency will obviously develop a similar strategy in providing an incentive for industry to be environmentally friendly and penalise and discourage the pollution of our environment. Our agency, in co-operation with the Euopean Community Environmental Protection Agency, must address the issue of energy sources and supply; the safe use of existing fuels and disposal of their waste. It is interesting to note that oil reserves in Eastern Europe are over three times as great as those in Western Europe and gas reserves are eight times greater in Eastern Europe. At the same time Central and Eastern Europe has undergone a frightening level of environmental degradation. In its industrial regions the quality of life and life expectancy are well below the average in Western Europe. The unacceptably high levels of pollution have resulted in widespread respiratory diseases, infant mortality and congenital defects. The quality of drinking water has been destroyed in many areas and the damage to forests by sulphur dioxide pollution is literally suffocating some of these countries. In Czechoslovakia, for example, 60 per cent of all trees are reported to be dying. I have referred [1719] to the situation in Central and Eastern Europe for the following reasons, any debate on the environment in this Chamber must take account of our membership of the EC and the role we should play within that Community. I hope that the Environmental Protection Agency will not have an insular approach to our environment but will see the need to address global issues, compare notes with other countries and learn from the experience elsewhere. Western Europe, including Ireland, has an important role to play in aiding the economic and environmental recovery of Central and Eastern Europe. This will not be a one way development process. As I already mentioned, Central and Eastern Europe have vast energy resources which could be shared with the West in exchange for economic and environmental assistance.

The European Environmental Protection Agency will have a central and pivotal role to play in facilitating a process of co-operation between Eastern and Western Europe. The European Environmental Protection Agency should be empowered to address transfrontier problems which have resulted from the expansion of the nuclear industry in Europe. Our own Environmental Protection Agency should promote such a proposal. What is sadly happening in Europe is that the pro-nuclear lobby within the Community has the upper hand. Ireland, in opposing ludicrous nuclear expansion at the Sellafield plant needs new allies within Europe. Perhaps with the expansion of the European market such allies will emerge. I certainly hope so. The concept of a European inspectorate that would monitor the safety and expansion of nuclear installations throughout Europe, including Sellafield, is something that must be pursued vigorously.

I will refer briefly to some of the remarks made by Deputy Dukes. As I said earlier, he paints a fatalistic outlook of Ireland's relationship to Sellafield over the years and a rather black picture of future developments. I think the Deputy fails to see that the debate on Sellafield [1720] is really a debate about the expansion of the nuclear industry in the United Kingdom. They have installed a new plant, THORP, a thermal oxide reprocessing plant in Sellafield which is due to come onstream next year. This plant will be reprocessing waste not only from the UK but from countries as far away as Japan and indeed from Germany where they have decided not to construct a reprocessing plant due to local opposition, having already invested over $1 billion. The process of reprocessing nuclear waste increases the waste two to three hundred times and the natural result from the reprocessing process is that the Sellafield authority, BNFL, want to dump this waste in a repository underground.

The waste would be stored for millions of years. My point is that we know very little about the way in which the waste will behave in years to come. The only evidence available comes from places such as Fosmark in Sweden where a so-called repository was put in place. Problems have been experienced there with gases being released from the repository. A pilot project in New Mexico has shown that roofs of some of the caverns have collapsed. What I would say to Deputy Dukes is that rather than just accepting that reprocessing must take place and rather than rejecting storage of waste over ground — which is proven to be relatively safe at least and where it is possible to monitor waste on a regular basis — it is legitimate for the Irish people and the Irish Government to say no to the expansion of Sellafield and to say no to an overconcentration of the nuclear industry in one location.

During Deputy Dukes' contribution he kept going back to speak of the global nature of this debate. I recently attended a parliamentary forum in Washington on the new world order at which I asked whether it was not in order for a country such as Ireland, which is non-nuclear, to object to this ludicrous concentration of the nuclear industry, not just in Sellafield but along the west coast of the United Kingdom. I asked whether there should not be some framework in place, either [1721] on a European level or on a global level, to which Ireland could go to say that the problem needed to be resolved, that we needed assistance from other countries, that we needed assistance from some kind of international forum to help us in our objection.

