Environmental Protection Agency Bill 1990: Second Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 13 February 1991

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 127 No. 10

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

Mr. Hourigan: Information on Richard V Hourigan  Zoom on Richard V Hourigan  I welcome the Minister, Deputy Harney to the House and congratulate her on this legislation which I welcome although I have reservations with regard to certain aspects of it.

The Minister in her address to this House some weeks ago, made it very clear, and it is worth emphasising, that the environment has been brought in the last four or five years from the position of being an unknown quantity to a position where it is now regarded as top of the league in relation to importance, relevance, the need for attention and so on. We all can recall a time when we did not have a Minister for the Environment. We had a Minister for Local Government who dealt with environmental matters. The establishment of the office of Minister for the Environment and Minister of State with responsibility for the Environment indicates the importance that has been attached to the environmental area in recent times. With the collapse of the Iron Curtain we have seen the terrible devastation of certain East European countries and the loss of life as a result of disease and so on. In Ireland we can be justly proud of our position vis-á-vis the environment.

There are certain reservations I have about the Bill but generally I welcome it and I compliment the Minister on her endeavours. One of my major reservations relates to the appeals procedure. This matter was raised by a number of different interest groups and has been raised by the Minister and by my colleagues in the House. The position with regard to appeals is not what it should be from a psychological or practical point of view. As I understand it, when the agency proposes to grant a licence it shall first indicate its proposals and interested parties will then have an opportunity to comment on them. These comments will be [1169] taken into account by the agency in making its final decision. Therefore, the agency would appear to be the final arbiter in the matter. Now while I have every confidence in the calibre and expertise of the persons who will handle this operation, I would have grave reservations about the acceptability of that procedure which, to my mind, does not conform to the average person's idea of an appeals mechanism, which people regard as something separate and different.

I appreciate that the Minister has already stated that the best possible expertise will be available within the agency and the agency will, from a practical point of view, cover the area quite effectively. However, I stress that a system of appeal to another board or body which would also, of course, have expertise would be desirable.

With respect, the Minister is not having sufficient regard to what I referred to earlier, that is the psychological benefit to an objector in having his or her appeal heard by an independent third party. This could lead to a lack of confidence and to a certain degree of mistrust which could undermine what would otherwise be an excellent body, doing excellent work in protecting our environment. I do not wish to stress that point, but it is important. As I said earlier, it has as much to do with the perception of people of the situation as it has with its practical application.

It has been stated already that one of the prime reasons for introducing this legislation is to ensure that public confidence and independence will be to the fore. The lack of a proper appeals procedure, to which I have referred, will affect this perception by the ordinary people. I want to stress again the mental and psychological effect on an objector who has recourse to a third party. It will be a great pity if we are again to witness scenes where potential industry, which may be very badly needed, is lost to an area because of protracted disputes and protests. I agree that nobody should accept or want industry at any cost but it would be very much regretted if such protests were to continue for a protracted period [1170] simply because people were crying out for a proper appeals procedure. If public opinion is to be satisfied that there is an adequate appeals procedure built into this legislation, then it must be through an independent third party organisation or body. Public confidence, can only be enhanced if we have such an appeals procedure. I know the Minister will take cognisance of that point with regard to appeals which I have emphasised at some length.

Some of the financial implications proposed in the Bill will cause concern, in particular where they relate to local authorities. I fully appreciate it is not intended that this Bill should remove local authorities from the entire scene as regards environmental protection. In fact, it is envisaged that they will continue to play a very important role in the whole area. In other words, in conjunction with this Environmental Protection Agency, the efforts of local authorities and other bodies will be synchronised or co-ordinated. I have no fear about that.

What concerns me about the Bill is that we could have further erosion of the financial base of local authorities. Members here who sit on local authority bodies will appreciate the serious problems that could cause. Large industries which currently contribute towards local authorities by way of monitoring and treatment of discharges as conditions of their licences will now become licensed under the agency, thus removing this source of revenue from local authorities. It is essential that they are provided with adequate finance from the State to ensure they can continue to play the important role envisaged for them in environmental protection.

