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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 521-543
 Header Item Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme Data
 Header Item Biofuel Obligation Scheme Implementation
 Header Item Broadband Service Provision
 Header Item Renewable Energy Incentives
 Header Item Broadband Service Provision
 Header Item Broadband Service Provision
 Header Item Protected Disclosures Data
 Header Item Environmental Protection Agency Licences
 Header Item Insurance Costs
 Header Item Fishing Industry
 Header Item Biofuel Obligation Scheme Implementation
 Header Item Legislative Reviews
 Header Item Air and Water Pollution
 Header Item Broadband Service Provision
 Header Item EU Directives
 Header Item Taxi Regulations

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 944 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 521-543

  Question No. 521 answered with Question No. 514.

Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme Data

 522. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the number of applications from County Limerick that were submitted to the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, SBCI, agriculture cashflow support loan scheme; the number of successful and unsuccessful applications from County Limerick respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15475/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The “Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme” was developed by my Department in co-operation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), making €150 million available to farmers at interest rates of 2.95%. One of my priorities has been to address the impact of the change in the sterling exchange rate and lower commodity prices in some agriculture sectors. This Scheme is significant in this regard, providing farmers with a low cost, flexible source of working capital, which will allow them to pay down more expensive forms of short-term debt, ensuring the ongoing financial sustainability of viable farming enterprises.

SBCI uses the €25 million of public funding provided by my Department to leverage the total amount of €150 million and, along with the European Investment Fund’s ‘COSME’ (the EU programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs), is providing the guarantee required to underpin the loan’s flexibility and lower the cost of the loans.

My Department’s contribution of €25million includes €11 million from the EU’s ‘exceptional adjustment aid for milk and other livestock farmers’. It was this exceptional aid package which facilitated the Scheme from an EU State Aid perspective, and additional funding is not possible under this particular arrangement. Other sectors, such as tillage and horticulture, were facilitated by national funding under the ‘de minimis’ State Aid rules.

The Scheme is administered through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank and they will report on progress to the SBCI on a regular basis.  Although no official returns have been made to my Department as yet, information is due to be provided shortly and it will be made available as soon as possible. However, all of the banks have confirmed that they have applications up to the amounts available under the Scheme. There may be some residual availability but this will only emerge as applications are processed and loans drawn down.

I am pleased at the very positive reaction by farmers to the Scheme, which has proved that significant demand exists for low cost flexible finance. I hope that the commercial banks will respond positively to this demand by reducing interest rates and providing more flexible terms for cash flow loans in the future. I plan to meet with the Chief Executives of the banks shortly to discuss this and other issues relating access to finance in the agri-food sector.

Biofuel Obligation Scheme Implementation

 523. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the latest developments at EU level regarding revisions to existing regulations regarding production of all crop-based biofuels. [14916/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC set Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy demand from renewable sources by 2020, including 10% of transport with this target also being legally binding. In the transport sector, Ireland aims to meet its renewable target mainly through the increased use of biofuels, with electric vehicles also making a small contribution.  The Directive requires that biofuels must meet strict sustainability criteria to qualify for support and to be counted towards renewable energy targets.

In September 2015, the European Commission adopted Directive (EU) 2015/1513, also known as the Indirect Land-Use Change (ILUC) Directive, which amends certain provisions in the Renewable Energy Directive relating to biofuels.

One such amendment in the Directive limits to 7% the amount of energy that Member States can count towards their 2020 renewable energy targets in transport from crop based biofuels whose use could lead to Indirect Land-Use Change.  The Directive also contains incentives to encourage the development of advanced biofuels that do not affect food production. The ILUC Directive will be transposed into Irish legislation by September 2017.

In November 2016, the European Commission published a proposal for a new Renewables Directive that envisages an overall European Union renewable energy target of at least 27% in 2030.  It is proposed in the draft Directive that the cap of 7% relating to crop based biofuels will be progressively reduced in the period after 2020 to 3.8% in 2030. The draft Directive also proposes continuing incentives for advanced biofuels and the electrification of transport.

Broadband Service Provision

 524. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten his views on a matter (details supplied) regarding broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14794/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to deliver high speed broadband services to every city, town, village and individual premises in Ireland. The Programme for Government commits to the delivery of the NBP as a matter of priority. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment by the telecommunications sector and a State Intervention in those areas where commercial investment has not been fully demonstrated.

  A key principle of the NBP is to support and stimulate commercial investment through policy and regulatory measures. Commercial investment since the publication of the NBP has considerably exceeded expectations. To date, the commercial telecommunications sector has invested over €2.5bn in upgrading and modernising networks which support the provision of high speed broadband and mobile telecoms services.