After all, the Dáil some years ago, on an all-party basis, said no to Sellafield. I accept that it would be naïve to simply say: “We must close down Sellafield”. There are thousands of people working at Sellafield. I have been there and I have met many of the workers. However, it would be correct for us to say “Stop” to the ludicrous expansion of that plant. That would be a legitimate course. Perhaps Deputy Dukes was trying to introduce some crazy air of reality — there is no doubt that what he had to say was quite sensational. It would be quite legitimate for Ireland to adopt that approach and to continue with it. After all, the waste is coming from Japan and Germany. Why could the Japanese at least not look after their own waste, and should there not be some international agency to ensure that they do? Deputy Dukes also said that waste from some of our hospitals goes to that general area. He was right in that; as I understand it, such waste arrives at Drigg, not so far away from Sellafield. I understand also that the waste is stored there. To introduce that argument is rather to go off course and will do no good for the general all-party agreement we have in the House on the developments at Sellafield. I shall leave the matter there for the moment and come back to the Bill.

I consider the Bill to have the potential of being strong and effective at local, national and, indeed, EC level. The Bill calls for effective co-operation at local level. It requires the collaboration of the Environmental Protection Agency and local authorities concerning environmental questions. Even further, the legislation allows for public hearings if the public so desire, in relation to a particular project.

The strongest challenge facing the new Environmental Protection Agency will be to narrow and indeed eliminate the [1722] gulf between industrialists and environmentalists. The divide is most evident in the Cork region. The debate in Cork, I believe, merely mirrors the feelings that prevail throughout the country. My hopes are that the Environmental Protection Agency will create the conditions in this country in which business and technology are not seen as the enemies of the environment. Rather, I hope that a convergence of interest from both sides will be seen. The resources of business and industry must be followed into pollution control and into producing goods that are compatable with our environment. The agency must pursue a course that will make environmental protection profitable for multinational corporations.

The business community has a historic opportunity worldwide to demonstrate its commitment to new means of producing goods and creating wealth while at the same time ensuring that future generations will enjoy the riches of this planet. Such an approach is also in the interest of the worker and those currently seeking jobs. It is now evident that where serious damage has been done to the environment by companies in parts of eastern and central Europe some of those companies have been forced out of business as they were not in a position to provide the capital investment needed for the new equipment necessary to clean up their operations. The worker loses heavily in such circumstances. We have a clear advantage in that we can learn from some of these unfortunate mistakes. We can now step into the role of leader internationally by achieving the dual objective of a protected environment and an expanding labour force.

The new agency can be assured that they will have the full support of the educational system in their work. The process of awareness has already begun in our schools. Tribute must be paid to the thousands of teachers who are utilising to its full potential the excellent environmentally orientated curriculum in our schools. Our young population of schoolgoing children have responded [1723] warmly and enthusiastically to the inspirational work of those involved in our educational programme. It is only proper that during this historic debate we salute our teaching professions and acknowledge the invaluable contribution they have made to changing in a most positive way the attitude of Irish society towards its natural environment.

I was pleased to note in the details of the new Programme for Government, 1989-93 that the environment was given special priority and that there was a commitment to the implementation of the ten year environmental action programme. After careful consideration of the programme, it is obvious that the environmental aspect runs through many Departments, and I shall refer to that later.

In relation to the Department of Transport and commitments made in that regard, the Programme for Government deals with Dublin transportation problems. This is a Green agenda, because it concerns our health. I am pleased that plans are now clearly in place for the introduction of a light rail system and that there will be environmental controls on the development of the agricultural sector.

In relation to agriculture the programme recognises the fundamental importance of preserving and improving the rural environment. I am pleased that the Government will increase the number of areas designated as environmentally sensitive on the basis of results obtained from two pilot areas already so designated and that the Government will continue their actions to help farmers to prevent any pollution arising from farming activities.

