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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 259-274
 Header Item Disability Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Farm Assist Scheme Appeals
 Header Item Special Areas of Conservation Designation
 Header Item Commemorative Events
 Header Item Special Areas of Conservation Designation
 Header Item Departmental Staff Data
 Header Item Angling Season
 Header Item Broadcasting Service Provision
 Header Item Broadcasting Service Provision
 Header Item Electricity Transmission Network
 Header Item Telecommunications Services Provision
 Header Item Alternative Energy Projects
 Header Item Departmental Staff Data
 Header Item Renewable Energy Generation Issues
 Header Item Hydraulic Fracturing Policy

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 775 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 86 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 259-274

Disability Allowance Appeals

 259. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if a decision as been reached in the appeal against a decision to stop disability payments in respect of a person (details supplied) [40701/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer having fully considered all the available evidence disallowed the appeal of the person concerned by way of summary decision. The person concerned was notified of the Appeals Officer’s decision on 20th September 2012. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Farm Assist Scheme Appeals

 260. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding an appeal for farm assist in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Wicklow; and if she will outline any other entitlements they may have and if they qualify for jobbridge. [40702/12]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 3rd   August 2012 and will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing. The person concerned may qualify for Jobbridge and should contact Department of Social Protection at Department of Social Protection National Contact Centre, IPA Industrial Estate Carrick Road, Edenderry, Co. Offaly. The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

  Question No. 261 answered with Question No. 186.

Special Areas of Conservation Designation

 262. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if any moneys are available for the compensation of persons who have been or will be affected by the restrictions imposed by the Habitats Directive on Ireland’s 53 raised bogs Special Areas of Conservation. [40078/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan The Government has put in place a compensation scheme for those affected by the cessation of turf cutting on raised bog special areas of conservation. This cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme now comprises a payment of €1,500 per year, index linked, for 15 years or, where feasible, relocation of turf cutters to non-designated bogs where they can continue to cut turf. Those wishing to relocate can avail of the financial payment or the delivery of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum while relocation sites are identified and prepared. The costs of acquiring and preparing relocation sites will be met by the State. An additional once-off payment of €500 for qualifying turf cutters will be provided where legal agreements are signed with me, as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Commemorative Events

 263. Deputy Paschal Donohoe Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the way relatives of those who fought in the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising can receive invitations to the annual commemoration; the structures being put in place to ensure that they are involved in the centenary celebrations in 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40145/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan In the context of arrangements for commemoration of the Easter Rising and other significant events of that time, I have been very pleased to meet several people with family connections to the leaders and activists of the period. I warmly welcome their interest and association with the developing programme of commemorations. Although it is sometimes necessary to reserve places at commemorations for persons attending in a representative capacity, the general consideration is to afford public access to the greatest extent. I and my colleagues in government place a strong emphasis on the desirability to accommodate as many people as possible at each commemorative event and this will continue through the programme.

I can assure the Deputy that any requests that may be received from individuals in this regard will be given careful consideration.

Special Areas of Conservation Designation

 264. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the position regarding an application for bog compensation in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40199/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan The Government has put in place a compensation scheme for those affected by the cessation of turf cutting on raised bog special areas of conservation. This cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme now comprises a payment of €1,500 per year, index linked, for 15 years or, where feasible, relocation of turf cutters to non-designated bogs where they can continue to cut turf. Those wishing to relocate can avail of the financial payment or the delivery of 15 tonnes of cut turf per annum while relocation sites are identified and prepared. The costs of acquiring and preparing relocation sites will be met by the State. An additional once-off payment of €500 for qualifying turf cutters will be provided where legal agreements are signed with me, as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

There is also flexibility in terms of the provision of more than 15 tonnes of cut turf for those wishing to relocate where more than one household from the same family has sourced its turf from the bog plot. I am advised that this provision of the scheme applies as regards the individual referred to in the Deputy’s Question and my Department has recently approved the delivery of cut turf to the person in question. Arrangements will be made for the delivery as soon as possible.

Departmental Staff Data

 265. Deputy Regina Doherty Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if his Department still grants leave of absence; and if not, the reason this is not considered as a neutral cost saving exercise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40590/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan My Department operates a career break scheme through which staff can avail of unpaid leave for periods from six months to five years. The conditions relating to this scheme are set by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Angling Season

 266. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte with regard to the River Maine, which closes now for salmon fishing on 30 September, if he will consider granting an extension until 12 October as it is open for trout on those days; and if he will consider keeping it open for salmon because of the bad year. [40637/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I can inform the Deputy that, as each River has a genetically unique stock, Ireland’s salmon rivers are managed on an individual basis by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI). Available surpluses (if any) of salmon are calculated for each individual river annually.

The annual surplus of salmon available on the River Maine is divided between the commercial and recreational anglers. I am advised by IFI that any extension to the recreational angling season would need to be based on scientific analysis of available surplus, catch returns, counter information, run timing, exploitation rates etc. With the majority of these parameters the time series of available data is considered by IFI to be too short to draw any meaningful scientific conclusions and therefore, in line with the conservation Imperative based on the precautionary principle, no recommendation can be made for an extension to the salmon angling season at this time.