While many aspects of the Bill are very much to the point, the provisions must be implemented fully if the agency and the local authorities are to adequately police and protect our environment and this will be dependent to a great extent on the finance made available to them. It is absolutely imperative, therefore, that the whole question of financing for the [1171] agency and local authorities in the context of environmental protection should be clarified by the Minister.

I referred last week to a number of points and I want to elaborate on some of them. I stressed how important the environment is now rated by all concerned with environmental matters; it is a very complex area. Very few people appreciate the number of areas of activity and the matters that come within the ambit of and under the control of, the Department of the Environment. Frankly, in a changing world the environment is a very important barometer of the well-being of our country and, more importantly the well-being of our people. We have seen examples throughout the world of the environment causing major problems with regard to the health of the population. We are fortunate here in having a clean environment and I believe those vested with the responsibility up to now have done a good job. I am certain the Minister and all the other people concerned in the future with the environment will continue that good work.

I referred earlier to the Environmental Protection Agency and the fact that they will have direct responsibility for licensing, control and other major functions. This speaks for itself, it puts the agency in a very special category, where it will be the apex of all activity with regard to environmental matters. We must take into account the vast amount of waste we have to dispose of annually here. For example, each year more than 28 million tonnes of solid waste are produced in this country and agriculture accounts for 22 million tonnes of that figure. I am talking about solid waste which is domestic refuse, industrial and commercial waste, litter, waste from mining, quarrying, construction, agriculture, sludges and semisolids that cannot be discharged in water or air. The figures I have given bring home to us very forcibly the problem we face and it will take a united effort on the part of everybody to ensure that we deal with it.

There are many different ways of disposing of waste at present. Almost all [1172] non-sludge waste goes to land fill sites in the various local authority areas. 46 per cent of sewage sludge is discharged at sea, 28 per cent is dried and spread on agricultural land, 18 per cent is disposed of in land fill sites and 8 per cent is disposed of otherwise. With regard to sludge and waste being discharged into the sea, there is an urgent need for a greatly increased number of treatment plants or processing units here to ensure that our seas and major rivers, like the Shannon, are not polluted to an extent that people cannot swim in them or fish cannot survive. We must ensure that leisure activities are not affected because of pollution of major and minor rivers and, indeed, the sea.

Various methods of waste disposal are carried out by private firms. Many firms adopt measures of a fairly sophisticated nature and are doing a good job. Others, it is true to say, leave a lot to be desired and are not disposing of waste in the proper way. There are certain dangerous wastes, such as toxic waste, which have to be treated very carefully. There are in all 27 categories of waste and those are defined under various EC Directives. In Ireland 52,000 tonnes per annum are produced and 19 of the 27 categories are toxic waste materials. Of that, 63 per cent is chlorinated and organic solvents, followed by biocides and other chemical materials, are used to make the material safe.

One could go on and on about waste, its volume, its disposal and so on. In many parts of the country, be it Clare, Limerick, Kerry or elsewhere there is a greater awareness of the problem of pollution but unfortunately our major rivers are very often dumping places for motor cars and other major objects. In the River Shannon, for example, many items such as cars, lorries and so on are discarded. That affects boating activities and leisure activities such as swimming and so forth, as well as causing serious pollution. We must be very mindful of that and ensure that it is not allowed to continue.

I referred already to the complexities of the problem confronting the Minister [1173] and other persons with responsibility for dealing with this issue. There is provision in this Bill for the appointment of a director general, four directors, an advisory committee, a certain number of staff, specialists and others who need not necessarily be in the specialist area. As I said already, it is essential that there is an independent appeals procedure. The Minister to an extent has taken care of that but not to the required extent.

With regard to the appointment of the board of directors, instead of appointing a director general and directors from a number of persons from nominating bodies, the directors should be nominated directly by the nominating bodies and no Minister or Government would hand pick from, say, four persons. In that way the agency will be more independent.