Within the Department of the Environment in the Custom House I recognise, as I have said before, a clear need to separate the functions dealing with the Green environment from those relating to issues such as local government grants, road construction, lending institutions and so on — what might be described as more concrete or administrative functions. The Green environment relates to [1724] the protection and preservation of our rivers, lakes, landscape and air — matters referred to in the ten year programme — but this agenda means much more. Its horizons are broader than that. The Green environment is about the quality of drinking water, public health, marine resources, control in the development of the agricultural sector, a clean and efficient transport system, the “greenhouse” effect, the ozone layer, CFCs, the threat of the nuclear industry, the process of irradiation of food and the labelling of food.

What concerns me is that our Department of the Environment are still looked upon as a Government Department who are focusing too narrowly. The Department could unload much of their baggage in relation to local government, housing, road construction and lending institutions. All of those technical and administrative functions should be shifted elsewhere and the Department of the Environment should concentrate on the Green agenda. The Department should be allowed to expand into other areas of Government activity. In reality they are about the environment and health, and these two issues permeate all Government Departments and they must be encouraged to do so by separating the Green and health agenda from their other more administrative functions. It will become evident that a different, more innovative attitude will emerge in relation to how this Department carry out their responsibilities.

In relation to the light rail system, since the seventies a light rail system in various forms has been taken up by many local authorities and transport authorities throughout Europe and the United States. I, like other councillors and public representatives here, have attended many seminars and conferences over the years on transportation particularly in respect of Dublin and surrounding areas. It would appear that we are now coming down in favour of some kind of a light rail vehicle system, some of which can even climb hills and go around corners. This is something we must warmly welcome and applaud. We must urge on [1725] the Minister to ensure that these new measures are put in place as quickly as possible.

We all experience transport difficulties coming to and leaving this House when traffic in the city centre sometimes simply grinds to a halt. Such a light rail proposal would involve restricting car movement in the city and more pedestrianisation, which is proceeding steadily and is something I warmly welcome. The fact that we are now focussing on a particular model of light rail tram car, interacting with buses and linked into the rail system, is a very good thing. We are inclined to knock Dublin city. I am convinced that this city has become more vibrant and progressive in recent times, first for its citizens and, second, growing in stature as a tourist attraction. We need only look at what is happening in the Temple Bar area as one example of how, through picking a particular historic part of Dublin, through pedestrianisation and other incentives, one can change the shape of the city overnight by bringing out the best of its past and making it accessible to its citizens.

I am convinced that the proposed light rail system will complement these works and alleviate the chronic traffic congestion obtaining in our city. I welcome the fact that this light rail system would appear to be now a possibility — and hopefully a probability — especially as part of the land needed is in my constituency, that is the Harcourt Street railway line and the line from Tallaght, which must be proceeded with also.

The success of the DART has proved that, once a transport system is put in place that is comfortable, safe and clean and offered to motorists as an option for entering and leaving the city, they will use it. Obviously motorists have not taken to the bus system, though Bus Átha Cliath do their best. To be fair to them, their best is not good enough bearing in mind the present state of traffic congestion on our roads. If a reliable, frequent service is provided motorists will gladly avail of it and leave their cars in their driveways. I look forward to the reopening of the Harcourt Street railway line and to the [1726] establishment of a rail line to Tallaght in the very near future.

That takes me to the question of the roads debate in Dublin. An environmental impast assessment has been undertaken on the part of the Ring Road which covers the Southern Cross route. I recently attended a public inquiry in relation to the Southern Cross route. It must be acknowledged that the provisions of this Bill allow for such public hearings, which are to be warmly welcomed. Having participated in that public inquiry I fully appreciate the absolute necessity of introducing such a measure. In the course of that inquiry all interested parties — householders, local councillors, planning consultants, experts — were given an opportunity to put their case and have a fair hearing. What emerges from this debate on transport and roads is that there must be a balance struck between the rapid rail system and motorways since there is a need for both. I have always supported the concept of a ring road around Dublin. After all, it is a Euro-route from Belfast, coming round north County Dublin, joining the Bray Road in the south, continuing to Rosslare and, ultimately, Le Havre.