  Currently, approximately 1.4m premises in Ireland can get high speed broadband from commercial service providers and investment by the telecoms sector is continuing to expand this footprint.

  The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie, shows the extent of the State Intervention area:

  - The areas marked BLUE on the High Speed Broadband Map represent those areas where commercial telecommunications providers are either currently delivering or have previously indicated plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

  - The areas marked AMBER on the High Speed Broadband Map represent the target areas for the State Intervention, which are the subject of the current procurement process.

  Individuals can check whether their premises are in a BLUE or an AMBER area by accessing the High Speed Broadband Map and entering their Eircode.

  The Cloghane and Brandon areas of County Kerry fall within an AMBER area and will therefore be included in the State Intervention procurement process under the NBP.

  A formal procurement process is in train to select a company or companies who will roll-out a new high speed broadband network within the State Intervention Area. My Department will shortly update the High Speed Broadband map to finalise the Intervention Area for the Procurement process, taking into account industry investments that have not materialised in Blue areas, together with new industry investments within the proposed State Intervention Area, along with concrete and credible commitments by industry for further new investments within the Intervention Area.

  The procurement process is being intensively managed, to ensure an outcome that delivers a future-proofed network that serves homes and businesses across Ireland, for at least 25 years. Intensive dialogue with bidders is continuing and the three bidders have indicated that they are proposing a predominantly fibre-to-the-home solution. This provides for a future proofed solution for the 25 years of the contract and beyond.  A fibre-to-the-home solution means that householders and businesses may get speeds not just of 30 Megabits per second but much higher, potentially up to 1000 Megabits per second.

  The timeframe for the procurement continues to be dependent on a range of factors including the complexities that may be encountered by the procurement team and bidders during the procurement process. During the Department's extensive stakeholder consultations in 2015, telecommunications service providers indicated a 3-5 year timeline to rollout a network of the scale envisaged under the NBP.

  As part of the competitive process, the Department will engage with winning bidder(s) on the best rollout strategy, in order to target areas of particularly poor service, business needs and/or high demand. This will need to be balanced with the most efficient network rollout plan. A prioritisation programme will be put in place in this regard, in consultation with the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. A detailed rollout plan for the network will be published once contract(s) are in place.

  The Programme for Government also commits to measures to assist in the rollout of the network once a contract is awarded.

  In this regard, I established a Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce in July 2016 together with Minister Humphreys.  The findings of this Taskforce recommends practical actions that can be taken to remove barriers to and improve mobile phone and broadband access in Ireland. The Taskforce report is available at the following link: http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/en-ie/Pages/Publication/Report-of-the-Mobile-Phone-and-Broadband-Taskforce.aspx.

  Minister Humphreys has established two regional action groups, working with Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Offices and other relevant agencies to unlock barriers to investment in mobile and broadband services.  Since July last, there has been significant progress made in discussions with the key stakeholders including local authority management representatives, Government Departments and State agencies, as well as interaction with ComReg and telecoms operators.

  I have signed Regulations allowing ComReg to proceed with the allocation of spectrum in the 3.6GHz band. This will provide an 86% increase in total spectrum available for mobile and fixed wireless services. I have also secured €8m for RTE which will allow it to free up the 700MHz spectrum band, to provide enhanced mobile services.

  These investments should assist in significantly improving the coverage and quality of broadband and mobile voice and data services throughout the country.

Renewable Energy Incentives

 525. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the status of the proposed renewable heat incentive scheme following the completion of the public consultation; when he expects the scheme to be finalised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14797/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The introduction of a Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a commitment in the Energy White Paper Ireland's Transition to Low Carbon Energy Future and in the Programme for Government, as the primary support mechanism in the heating sector designed to meet Ireland’s renewable energy obligations.

I announced the final public consultation on the design and implementation of the new RHI in January 2017, and I welcome the large volume of submissions received by my Department by the closing date of 3 March and the level of interest in this scheme. All submissions are currently being reviewed and will be used to inform the final design of the scheme.

  Before any RHI scheme is introduced, the overall costs and technologies to be supported will be subject to Government approval and State aid clearance from the European Commission.  It is expected that a new scheme will become available at the end of 2017.

Broadband Service Provision

 526. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if he is engaging with the private sector adequately to ensure accessibility to broadband coverage in south counties Cavan and Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14931/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to deliver high speed broadband services to every city, town, village and individual premises in Ireland. The Programme for Government commits to the delivery of the NBP as a matter of priority.  This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment by the telecommunications sector and a State Intervention in those areas where commercial investment has not been fully demonstrated.