The whole area of the environment is vital if we are to maintain the flora which in parts of our country, such as the Burren in County Clare, is very special and many other places have special types of rare plants. There will be, and are, various international agreements which will be made with regard to environmental policy because at this stage — and I stress this — we must not attempt to legislate for pollution control in Ireland in isolation. We must attempt to take account of the position in Europe and further afield in so far as it is relevant to us. However, the most immediate and important point is that we tackle the pollution problem in our island. Following that we should monitor the position in other countries and reach agreement with regard to wind changes and so on. There are many different ways in which this can be done.

Essentially, as I see it — without going through the Bill line by line, which is a matter for a later Stage — the Bill is an updating of existing legislation and a centralisation of activities now being carried out by other agencies. I urge the Minister to insure that those other agencies, which by and large are local authorities, should continue to have a function, a very important function, in the whole area of environmental control [1174] in the future. Before I leave the position of the director general I should say that we must have the highest level of confidence in this area. The director general must be highly qualified, with good commonsense, capable of doing a good job, backed up by a good board of directors, working satisfactorily as independent as is necessary, to enable them to do a job without being told what to do or what not to do. Equally, an advisory committee have been talked about. It is essential that this advisory committee should consist of persons who are useful, appropriate, helpful and meaningful for the agency. Likewise it is of paramount importance that all the staff, particularly the specialist staff, engineers and scientists of various types are well trained and well suited for the particular function they will carry out.

We will need to have constant monitoring of the quality of the environment. The position as of today may be totally different in six or 12 months time. Therefore I would emphasise the importance of constant monitoring of the quality of the environment. We have a good environment and let us keep it that way. Of course, there are certain inadequate aspects also such as the many fish kills in our rivers. I have already referred to the many undesirable incidences of polluted rivers, lakes, and seashores, which the public cannot use in a pleasurable way. That must be resolved.

By and large, we must take account of these matters and embrace the other non-obvious environmental matters. One that strikes one very forcibly, and which is mentioned in the Bill as far as I can recollect, is that of noise. In regard to noise from discos and the like in residential areas, will the Minister outline what is envisaged for taking care of that problem? In many residential areas in Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Galway and in major towns such as Ennis, Nenagh, Clonmel and so on, noise from discos is a big problem.

Those are the less obvious pollutants of the environment. There is also pollution from traffic and from the burning of certain coals and so on. There are problems [1175] with regard to paints and many other things. Will the Minister address what may seem the non-obvious areas of pollution in this regard? I mentioned, in particular, discos and how they can and are affecting the lives of many people in residential areas in our cities and towns throughout the country.

There must be access to information because many people can play their part, and play their part very meaningfully, provided they have access to information. Many persons, genuinely and through ignorance, are polluting the atmosphere and the country generally. Litter, to which I have not referred, is a major pollutant here. Monitoring reports should be examined, say, once in every two or three years. When there is a monitoring process on an ongoing basis one can decide how often these reports should be brought forward for a thorough and positive examination.

Fines and penalties are referred to in the Bill. Perhaps in some of these cases the fines and penalties should be greater than they are because, quite frankly, anybody who blatantly pollutes the environment deserves to be heavily fined. We do not have the sort of resources they have in other countries in Europe, for tackling environmental problems. Even though we are many years late compared to places like Denmark, Holland, Germany and other European countries with regard to what they have done over the last 20 years vis-á-vis pollution control, I am certain that we can now deal with the problem of pollution. I urge the Minister to ensure that at the end of the day this Bill does not contain too much ambiguity because if we have too high a level of ambiguity we will only provide a bonanza for those in the legal profession. While I have nothing personal against that profession, there is no point in creating situations that could be avoided by more commonsense legislation on day one.

We are in danger in this legislation, as in all other legislation of its type, of establishing a further layer of bureaucracy. This is something we must and [1176] should avoid. Agriculture has been a major factor with regard to pollution. I believe that in the context of this Bill we cannot leave the various pollutions that are now caused by agriculture to a peripheral group. We have lagged seriously behind many other European countries in the past 20 years.