Great progress has been made in relation to these motorways in that the western section is now operational and at this very moment the Shankill by-pass is being opened. Indeed, I would be present had I not chosen to speak in this debate. The remaining portions, the Northern Cross and Southern Cross, have yet to be completed.

I might make one strong appeal to the Minister of State present in regard to the existing line of the Southern Cross route which goes from Firhouse Road, across Ballinteer, as a motorway — I want to explain this before making my appeal — and arrives in the Sandyford area, where it funnels and narrows down in the form of a dual carriageway. Worse still, it then joins the existing Leopardstown Road and Brewery Road. If that plan goes ahead in its present form it would be disastrous in that we would be sending motorists along a high speed motorway, [1727] then sending them blindly into a cul-de-sac at Leopardstown Road, even if that road is improved. I am convinced that that road will be unable to withstand the volume of traffic when there will be a back-up of cars and trucks to Stillorgan, Sandyford, Dundrum and Ballinteer.

There is a solution which I might advance to the Minister, that is, that the South-Eastern motorway planned for construction must be constructed in conjunction with the Southern Cross route. That South-Eastern motorway intersects and joins the Southern Cross route at Sandyford. If that arm is put in place it will relieve the Leopardstown Road area of traffic chaos, directing the traffic along the South-Eastern motorway to join the Bray Road at Loughlinstown. This is not merely a local but national, indeed European, issue because of the nature of the road and is related to this debate in that it has major environmental and health implications.

We have been awaiting this Bill a long time. Many political parties, including the Fine Gael Party, have advocated the establishment of this proposed agency. I believe Deputy Dukes referred to Deputy Shatter's Bill claiming that they were the first to propose it. I should like to place on record that, before any party proposed the establishment of such an agency, I, as chairman of Ógra Fianna Fáil, put forward a policy document to my party that an environmental protection agency be established, which document was subsequently accepted by my party. There is a commitment in the new Programme for Government that this legislation will be introduced as quickly as possible. Let us proceed without delay.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The Environmental Protection Agency Bill, 1991, has been long awaited and is welcomed by the Labour Party as one of the most significant Bills relating to the environment to come before this House. However, we have deep misgivings about implementing such a complex Bill if the resources needed to do so are not forthcoming. This Bill would appear to be nothing [1728] more than wishful thinking on the part of the Minister of State in that she has not shown specifically from where the money is to emanate to allow its provisions be fully implemented. The Minister is more than aware that there is no money on the ground with which to implement its provisions. Therefore, I maintain it is merely another piece of aspirational legislation that will not see the light of day in any real sense. This Government appear to adopt a two-fold approach to the introduction of new legislation. Indeed, it could be argued that the Minister of State has not done her homework. I should like her to outline in detail to his House where and from whence the money will be provided to allow the provisions of this Bill to be implemented and the important work carried out.

The Labour Party are concerned that the proposed agency be properly funded. We believe that dependence on an annual grant, provided for in section 45, will diminish the effectiveness and independence of the agency, particularly in their longer-term planning and operations. We are all aware that starving an agency of funds has been used by this Government previously to disempower an agency whose activities they have grown to dislike. A recent example of that negative policy on the part of a previous Government was the office of the Ombudsman. It is noteworthy that in the current Book of Estimates a nominal sum of £1 million has been allocated to represent the agency's total resources for 1991. The Labour Party will be seeking the Minister's commitment that there will be no arbitrary ceiling on the agency's capacity to do their job.

A number of previous speakers referred to the global nature of the environmental problem with which we are dealing. My party spokesman will deal with that aspect. I want to concentrate on what we can do, on what I perceive as my role as a Labour Party public representative from Kildare with a special interest in Mayo. The main polluters in the constituency I represent are the local authorities. The reason is that [1729] resources have not been provided to the local authorities to put in place treatment works for human waste.

Will this Bill ensure that money is provided so that the authorities can carry out work to ensure that pollution is reduced or eliminated or will the new agency simply prosecute the local authorities who have been starved of resources necessary to do these works?