The independent Standing Scientific Committee (SSC) for salmon provide advice on the criteria that should be evaluated when considering a proposal for an extension to the angling season in any salmon catchment. These criteria include the advice that, where an extension is being considered, there should be a reasonably sized quota and a reasonable proportion of the surplus remaining after the original season has ended to ensure essential recruitment and to avoid over fishing. A further criterion is that an angling season in a river should only be extended if the salmon stock in that river has been meeting the Conservation Limit (CL) and is likely to continue to meet the CL if an extension is given i.e. provided no more than the harvestable surplus is taken. 2012 is only the third year where a full assessment of the salmon run on the river Maine is available. A higher salmon surplus and a longer time period of fish counter data would be required before the SSC criteria can be adequately assessed.

Broadcasting Service Provision

 267. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will request that RTE address issues raised by a person (details supplied) in County Kerry regarding digital switchover; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40149/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Digital switchover refers to the process of switching off the free to air analogue television network and replacing it with a digital free to air network.

As part of digital Switchover my Department is managing a national information and awareness campaign and also at a local level around the Country, a Digital Switchover Community Outreach Programme.

Under the Broadcasting Act 2009 RTÉ is responsible for the roll-out, coverage and operation of the new digital network called SAORVIEW. Part 8 of the same Act provides that the development of the RTÉ network is an operational matter for RTÉ. I have therefore sent the specific details of your question to both SAORVIEW and RTÉ Network Limited. I have asked that they follow up directly with the individual.

Broadcasting Service Provision

 268. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte in view of the fact that RTÉ NL recently confirmed that the new Saorview service will be transmitted from 13 sites that were not included on the original list of transmission sites for the digital switch-over; the reason the Ballydavid transmitter, County Kerry which is located at the RTE studio in Ballydavid will not transmit the Saorview signal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40513/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte RTÉ has built, owns and controls the Saorview TV network and is responsible for the roll-out, coverage and operation of that network. This includes information on transmitter sites being used. This is in accordance with Part 8 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, which provides that the development of the RTÉ network is an operational matter for RTÉ.

I have however contacted RTÉ Networks Limited on your behalf and once the relevant information is received I will arrange for it to be forwarded to the Deputy.

Electricity Transmission Network

 269. Deputy Jack Wall Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte in relation to his Department's and the Commission for Energy Regulation energy policy, if he will indicate when gate four offers will be accepted by the respective bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40525/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Supervision of the grid connection process, including access to offers, is the statutory responsibility of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). There is no Gate 4 at present and this area will not be developed until the uptake of Gate 3 offers is clearer.

The current round of offers for connection to the electricity networks is known as Gate 3. 3900 MW of offers was issued by the System Operators (EirGrid for connection to the transmission system and ESB Networks for connection to the distribution system) in 2010 and 2011 in line with policy and rules set out by the CER. These offers are currently being considered by the developers who have received an offer. Some developers have accepted their offer, however, the majority have not accepted (or indeed rejected) their offer yet. This is because developers do not have to accept or reject their offer until they receive their final constraint and curtailment report from EirGrid.

These reports cannot be developed until the Single Electricity Market Committee (SEMC) policy on tie-breaks in dispatch has been completed. This piece of all island work involves examining the appropriate rule-set to share the burden of constraints and curtailment. The SEMC has made a decision (SM-11-105) in relation to constraints but is still considering the appropriate course of action in relation to curtailment of wind. It is likely that this policy will be completed by end 2012 or early 2013. This will then allow EirGrid to prepare the constraint and curtailment reports, issue them to all Gate 3 developers and for developers to then accept or reject their offer.

Following this, there will be a good indication of the level of Gate 3 offers being accepted by developers. The policy on any future Gate beyond that will consider issues such as the level of capacity available on the networks, Ireland’s progress towards meeting its 2020 renewable targets when Gate 3 contribution is considered and the appropriate connection rules in order to ensure efficient connection to the networks. The CER will carry out full consultations on all aspects of Gate 4 policy at the appropriate time.

Telecommunications Services Provision

 270. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte further to Parliamentary Question No. 985 of 18 September 2012, when the formal national mapping exercise to determine the exact position in relation to commercial service providers existing and planned broadband service throughout the State will be completed. [40531/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The National Broadband Plan contains a very clear commitment that my Department will undertake a full mapping exercise in respect of high speed broadband deployment. This important exercise will formally define the levels of investment that will be met by industry and clearly identify those areas in which a State intervention will be required.

My Department has already begun some of the necessary preparatory work, and the full mapping will commence as soon as the current spectrum auction being managed by ComReg is completed and final decisions are taken by the ComReg in respect of Next Generation Access regulation. It is necessary that both these processes are finalised before the mapping exercise begins, as they will critically inform the investment plans for telecommunications service providers over the coming years.