We have now before us a set of regulations from the EC Commission which are due for implementation on 1 January 1993. They will have to go before the Council of Ministers but are unlikely to go through in the form in which they are now laid down. These apply to a number of areas in agriculture such as dairying, beef production and so on. I wish to refer to the position with regard to persons involved in milk production. We have dairy farmers who produce milk for processing or manufacture and we have dairy farmers who produce milk for liquid consumption in our large towns and cities and throughout the country. In 1993 there will be a major overhaul of many production units, especially at the assembly point of the dairy animals, at the milking area where the milk is cooled and where the milk is stored. Very stringent rules will be laid down concerning, for example, the storage of milk which will not then be permitted where milk is cooled and compressed. There will be very definite rules with regard to milking parlours, to the housing of stock and the collection of stock in the summer months which, effectively, will mean a major cost increase to many of our farmers. We are talking, in total, of figures of perhaps £25,000 or £30,000; these are the sort of costs with which many of our dairy farmers will be faced from 1 January 1993 if they want to continue in dairying.

High levels of hygiene will be required. I do not disagree with the hygiene standards that have been passed. Perhaps certain modifications here and there could be questioned but a high level of hygiene is generally essential. That is going to be a major cost factor and our Government should take cognisance of this. A system of grants would enable farmers to meet the requirements demanded of them when the time comes [1177] if in the first instance we do not succeed in getting the required moneys from Europe.

We also have a major regulation which is part of the 1993 regulations. Under this regulation milk from a restricted herd cannot be used for any form of human consumption either in milk form or in processed form. In other words, milk from a restricted herd cannot be used directly as milk, it cannot be used as cheese or skim milk powder, as butter or in any other form. That would mean, in practice, that a dairy farmer could not supply milk to the creamery for a period of at least four months. If a person found himself in the month of March being restricted from supplying milk to the local creamery for a period of four months, the entire season would virtually pass by. There may be some form of payment made but that is a development we must keep in mind.

There has to be an adequate supply of potable water; in simple terminology that is water fit for human consumption. That water must be available for all cleansing of milking machines and milking systems generally. In the milking parlour there also has to be a sink.

Another major area is that of abattoirs. We know now that meat and bone meal are banned for use as animal feed and this has created a major problem with regard to the disposal of offal. At the present time, relatively small operators are paying as much as £50 per tonne for offal disposal through incineration and so on. I know of one small operation where offal disposal is now costing £400 per week whereas before the BSE or the mad cow disease problem arose those persons were making a profit of perhaps £400 per week. There is a potential loss here of between £600 and £800 per week. On a pro rata basis of £50 per tonne losses in a larger operation would be greater; each tonne would not necessarily cost £50, but the loss would be significant.

I believe that this area is the concern of the Department of the Environment in close co-operation with the Department of Agriculture and Food. Similarly, when animals die on farms, the farm [1178] owner now has to pay as much as £10 for the removal of the dead animal. Death of an animal is a serious loss to farmers, which is compounded by having to pay for the removal of the animal. Smaller animals cost less than £10 to remove but £10 is now required instead of the small nominal payment which was sufficient up to now.

There is a very serious danger that unless we have a satisfactory means of disposing of dead animals from farms and of offal from abattoirs serious pollution of areas such as boglands, rivers and so forth will result. I am not suggesting that people would readily go out and dispose of their animals or their products in this way but there is a danger of which we should be mindful for the sake of efficiency and for the sake of the well-being of our community.

Fishing has been very seriously affected throughout the country. This is a great tragedy. One of the highlights we offer to visitors to this country is fishing. When fishing is affected in major rivers and elsewhere it is a very bad thing. I could take the Bill section by section but I do not propose to do so. Before I conclude, may I say to the Minister that this legislation is very welcome as far as I am concerned. I have pointed out certain areas that might need attention and this has been done in the spirit of absolute co-operation and in the interest of ensuring that this legislation will achieve optimum results for this country now and in the future.

Mr. McKenna: Information on Tony McKenna  Zoom on Tony McKenna  Ar dtús, cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire go dtí an Teach seo agus déanaim comhghairdeas léi as ucht an Bille seo a thabhairt os ár gcomhair. Tá súil againn go mbeidh toradh a cuid saothair ag an Aire.