Will the Bill deal with situations like the one which occurred in Naas — and which is ongoing — when a well supply of water to the town was polluted? The reason given was that there was a scarce supply of treated water available in the region. If we are to believe Dublin Corporation's publicity officer, Noel Carroll, we must be living in a desert, not a very wet island. Every time we have a week or two of fine weather we are told there is an emergency and that water supplies are scarce. There is plenty of water available and we must treat enough of it to make it suitable for human consumption. It is not satisfactory to tap into sources like that in Naas. The switch in Naas was made not because there was not an ample supply of suitable water available but in order to save pennies because the local authority were starved of resources. It was a bad decision, a dangerous decision and nearly a deadly decision. The monitoring of that supply before the incident was entirely inadequate. Five metres from that water supply runs a main sewer. The sewer became blocked and overflowed into a well which was being used to service 1,500 houses in Naas. As a result 3,000 men, women and children were seriously ill at the one time. It was days after contamination occurred before any action was taken. There was not in place a monitoring system which would warn immediately of the occurrence of contamination.

The fears of people in that town and elsewhere where similar types of supply are provided must be allayed by the Minister and the Department. I have written to the Minister for the Environment asking for a public inquiry. My letter stated:

[1730] I would urge that you now establish a Public Inquiry to establish why such a dangerous supply was used in the first instance and to further establish why the monitoring system for such water supplies failed to prevent this serious health hazard. This inquiry should also examine where other such high risk supplies exist and put in place procedures for dealing with such contaminations in the future.

Will this Bill deal with matters like the continuing scandal in Robertstown village, which has been on a waiting list for 25 years for a simple sewage treatment plant? Because of the canal and other facilities there, Robertstown has been designated by Kildare County Council as a top tourism area in County Kildare. The sewage from the houses, the pub and the hotel goes straight into the canal, untreated. That has been the way since Robertstown was built. It is scandalous that Robertstown has been waiting 25 years for a treatment plant to prevent this pollution. Will the agency to able to do anything about that type of problem or will they simply prosecute the Minister who has not provided resources? Will the county manager be dragged before the courts for not providing the required facility?

Will the Bill remedy the problem in Kilcullen? The Minister of State knows Kilcullen particularly well. Just before the local elections she visited Kilcullen to examine the sewerage works. She issued a letter to her party colleague in that town stating that a sewage treatment works would be put in place forthwith. That letter was issued to every house in the town. The senior Minister knew nothing about it.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  It is not true.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The letter was issued in the Minister's name with a covering letter from her colleague. The effect of that deceiving of the people of Kilcullen [1731] resulted in a decent Fianna Fáil councillor, Paddy Aspell, losing his seat and being replaced by a colleague of the Minister. That sort of strokism from the squeaky clean Progressive Democrats is something the public should know about. They are no more squeaky clean than any of the rest of us.

Miss Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Show me my letter.

Mr. Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Every house in Kilcullen has the letter. I have it in my file but it is not with me. If the Minister of State wants to see the letter, I will show it to her. That letter did not advance the cause of pollution prevention in Kilcullen by one iota. The sewage from that town goes into a hole in the ground right beside the Liffey. The old tanks which used to be there are gone; they used to overflow into the Liffey. Now the sewage goes straight into the Liffey. All the people in north county Dublin and north Dublin city, including the Taoiseach, get a supply of water which is first dealt with at Kilcullen. The Taoiseach is getting that recycled supply in his own home. All the other citizens in north Kildare, in north county Dublin and north Dublin city are getting a supply from the Liffey which is seriously polluted by raw sewage from Kilcullen. This is despite the promises made by the Minister of State before the local elections in June. The Minister for the Environment has told us that the matter is under consideration, just as it was ten years ago. There has been no advance. The Minister of State should withdraw her letter, apologise to the people of Kilcullen for giving false information and apologise to Paddy Aspell for depriving him of his seat by her actions.