A key principle of the NBP is to support and stimulate commercial investment through policy and regulatory measures. Commercial investment since the publication of the NBP has considerably exceeded expectations. To date, the commercial telecommunications sector has invested over €2.5bn in upgrading and modernising networks which support the provision of high speed broadband and mobile telecoms services.

There has been significant progress in relation to broadband rollout so that today, approximately 1.4m or 61% of premises in Ireland can get high speed broadband of a minimum of 30 Megabits per second. The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector, which is continuing to expand this footprint.

The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie, shows the current extent of the State Intervention area:

- The areas marked BLUE represent those areas where commercial telecommunications providers are either currently delivering or have previously indicated plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

- The areas marked AMBER on the High Speed Broadband Map represent the target areas for the State Intervention, which are the subject of the current procurement process.

Individuals can check whether their premises is in a BLUE or an AMBER area by accessing the High Speed Broadband Map and entering their Eircode.

There are c. 42,000 premises in County Cavan, of which approximately 24,000 are located in the Amber area on the Map, and will benefit from the NBP’s State Intervention.  The remaining 18,000 premises are located in the commercial BLUE area and will be served by commercial operators.

In the case of County Monaghan there are c.33,000 premises, of which approximately 19,000 premises will benefit from the NBP’s State Intervention.  The remaining 14,000 premises are located in the commercial BLUE area and will be served by commercial operators.

My Department will shortly update the High Speed Broadband map to finalise the Intervention Area for the Procurement process, taking into account industry investments that have not materialised in BLUE areas, together with new industry investments within the proposed State Intervention Area, along with concrete and credible commitments by industry for further new investments within the current Intervention Area.

A formal procurement process is in train to select a company or companies who will roll-out a new high speed broadband network within the State Intervention (AMBER) Area. The procurement process is being intensively managed, to ensure an outcome that delivers a future-proofed network that serves homes and businesses across Ireland, for at least 25 years.

Broadband Service Provision

 527. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if the roll-out of high-speed broadband under the rural broadband scheme will include a village (details supplied) in County Kildare; the timeframe for the upgrading of broadband lines in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15012/17]

 528. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin Information on Fiona O'Loughlin Zoom on Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if the roll-out of high-speed broadband under the rural broadband scheme will include a village (details supplied) in County Kildare; the timeframe for the upgrading of broadband lines in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15013/17]

 529. Deputy Thomas Byrne Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten when broadband services will be upgraded in Folistown, Dunboyne, County Meath. [15059/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I propose to take Questions Nos. 527 to 529, inclusive, together.

  The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to deliver high speed broadband services to every city, town, village and individual premises in Ireland. The Programme for Government commits to the delivery of the NBP as a matter of priority.  This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment by the telecommunications sector and a State Intervention in those areas where commercial investment has not been fully demonstrated.

  A key principle of the NBP is to support and stimulate commercial investment through policy and regulatory measures. Commercial investment since the publication of the NBP has considerably exceeded expectations. To date, the commercial telecommunications sector has invested over €2.5bn in upgrading and modernising networks which support the provision of high speed broadband and mobile telecoms services.

  Currently, approximately 1.4m premises in Ireland can get high speed broadband from commercial service providers and investment by the telecoms sector is continuing to expand this footprint.

  The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie, shows the extent of the State Intervention area:

  - The areas marked BLUE on the High Speed Broadband Map represent those areas where commercial telecommunications providers are either currently delivering or have previously indicated plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

  - The areas marked AMBER on the High Speed Broadband Map represent the target areas for the State Intervention, which are the subject of the current procurement process.

  Individuals can check whether their premises are in a BLUE or an AMBER area by accessing the High Speed Broadband Map and entering their Eircode.

  The townlands of Blackrath and Ballyteague in County Kildare, along with the townland of Folistown in County Meath, fall within the AMBER area and will, therefore, be included In the State Intervention procurement process under the NBP.

  A formal procurement process is in train to select a company or companies who will roll-out a new high speed broadband network within the State Intervention Area. My Department will shortly update the High Speed Broadband map to finalise the Intervention Area for the Procurement process, taking into account industry investments that have not materialised in Blue areas, together with new industry investments within the proposed State Intervention Area, along with concrete and credible commitments by industry for further new investments within the Intervention Area.

  The procurement process is being intensively managed, to ensure an outcome that delivers a future-proofed network that serves homes and businesses across Ireland, for at least 25 years. Intensive dialogue with bidders is continuing and the three bidders have indicated that they are proposing a predominantly fibre-to-the-home solution. This provides for a future proofed solution for the 25 years of the contract and beyond.  A fibre-to-the-home solution means that householders and businesses may get speeds not just of 30 Megabits per second but much higher, potentially up to 1000 Megabits per second.