I am particularly pleased that this legislation has been brought before this House and I congratulate the Minister on doing so. Its implementation will have far-reaching effects and consequences for all people and I hope that it will have an extremely positive effect on our environment and will ensure that the unique [1179] natural resources which we are so fortunate to have will be protected. It is very important that the public understand that the passing of this Bill will result in people having to adapt to a different and better way of doing things and that the indifferent attitude of many to the precious natural assets we are blessed with, will have to change in the future.

Economic development, the environment and population are all inseparable issues. Unless environmental issues are dealt with effectively, sustainable development will never become a reality. One of the great scourges and difficulties we have in this age is poverty. People might ask what poverty has to do with the environment. Poverty can be both a cause and a result of environmental degradation. The village or the slum that lacks clean water and sanitary facilities harbours sickness and death. The uneducated often lack the know-how to maintain a healthy environment. It also follows, however, that higher standards of living will result in more goods being required so it is essential that they be produced in an environmentally efficient way. This would mean saving energy and reducing pollution. A given water system can cope with a reasonable amount of pollution since nature has a certain but limited capacity to absorb and cleanse itself without upsetting the balance of the system. However, once these limits have been passed, problems arise. On an international scale, the polluted Baltic and Mediterranean seas are obvious examples. Rectifying the problem can be both costly and difficult.

The balance has been lost in many areas throughout the world. In this country we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to do something about the problem before it is too late. This is why this Bill is so appropriate at this time. It is a great step towards rectifying the problem we have. Everyone must learn to achieve or maintain development using less of the kind of energy that uses up environmental assets. There is a great need for compatibility between growth and the preservation of the environment [1180] and one has to warn against a shortsighted approach to development and to economic modernisation. We do not have to look very far for sufficient evidence that a mindless pre-occupation with modernisation at any cost can do irreparable damage to the environment. The harmful effects on land and water and on afforestation already constitute a serious threat throughout the world. It takes a long time for measures designed to protect the environment to yield results, so we cannot afford to lose any more time before implementing measures that will redress the damage already done and protect the environment from further destruction.

Society must be educated and directed towards lifestyles that do not put excessive pressure on scarce natural resources. It is important that environmental issues should become an essential part of all educational programmes.

This Bill describes an emission as (a) an emission into the atmosphere of a pollutant within the meaning of the Air Pollution Act, 1987, (b) a discharge of polluting matter, sewage effluent or trade effluent within the meaning of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977 to waters or sewers within the meaning of the Act, (c) the disposal of waste and, (d) noise. Quite a substantial number of contributions in relation to (a), (b) and (c) have been made and I am glad that Senator Hourigan referred to (d), which relates to noise. I would like to refer to that item also and to compliment the Minister for including it in this legislation.

Many people might wonder what noise has to do with the pollution of the environment. In fact, it is considered to be one of the main causes of the decline in the quality of life. All the forecasts for the trends in noise environment up to the year 2000 point to further deterioration unless action is taken soon. Noise is constantly spreading geographically because of the development of suburban and tourist areas and over time because of the increasing mobility in towns at night time. I was interested to listen to a doctor speaking on the Gay Byrne Show about noise in relation to discos, etc., and of [1181] the enormous damage that has been done to young people. Senator Hourigan referred to the noise suffered by residents near discos but we must also consider the enormous damage done to the young people who attend these discos, not realising how serious the consequences may be. That is an extremely difficult problem to overcome and to legislate for in terms of the relative degrees of noise, etc., that could be permitted. We have to take a stand on the issue, however, and make efforts to regulate that problem, apart altogether from the nuisance which noise causes to people who would not be attending discos, etc., and, as Senator Hourigan said, from all other related noise problems from vehicles of all descriptions.

The educational sector can make a significant contribution to the task of protecting the environment. Young people should at all times be encouraged to realise that they can contribute to society through activities and that they can influence the world in which they live. The resolution on environmental education passed by the EC Council of Ministers of Education in May 1988 links environmental conditions directly to economic activities. It points out that education and training in environmental matters are priority activities. In this regard the An Taisce-Opel “Work for Ireland Schools Environmental Project” competition is an excellent method of encouraging young people to get involved in environmental awareness programmes. All schools should acquaint themselves with these types of projects and competitions and get involved in them at every level. All schools should encourage their students to participate in them.