Will the Bill empower the Minister or this House or the agency to deal with the unlicensed dump at Hillsborough in Athgarvan? The Minister was contacted directly in this regard. She did not say she would do anything about it; she just ignored it. A Belgian national, Peter Kup, bought a small farm there in 1978 to raise goats. They are dead now from pollution. A local entrepreneur decided [1732] to turn nearby quarries into a dump and illegal dumping has been going on ever since. I visited the area last Monday morning. Deputy Dukes was speculating earlier on what constituted a smell. If he went to Athgarvan, which is close to where he lives, he would have no doubt about what a smell is. One would need a gasmask to approach Mr. Kup's house, which is surrounded by a mountainous dump of all sorts or rubbish. The dump is unlicensed, unregulated and of course commercial. There is a heavy volume of traffic at night to that dump. I wonder why people go to the dump at night. Why do they not go there during the day? I am convinced the reason they visit the dump by night is that they are dumping materials which would not be permitted legally.

The local authority members and their management stand condemned in this case. They took a half hearted prosecution against this illegal dump but they did not call key witnesses. The county manager who briefed the solicitor or the solicitor who took the action on behalf of the council or both should be sacked for dereliction of duty. That is a very strong thing to say in this House but I am sure that anybody who has visited this mountainous dump, which contains fridges and the carcases of animals and where papers are strewn for at least half a mile all over the place, would agree with my sentiments — that there has been a serious dereliction of duty by somebody.

The Minister was notified about this issue two years ago when her new “Green” image was presented to the public. Will the Minister with the help of this agency do more than she did before, which amounted to nothing, in regard to this dump? The house owned by this old man and his wife is now surrounded by this mountain of rubbish, rats have invaded his house, his water supply has been polluted and his goats have died. Seemingly the authorities can do nothing about the problem. I want to know if the new agency will be able to do anything on behalf of Mr. Kup.

[1733] I want to raise one other specific case. As I said at the beginning of my contribution, I have a special interest in County Mayo. I want to know if the agency will be able to help resolve a problem there which I want to outline. Will they be able to act as the Minister obviously has not been capable of acting? The beautiful River Robe meanders slowly through the plains of south Mayo. This river was an excellent brown trout fishery. Kingfishers were seen aplenty there, tranquility was to be found there. I often found tranquility there myself. That river rises at a place known as Beacon Springs and passes through Claremorris, Ballindine, Hollymount and through my own beloved Cloomcormack and Robeen, on to Ballinrobe and eventually into Lough Mask. Because of gross neglect of the people of the area by the Minister for the Environment — he is the local Deputy for some of these areas — that river has been grossly polluted. The source of that pollution is mainly sewage, although I have seen some evidence of agricultural pollution also. In Claremorris untreated sewage overflows from a settlement tank into the river; at Ballindine there is a direct pipe from the town's untreated sewage system into the river; at Hollymount, my home village, there is no tank and the sewage goes straight into the river and at Ballinrobe, which is very close to Lough Mask and which is very definitely in the Minister's constituency, untreated sewage flows into the river. Plans are not at an advanced stage for treatment works in any of these towns.

The river has deteriorated over a period of five years. I have raised this issue with the local authority and with the Minister on a number of occasions. In August of this year that once beautiful river was covered with a green fluorescent scum from one bank to the other from Ballindine to Ballinrobe, a distance of about 15 miles as the river flows. The stench from this rotten material which had piled up on the side of the river was unbelievable. It was impossible to fish in the river and there were no kingfishers to be seen there. That [1734] cesspool, open sewer, in south Mayo runs straight into Lough Mask, which, without doubt, is the best brown trout fishery in Europe. We are doing to Lough Mask what the pig farmers in Counties Monaghan and Cavan did to Lough Sheelin.

Lough Mask is also the only source of drinking water for south Mayo. The new schemes which have been planned for Claremorris, Ballinrobe and other areas of south Mayo will be piped directly from Lough Mask. I raised the issue of the pollution level in Lough Mask with the council and asked whether the water was suitable for human consumption. I was told that they had tested it and all was in order. However, I was told the same thing about the drinking water in Naas three weeks ago, that tests had shown that the water was all right. However, with 3,000 people sick in Naas, some very sick and one very seriously ill, we now know that the water was not all right in Naas. I am not trying to scare people about the quality of the water in Lough Mask but I want to impress on the Minister the importance of ensuring that the agency will have powers not alone to say what is wrong but powers to put in place the resources required to put right what is wrong. Without that this Bill will amount to nothing and will be simply window dressing.