  The timeframe for the procurement continues to be dependent on a range of factors including the complexities that may be encountered by the procurement team and bidders during the procurement process. During the Department's extensive stakeholder consultations in 2015, telecommunications service providers indicated a 3-5 year timeline to rollout a network of the scale envisaged under the NBP.

  As part of the competitive process, the Department will engage with winning bidder(s) on the best rollout strategy, in order to target areas of particularly poor service, business needs and/or high demand. This will need to be balanced with the most efficient network rollout plan. A prioritisation programme will be put in place in this regard, in consultation with the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. A detailed rollout plan for the network will be published once contract(s) are in place.

  The Programme for Government also commits to measures to assist in the rollout of the network once a contract is awarded.

  In this regard, I established a Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce in July 2016 together with Minister Humphreys.  The findings of this Taskforce recommends practical actions that can be taken to remove barriers to and improve mobile phone and broadband access in Ireland. The Taskforce report is available at the following link: http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/en-ie/Pages/Publication/Report-of-the-Mobile-Phone-and-Broadband-Taskforce.aspx.

  Minister Humphreys has established two regional action groups, working with Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Offices and other relevant agencies to unlock barriers to investment in mobile and broadband services.  Since July last, there has been significant progress made in discussions with the key stakeholders including local authority management representatives, Government Departments and State agencies, as well as interaction with ComReg and telecoms operators.

  I have signed Regulations allowing ComReg to proceed with the allocation of spectrum in the 3.6GHz band. This will provide an 86% increase in total spectrum available for mobile and fixed wireless services. I have also secured €8m for RTE which will allow it to free up the 700MHz spectrum band, to provide enhanced mobile services.

  These investments should assist in significantly improving the coverage and quality of broadband and mobile voice and data services throughout the country.

Protected Disclosures Data

 530. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the process within his Department for dealing with protected disclosures under the 2014 Act; if the examinations of such disclosures are carried out by an independent authority or persons other than those within the organisation to which the disclosure refers; the number of disclosures received by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15071/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten In line with the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and with the support of Department of Public Expenditure and Reform guidelines, my Department's Protected Disclosure Policy sets out procedures for staff to report potential wrongdoing and to ensure that appropriate action is taken.

The Department has designated a number of Protected Disclosure Officers in the policy document.  The Department’s policy also notes, in accordance with the Act, that workers are entitled to make a disclosure to persons other than their employer in certain circumstances and when certain requirements are met. If having made a disclosure internally, the Department fails to act on the information disclosed, or the worker does not wish to avail of the internal disclosure channel, they may seek to make their disclosure externally through a number of channels set out in the policy.

The Protected Disclosures Policy was circulated to all staff in my Department and is available to staff on the Department's intranet. The policy is currently under review to take account of developments in this area since the 2014 Act came into force.

My Department has not to date received any notifications under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.

Environmental Protection Agency Licences

 531. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if an Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, licence is required for the development of an anaerobic digester; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15112/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The requirement to obtain a licence from the Environmental Protection Agency to operate an anaerobic digester is dependent on the nature and scale of the activity proposed. Under article 11 of the Waste Management (Facility Permit and Registration) Regulations, 2007, S.I. No. 821 of 2007, the power to make a determination on the need for a waste licence lies with the Agency. Where a person seeking to develop such a facility is unsure of the need for a waste licence, a waste facility permit or a certificate of registration, or indeed whether such an authorisation is required at all, an applicant shall make a request to the Agency to determine the question in advance of the submission of an application for a waste authorisation. Similarly, where a local authority has received an application for a waste facility permit or a certificate of registration and it has doubts as to the appropriate waste authorisation or indeed whether a waste authorisation is required, under article 11 of S.I. No. 821 of 2007, it must also make a written request to the Agency to determine the question.

Under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by the Agency or a Local Authority, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in it.

Insurance Costs

 532. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the cost of insurance under different insurance headings such as public liability, buildings cover, employer liability and so on for his Department and each body under its aegis; the name of the insurance provider for each year since 2010, in tabular form; the number of outstanding insurance claims against his Department or the body under its aegis; the estimated cost of those claims if available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15176/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten My Department is not required to hold insurances against the risk of any loss, under headings such as public liability, buildings cover, employer liability and so on, as it is covered by state indemnity, whereby the Exchequer carries its own insurance.

The information regarding the agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter for each agency. I will request the relevant bodies to reply directly to the Deputy with the information requested in respect of their organisation.