In the area of packaging there is tremendous difficulty regarding recycling. This process will play an everincreasing role in improving our environment. The Government have already given £750,000 in grants towards that purpose and are doing an excellent job in towns throughout the country in the area of recycling. It is interesting to note that McDonalds, the fast food chain, have [1182] yielded to the pressures that have been put on them by environmentalists and have moved away from polystyrene packaging. The pressure for a continual move away from all types of plastic packaging is increasing. It is difficult from time to time to know what direction to take for the best because while polystyrene has always been condemned as a tremendous pollutant, it was interesting to note last week that a survey showed paper packaging to have more harmful effects in certain areas than polystyrene packaging. It is very difficult to know what road one should go down.

Up to recently in Ireland we tended to take the environment for granted. We had a careless attitude towards environmental issues. It was not a question of people consciously wrecking destruction and causing environmental problems. They did not think about what they were doing and they did not see that the activities they were carrying out were presenting a threat either to the environment or to anybody else. This brings us back to the problem of educating people in the right treatment of the environment. We can no longer continue as we have done in the past. It behoves everyone to play his or her part in protecting our greatest asset which is our environment.

The power which the agency will have to prosecute, to hold inquiries and to publish reports is a very important factor in the Bill. I note also its power to seek a High Court injunction to prevent serious pollution. I presume that where the agency directs a local authority to take specific remedial action regarding pollution the funding for such action will not be an expense on the council itself and on the scarce resources a local authority would have in relation to local county roads or something like that. One finds from experience that where extra funding is to be needed for a project over a period of time that invariably it is the old county road structure that gets the hammer. I do not know why that is but it is a difficulty we always envisage with local authorities. I hope therefore, that in the area of local authorities getting their own house in order in relation to pollution control any [1183] directives given and any remedial action taken will be funded by the Department.

I welcome the idea that standards should be uniform and consistent in relation to environmental monitoring and control. This is extremely important. It is difficult to explain a situation where certain controls obtain in one area and not in another. I am particularly pleased the Minister should involve herself in ensuring that there will be standard policies and controls throughout the country. I hope the requisite extra funding will be made available.

If I may be parochial for a moment, the Minister may remember some time ago that we had a deputation from Lough Derg in relation to problems there concerning pollution of the lake. Lough Derg is one of the three lakes of the Shannon. We regard it, I suppose selfishly, as the best of the three but we also regard it as one of the most outstanding lakes in Europe and the potential for development and tourist development in particular in that area is enormous. However, as the Minister is aware, the lake receives pollution from all other areas of the Shannon in terms of sewage and of other matter.

There is also a difficulty with silting in relation to Bord na Móna and with the presence of peat. There are areas in the Shannon from Portumna, coming down towards Lough Derg where the silt, if one was to test the areas there, would produce peat to the extent of three and four and in some areas ten feet deep. The silt has built up to that extent. We hope some remedial measure will be undertaken to ensure that that problem is alleviated.

There is a tremendous emphasis on Lough Derg at the moment on promotion of the area. A number of organisations have been set up in co-operation with Shannon Development who have responsibility for tourism in the area, and in co-operation with the county councils in areas adjacent to Lough Derg. All of those organisations, both voluntary and statutory, are doing tremendous work in promoting the whole area but all of that [1184] will be for nothing if the lake continues to be polluted. I appeal to the Minister — I know she gave us a very warm reception and was very sympathetic to the case and will be looking at that area with great interest — to try and find solutions to that problem. Lough Derg is only one such area of many throughout the country. I appeal to her to take a particular interest in trying to ensure that the difficulties there are resolved. I know that it takes a lot of money which cannot be picked off the trees but I feel that the people of the area have shown a willingness to co-operate in every way. Local authorities and all the interested parties and the farming community have combined on this issue.