I ask the Minister, who has a particular interest in this issue, to take action now to save the River Robe. I do not believe it has gone beyond the point of being saved. I ask him to take action to save it and to ensure that Lough Mask is not turned into another Lough Sheelin. The question I want to ask is: will the Minister be able to provide resources for the agency under this Bill? I have serious doubts about that. There is a real possibility that under the strictures of the Bill the Minister and the agency could be nobbled. If the Minister does not provide resources to prevent pollution at local level, will the agency be able to prosecute the Minister, as the person responsible, for not providing the anti-pollution measures required or will they continue to drag county managers before the courts for not doing something which they were [1735] not given the resources to do in the first place?

Those are the key points I want to make. While we have many small problems, the main polluters are the local authorities who do not have the resources to correct and deal with human waste. Even though there are good treatment works in County Kildare, anyone who drives south on the Naas bypass — my colleague referred to this — would need to put on a gas mask for half a mile because of the overpowering stench from the modern sewage treatment works. Even though there are modern treatment works in Leixlip the constant stench there is also overpowering. What is the reason for this?

There is a particular problem with agriculture in my constituency where cereal farmers use high levels of phosphates. They have succeeded in polluting the ground water in south Kildare. Scientists have calculated that if they stop using phosphates now it will take 150 years for that water to become fit for human consumption again. The artesian wells which were used previously to supply water to small villages have been closed down and water has had to be piped, at a very high cost, to the villages from the main supplies. The new system of making silage in plastic bags, which is used a lot in the West, creates fewer problems, and the number of unscrupulous farmers causing pollution is smaller.

The Labour Party are pleased to note that the Government have decided to follow the procedure originally drawn up by Deputy Dick Spring in 1983, in the context of his proposed reform of An Bord Pleanála, for the appointment of a director general and other directors of the Environmental Protection Agency. This approach is to be welcomed. It should be pointed out that the Government were asked to follow a similar procedure in relation to the RTE Authority and the IRTC in the recent debate on the Broadcasting Bill but refused to do so.

The Labour Party believe that the “Green” debate to date has dealt solely with the waste and disposal end of the [1736] environmental issue. We would like to see the Environmental Protection Agency placing as much emphasis on the production of socially responsible consumer products. If the environmental issue is to be fully tackled, the agency must deal with the daily use of goods. This will include the establishment of recycling depots at all supermarkets for bottles, tins — can banks — plastic bags and paper. We would like to see friendly technology used at all public purchasing outlets, for example, recycling or unbleached paper, and that public transport vehicles would use unleaded petrol or car gas.

Earlier this year the Labour Party published their own environmental policy, which represents a major development of the Labour Party's approach to environmental issues. It reflects the growing concern of many people about the state of our environment and the impact that this generation of humans is having on its condition. I would recommend that document to the Minister if she has not already had an opportunity to see it. At the outset, in our policy paper we stated that all things are connected. There is an established and inseparable link between the socialist concerns and the values and absolute necessity to conserve and manage our global environment. With this in mind the Labour Party will be tabling a series of constructive amendments to give this agency the independence and strength they require to carry out their task as thoroughly as possible.

Finally, I would like to emphasise to the Minister that this Bill will end up as another piece of window dressing unless she can find the resources required to put its proposals in place — that means a lot of money. A green, clean environment comes most expensively but we must be prepared to provide that money as otherwise our environment cannot be controlled in such a way that it will continue to be suitable for human habitation.

Miss M. Wallace: Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  The Bill before us today has been welcomed as a major advance in environmental legislation. It [1737] has also been welcomed by diverse groups from An Taisce and Earthwatch to the Confederation of Irish Industry. It is a detailed and thorough Bill and in a standard way also outlines the Government's aspirations to a clean environment. This commitment was most obviously made during our Presidency of the EC during which the first major declaration on the environment was issued by EC Heads of Government and as an extension of this I understand a charter on the environment will be included in the amended Treaty of Rome.