I have already emphasised to industry the importance of my Department securing full cooperation from all the commercial operators in completing this aspect of the Plan’s implementation.

Alternative Energy Projects

 271. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if supports are in place to encourage the production of bio fuels (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40536/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Biofuel Obligation Scheme, which was introduced in 2010, currently obliges that the amount of biofuel brought to the market is not less than 4.166% of the relevant disposal of petroleum road transport fuels. Biofuels are defined as liquid or gaseous transport fuels produced from biomass. In 2011, the biofuel obligation resulted in 145 million litres of biofuel being placed on the market. The rate of obligation will increase over time and by 2020 it will require suppliers of road transport fuels to make certain that even higher volumes sold are biofuel. This will ultimately create a market size approaching 500 million litres of biofuel.

Departmental Staff Data

 272. Deputy Regina Doherty Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if his Department still grants leave of absence; and if not, the reason this is not considered as a neutral cost saving exercise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40592/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I can inform the Deputy that my Department still grants leave of absence in line with the relevant Circulars currently in force.

Renewable Energy Generation Issues

 273. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will provide an update on the analysis undertaken by his Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority; and if this analysis will be published. [40629/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has been working on microgeneration activities for a number of years. Some initiatives that SEAI has undertaken to support micro-generation include:

- Formation of a standards development group to develop FETAC standards for accredited microgeneration installer training awards

- Development of micro-generation product quality assessment criteria and the extension of the SEAI Triple E register to include micro-generators

- Publication of information and guides on the implementation of micro-generation projects.

The SEAI microgeneration pilot programme, launched in 2009, was designed to assess the potential market for small- and micro-scale renewable energy generation; to identify barriers to meeting the potential; and to determine the performance of the technologies in the field. The pilot encompassed a range of renewable technologies including wind, solar PV and hydro up to a nominal capacity of 50kw.

Ongoing monitored pilot field trials were a significant part of the programme and provide robust data on the performance of installations. The installations have been subject to an 18 month monitoring period since January 2011. SEAI have provided an interim report on the monitoring to my Department and a final report on the trials will be presented before end 2012. I will discuss with SEAI the options for publication of this report, when finalised.

The Department has asked SEAI to update some initial information on feed-in-tariff costs, given how significantly solar PV costs have fallen globally in the last 2 years. While the Programme for Government proposes a microgeneration feed in tariff not significantly above the single energy market price for electricity, indications from the combined ESB Networks/Electric Ireland microgeneration programme that ran 2009-2011 were that there was only a modest take up of microgeneration in the domestic sector, although the feed in tariff offered in total was almost three times the current single electricity market price. Should a scheme be introduced, if this to be funded from the PSO levy, increased electricity costs would have to be borne by all customers to fund it.

My Department and SEAI are continuing to finalise analysis on the cost effective options which could be considered for supporting the micro-generation sector, having regard to the costs and benefits for all energy consumers.

Hydraulic Fracturing Policy

 274. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will provide an update in the Environmental Protection Agency research taking place into the practice of hydraulic fracking; when this research will be completed; and if he will provide assurances that no authorisations for fracking will be granted without comprehensive research on its effects as well as a full public consultation process in the area concerned. [40630/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In October of last year, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct research and advise on the environmental implications of hydraulic fracturing as a means of extracting natural gas from underground reserves.

  In May 2012, the EPA published its preliminary research into the environmental aspects of shale gas extraction in the form of a small desk based study, which was carried out by the University of Aberdeen.

  The study provides an introduction to the environmental aspects of fracking including a review of regulatory approaches used in other countries and areas for further investigation and research such as Geological Principles of Relevance in Fracking and Shale Gas Extraction, Potential Environmental Impacts and Establishing Best Environmental Practice.

  The study is helpful in that it is a peer reviewed report that sets out basic background information in relation to the technology that is hydraulic fracturing and to the associated issues and concerns. While the study is a preliminary study it will inform the development of the terms of reference for a much more detailed piece of research to be commissioned by the EPA later this year.

  The terms of reference for this more extensive research is being drawn up by a steering group including representatives from the EPA and my Department and the objectives of this further research are, inter alia, to

- To establish if shale gas exploration and extraction involving the use of the fracking technique can be carried out in a manner that will not cause significant environmental pollution.

- To identify all possible environmental risks associated with the fracking technique and to ascertain if these risks are manageable; and,

- To identify best practice with respect to environmental protection for the use of the hydraulic fracturing technique for the exploration and extraction of shale gas.

  It is the intention of the EPA, assisted by a steering committee comprising, amongst others, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Commission for Energy Regulation, to launch the research call later in 2012.

  It is anticipated that following the engagement of the relevant experts, the conduct of the study could take in excess of 12 months, leading to a potential publication date in 2014.

  Until there has been time to consider the second stage of the EPA research, I can confirm the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling will not be authorised. However should an application to engage in hydraulic fracking be received in the future, I can also confirm that such an application will be subject to Environmental Impact Assessment, including full public consultation.


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