If I could reiterate to the Minister the importance of the education sector in the area of environment. It is the key to proper understanding of our environment. I would humbly suggest to the Minister that when this legislation passes into law a type of school pack should be made available for schools. I do not know the cost of producing such an item. I know that environmental studies are undertaken in different schools but it is now opportune in terms of the Environmental Agency legislation to re-emphasise to the schools, both primary and post-primary, the need to protect our environment. As an example of what can be done, I draw your attention to a place called Terryglass on the banks of the Shannon which won the National Tidy Towns Award a couple of years ago. That stemmed from the local national school where the children decided to clean up the yard and the refuse. It extended to the rest of the village and, as a result, the entire community became involved in the whole environmental area. This led to that little village winning the National Tidy Towns Award. Education played a major part in that development. They are extremely proud of their area to such an extent that that pride is spreading throughout the area. Would the Minister consider issuing schools with a type of environmental pack as a follow-up to educating the young children on exactly what this legislation is about?

[1185] As another example of what can be done, I read recently that in the River Forth in Scotland the fish have returned to the estuary there after an absence of 25 years. The fish used to breed in that estuary at one time and they supported an industry comprising of 80 fishing boats. By 1965 all the fish had disappeared because of pollution. The return of the fish now is attributed to the purification board's legislation and the control of organic effluent from distilleries and municipal sewage works. They did this as a special project and the result is that the fish have returned and are breeding there again. I think that is a marvellous development. I know there are different areas throughout his country where that type of activity is taking place as well.

I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister on bringing it into this House. I know it will have a speedy passage and I congratulate the Minister on a major piece of legislation. It is not before its time and it can only have tremendously beneficial effects for the country.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  I would like to welcome the Bill as being a progressive and positive piece of legislation. I would compliment the Minister and all those responsible for drafting and bringing it before us. Obviously it is in the nature of things that is easy enough to find faults in a Bill of such length and to pick holes in it. I certainly intend doing that as I go along. It is fair to say that in the last few weeks most Members of this House have presented themselves as being environmental experts. I certainly would not put myself forward in that category. I do propose to make a few loose and disjointed comments on it.

Before the previous speaker leaves the Chamber, I would like to take some credit for my family for the movement of McDonalds from CFC-emitting materials to non CFCs because my children and all of us have hassled McDonalds for at least five years. Everytime they went in there they ensured that they got whatever they were looking for in non-CFC emitting substances. Indeed, we had at home for [1186] quite some time the first bag that came into McDonalds stating “This product does not contain CFCs.” I also believe I was the first Member of either House of the Oireachtas to raise the question of CFCs a number of years ago when it came to my attention at that time.

I also would like to outline what will be the basis of any development from this legislation and the effect it is going to have on competitiveness, on trade, on business and on industry. It should not be ignored. I want to see exactly how the “cowboys” are going to fit into this. I want to establish the difference between the free trade regulations and the free riders. I also want to look at our own position in that. By the “free riders” I mean those people who want all the benefits of a free environment themselves but who are quite prepared to export and output environmentally damaging products and sell them wherever they can. In many cases, perhaps, we could deal with that and respond in a very positive way.

To take the very simple example of the CFCs to which I have referred, the reality is that we are still allowing into this country ozone damaging — as I understand it — aerosols. I do not see why we should do that. I think we should take a decision not to do it anymore. It does have a certain affect on trade but that is one of the prices we have to be prepared to pay. The Minister's Department took an initiative some years ago against the increase in the number of canned drinks or cans for holding drinks. It was seen as somewhat cynical response in that we used fewer of them proportionately than other countries in Europe. I do think we can make a start on something like the CFC emitting aerosols at this particular point. I would also like the Minister, when she gets around to responding to this very long Second Stage, to offer a view on discriminating between protecting and protectionism. The realities really are that if we want to protect our environment this may well have to mean that we fall back on the taxation of environmentally damaging products or put a stop on the import of environmentally damaging products.

[1187]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Seán Doherty  Zoom on Seán Doherty  Senator O'Toole, I have notice under Standing Order 29 from Senator Brendan Ryan regarding a motion he wishes to move under that Standing Order. I will just point out, which is the common and usual practice, that you cannot elaborate on the motion or make a speech.

Debate adjourned.


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