The Government's commitment in this whole area was seen last year when the Government published their environment action programme, the first such programme by a Government in the important area of the environment. The Bill before us today is issued against this background and it is further evidence of the Government's initiative in these so-called green issues. For many years these issues were seen by people to be less important than the other issues which were before them. To some extent perhaps they were on the political back-burner or were on the second or third tier of public concern. I am glad to see this is changed and that there is grave concern and an interest in our environment. With this change in attitude the Bill before us today underlines how important it is that we have a positive interest in the protection of the environment.

Environmental destruction is not limited by geography; as such it can be dealt with only through comprehensive and far-reaching structures, structures that are not ad hoc or confined to the privacy of national policy. The Chernobyl disaster reminded us that we live in a global village, hence the importance of Ireland's green Presidency and the Government's initiative in sponsoring the East-West meeting. Hence also the spuriousness of the argument that the mess at Sellafield is an internal British difficulty. The consistent call by the Government for the closure of Sellafield is becoming more important, particularly since Sellafield [1738] has been designed as a plant for reprocessing purposes. Not only is our own vital national interest at stake here but also the interests of the broader economic community of which we are all a part.

I hope the functions of the proposed agency, as outlined in Part III, will be directed with this in mind. I hope the proposed liaison with the European Environmental Agency as stated in section 51 (1) (e) is not just an aspiration and that it will be able to cover our important concerns in this area.

The Bill proposes also a radical overhaul of existing legislation at national level. Its brief is very wide, covering all areas of environmental interest as detailed in Part III. Part IV deals with wide-ranging powers which will be conferred on the agency, not least in the area of licensing and prosecution. It will also be an independent agency with its own budget, as provided for in Part I, and will bring together what has been up to now the diverse management in the whole area of environment monitoring, control and planning. This area has been dealt with for many years by many groups and agencies. It is important that the agency being set up would have an overall view on this important area.

It is also a timely Bill. In Ireland we have been blessed with a relatively clean environment. Even without stringent legislation we have been able to hold on to a clean environment but it has come to the time when it is more important that we should protect our environment. In the nature of things an expanding as well as an increasing industrialised society will challenge this inheritance we have of a clean environment. Sandoz, Merrell Dow and the smog problem in Dublin last winter serve to remind us of the seriousness of these issues. In each case action was taken but they highlighted how fragile our natural environment is. In this context the Government introduced pioneering initiatives, such as the Air Pollution Bill, 1987, and the Water Pollution Bill, 1990.

The Bill before the House marks a further development in the whole area of national policy. It brings under one [1739] authority a whole range of functions which up to now had been dealt with by a number of various agencies, local authorities and various groups. While the Bill could be seen as an anti-devolutionary measure, it makes sense to concentrate these powers of environmental control at national level because, as we are all aware, protection of the environment knows no boundaries and neither does destruction of the environment know boundaries.

I am glad to note that the centralisation implicit in the new structures will be balanced by the establishment of regional environmental units, as stated in section 42. Under the provisions of section 55 local authorities will continue to be involved. This is essential because local authorities play a very important part in monitoring and controlling the environment and it is important that they should continue this work. The consultative aspects of the Bill are welcome, but just as important is consultation with the public at large. Prior to the drafting of the Bill various aspects were discussed, consideration was given to the views of the public and public seminars were held. Under the Environmental Protection Agency I hope the views of the public will continue to be sought and listened to.

I welcome this open door policy on information, including the availability of environmental monitoring results, registers of research and so on, as outlined in section 64. Local environment information offices have a very important function to perform in this area. I welcome the Bill's brief under section 75 to establish a labelling scheme on environmentally friendly products and services. This is particularly important as regards the export of products. This country has, and still is perceived to have in terms of clean food, a relativley clean environment. I hope the general thrust of this section will be incorporated within the broader brief of our marketing agencies abroad through, for example, the publication of some type of recognised logo which would complement the quality [1740] control logo already used by the Irish Quality Association. The clean environment and the good food associated with Irish products is important in the export of food and it is also critical to us in the area of tourism.

Debate adjourned.


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