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Bord na Móna

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Environment\Bord na Móna, issues relating to

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Deputy Barry Cowen

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Snippet Contents:

I raise this issue on foot of an ongoing review of the peat briquette production end of Bord na Móna's business. The review is clearly the result of a decline in sales of peat briquettes, although production continues by virtue of the need to stockpile. The review is centred on the operations in Littleton and Derrinlough.
Many Deputies are well aware of the history of Bord na Móna in the midlands region, particularly in my home county. The company is the lifeblood of the community and the bedrock of its economic life. It continues to contribute to education, culture and sport in the region. It is imperative that every effort is made to assist the company in its efforts to diversify and meet the demands of a changing energy and heating regime. These factors and cost of oil have affected the sale of briquettes.
Some time ago, I pointed out to the Minister that the previous Government had reintroduced and subsequently doubled the carbon tax on peat products. It did so against a backdrop of Bord na Móna's efforts to diversify into new products and methods which would enable it to thrive given that peat production and excavation is to be discontinued from 2030 onwards. Fianna Fáil sought to have a proportion of the proceeds of the carbon tax generated from Bord na Móna products held in an enterprise or innovation fund to assist with the development of alternative industry and employment in the sector.
Bord na Móna has diversified in the generations since the company commenced operations. Co-operation, negotiation and consultation were engaged in before agreement was reached between the company and the workforce. This shows the goodwill the workforce has shown in seeking to secure the company's future in the face of a number of challenges.
This morning, the Tánaiste stated the role of Government and Minister with responsibility for this area is one of oversight and that policy-making was not directly involved. Policy-making played a role in the past when a Fianna Fáil-led Government saw fit to develop new power plants in Edenderry, Shannonbridge and Lough Ree that would have co-fuel potential. There is an onus and responsibility on elected representatives and the Government to ensure Bord na Móna, a semi-State company, receives State assistance in its efforts to diversify. I contend that it was a direct intervention by a previous Government, in introducing a carbon tax on peat products, that led us to the position in which the briquette factories face a live threat. More important, the Government failed to ring-fence the income generated from peat in an innovation and enterprise fund, which would have assisted the workforce and region and ensured alternative industries could emerge from this process and prosper.
While I do not wish to belittle the obligations imposed on us by carbon policy in general, if one Government saw fit to have a derogation for peat products, another Government should recognise that fact. Instead, it decided to reintroduce and double the tax without establishing an innovation fund to ensure a seamless transfer to alternative opportunities and industry. We have reached a red light and redeployment will be required between the two peat briquette plants, where possible. This is despite the fact that the ash content in the Derrinlough plant is such that production at the site is much more cost efficient than anywhere else. I ask the Government to seriously consider, even at this late stage, establishing an innovation fund using carbon tax revenue from peat industry.