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 Header Item Bord na Móna (Continued)
 Header Item Message from Select Committee

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 985 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton] It has conducted the necessary consultations and will, I understand, bring this to their board in due course for a decision in as timely a manner as possible. It has undoubtedly come as a major blow to have this occur when we are seeing a difficult transition from brown to green, as Bord na Móna describes it. It is acknowledged that the company is undertaking significant efforts to diversify and find new opportunities. As recently as last week, I was pleased to open one of those operations. Regarding the PSO, I have been advised that it has time to run and will continue to the end of 2019.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The stories from the ESB, Bord na Móna and the EPA do not add up. My understanding is that the contracted tonnage has already been achieved. I ask the Minister to get answers to the questions I have raised and I would like a copy of those replies as well. Some 400 families are directly dependent on Lough Ree power station. Hundreds more are indirectly reliant on those jobs. We need an immediate transition fund of €125 million to be established. That is 5% of the climate action, rural regeneration and urban regeneration funds ring-fenced to provide alternative jobs for employees of Bord na Móna, the ESB and the communities dependent on those jobs. That must be approved by the Cabinet before the end of this month. We can then leverage that fund to get EU and European Investment Bank, EIB, funding to make a real difference to the local economy right throughout the midland counties.

Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice: Information on Michael Fitzmaurice Zoom on Michael Fitzmaurice The Minister should acknowledge that there are more than 150 jobs affected. Do people who are subcontractors not matter? It is always the case that no one thinks about the people in the lorries, the people who supply the lorries, the mechanics and the people in the shops who will be affected by this in the surrounding areas. Bord na Móna was left in an awkward position. I agree with Deputy Naughten on a transitional fund. We need to get to the root of this situation, however. Why, when planning was pending, could the power station not continue working? This has been going on since 2013. Is there a hidden agenda to wipe out the peat stations in Lanesborough and Shannonbridge and then take out Moneypoint as well? I want a straight answer to that.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy The Minister can be in no doubt now after hearing the words of Deputies Naughten, Fitzmaurice, Troy and myself. This really is not good enough. The Minister spoke in his reply about the station being closed for up to three months. This issue must be acted on now. I call on the Minister, and his colleague, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Humphreys, to intervene in this situation. We cannot keep treating human beings in this manner. If this is the way that we are going to try and achieve our green agenda, it is not on. As I said earlier, that must be done by co-operation and people working together and not by sacrificing people's livelihoods. Many people in our region are going to be struggling because of this situation. Will the Minister become involved directly? Will the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, become involved directly as well? I challenge the Minister in regard to the situation of seasonal workers such as students, part-time farmers and part-time employees in other jobs. Will he ask the ESB, the EPA and Bord na Móna to try and place some of those seasonal workers in other jobs? Let us try to do that for them at least. It can be done if the will is there to do it.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy As has been said, contradicting stories have come from the three different agencies. That is why they need to be brought into one room so that they cannot contradict the stories. The Minister is the person to do that. Since this issue was made known in 2013, why has it taken five years for the ESB to make an application? Where does that application stand now? When will we have a decision on that application? My understanding, and the Minster mentioned this in his reply, is that it will be as soon as possible. There are no statutory limits that the EPA must meet to make a decision within a specified time, in the same way as there are on the county councils and An Bord Pleanála. We need to have something like that. There is a need for transition and we must diversify. No one is arguing with that. It cannot be done overnight, however. What is the long-term plan for this plant? Is there a sinister attempt here to close it down in order to meet our climate targets? That simply cannot happen and we cannot play with people's lives. That is what is happening now. What supports are going to be put in place here and now for the families affected by this closure?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I assure Deputy Troy that the EPA has independent powers and, in the context of a full licence review of this nature, it is required to conduct a full environmental impact assessment, EIA. That is required. It is also required to have public consultation. The EPA, therefore, is meeting the obligations of its governing legislation. It is not for me to interfere in how it conducts that business. I will convey to all of the parties involved the urgency concerning this issue to which Deputies have referred. It is, however, a responsibility of each body to meet its obligations. That includes the obligations to meet the conditions of an integrated pollution control licence. I am conscious that the ESB is being prosecuted for its failures in that respect. This issue arose last summer. That is the backdrop to this issue.

I will seek some more information for the Deputies regarding the tonnages involved. Turning to the just transition, I recognise that is going to be a challenge for some time. We have to ensure that we support workers who are facing change. That means supporting them in retraining and in making an exit if they decide to cease work in this area. We must also develop new opportunities. To be fair to Bord na Móna, it has been exemplary in seeking to develop opportunities in a decarbonising world. It has sought to open up new generation capacity in the renewables sector and it is also examining the waste management and resource recovery sectors. That sector is one where the company can develop opportunities. It is also looking at aquaculture and various horticultural projects.

It is clear that the regional enterprise strategies are also targeting supports to those very opportunities because there is a recognition of the need to develop those opportunities. There will also be support from the urban, rural, regional enterprise and climate action funds in response to proposals coming forward from regions adversely affected in respect of assisting with viable projects. That is the correct way to proceed. As the Deputies know, I have sought at EU level to have peat included in the same category as coal. The EU has set up technical support for regions seeking to transit out of coal and that are impacted by that transition. I am proceeding on all of those fronts to develop effective polices to support workers affected by the impact of the change that is coming. I assure the Deputies that there is no sinister agenda on my part. We have to make changes, as the Deputies have recognised. We are seeking to do that in an orderly way and to support people where they are particularly exposed to the impact of the changes that are coming.

Message from Select Committee

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan The Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach has completed its consideration of the Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill 2017 and has made amendments thereto.

  The Dáil adjourned at 6.40 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 17 September 2019.

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