Fishing Industry

 533. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the detail of the five most destructive factors limiting the recovery of salmon stocks in the River Slaney; his plans to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15288/17]

 534. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the analysis which has been undertaken by the standing scientific committee on salmon on water abstraction from the River Slaney for domestic, agricultural and industrial use; the effect this is having on salmon stocks in the River Slaney; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15289/17]

 535. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if he will reopen the salmon hardship scheme for the remaining 35 salmon net licence holders on the River Slaney in view of the fact that draft net licences on the river have been suspended for ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15290/17]

 536. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if he will consider directing Inland Fisheries Ireland to carry out a full salmonid habitat survey of the River Slaney to develop a habitat map for the catchment. [15291/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I propose to take Questions Nos. 533 to 536, inclusive, together.

There are many factors affecting salmon stocks generally.

Marine survival is considered to have the biggest influence on return of salmon to all Rivers from far North Atlantic feeding grounds and survival has been at or below 5% in the North Atlantic for more than a decade.

There is also evidence that heavy sea-lice infestation from salmon farming has resulted in additional mortality in respect of migratory North Atlantic salmon generally.

In freshwater, water quality and a range of pressures such as afforestation, drainage, effluent discharge, siltation and agricultural enrichment can all have an impact on juvenile salmon production.

The function of the Standing Scientific Committee (SSC) is to review the status of stocks in each of Ireland’s 147 salmon rivers, river sections, estuaries etc. every year and to provide scientific advice to underpin management decisions.  In that regard the status of stock in the River Slaney is reviewed annually.

The current status of the river Slaney is based on the information provided by the SSC. The SSC estimate the number of salmon likely to return to each river in the next fishing season based on an average of the data over the most recent five years.  The use of a five year average ensures that a "good" or "bad" year in terms of salmon returns does not disproportionately impact assessments and that ephemeral incongruity is avoided in data sets and subsequent scientific advice.

In contemplation of the 2017 fishing year, three scientific assessments of the salmon stock status on the river Slaney were undertaken. These assessments were based on recent fish counter data, rod catch data, and catchment-wide electro-fishing data. All three assessments indicate that the Slaney is not meeting its individual conservation limits for both one sea winter or multi sea winter salmon stocks.

The scientific salmon assessment methodologies used in Ireland are considered best practice internationally, with many other countries moving towards the development of similar scientific assessment models for salmon stock conservation.

I am advised by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) that it deploys a significant protection and conservation resource into the river Slaney catchment including day and night surveillance operations, boat, kayak and foot patrols and monitoring of water quality.

The Salmon Hardship Scheme was introduced following a Government decision in 2006 to cease the commercial salmon mixed stock fishery for conservation reasons. Under this scheme, €25 million was targeted at commercial salmon fishermen, who were active in the fishery at the time, and funding was provided to fishermen for them to permanently cease fishing and diversify into new activity. In addition, €5 million was provided for community based initiatives in areas affected by the cessation of fishing.  It closed for applications on 31st December 2007 and was ceased, with all funds expended, in 2008. There are currently no plans to revisit such a scheme.

Biofuel Obligation Scheme Implementation

 537. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if additional incentives will be introduced to encourage the production of biofuels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15348/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive sets Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. Ireland is committed to achieving this target through meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heat and 10% of transport from renewable sources of energy, with the latter target also being legally binding.

In the transport sector, Ireland aims to meet its renewable target mainly through the increased use of sustainable biofuels, with electric vehicles also making a small contribution.

The Biofuels Obligation Scheme was introduced in July 2010 as the primary means through which Ireland would meet the transport target and is the principal support for the uptake of biofuels in Ireland.  The scheme works by obligating road transport fuel suppliers to bring increasing amounts of biofuel to the transport fuel market. An increase to the obligation rate in the scheme took effect from 1 January 2017 when the rate increased from 6% to 8% by volume. I intend to publish a consultation later this year to examine the potential for further phased increases to the Biofuels Obligation Scheme.  These increases to the biofuels obligation rate on a phased basis will create increasing demand for biofuels and opportunities for their production.

In accordance with the commitment in the Programme for Government, my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport have established and are co-chairing a Low Emissions Vehicles (LEV) Task Force involving relevant Government Departments and agencies. The work of the task force has been divided into two phases. The first phase is focusing solely on Electric Vehicles with the second phase focusing on all other alternative fuels.

The Task Force will report on an interim basis to Government on the first phase by June 2017.

Legislative Reviews

 538. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten his plans to remove or review section 15 of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 related to immunity that the review group set up by his predecessor (details supplied) found in 2011, six years ago, might be unconstitutional; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15354/17]

 539. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten when it is proposed that this investigation will commence further to the findings of the review group set up by his predecessor (details supplied) in 2011, six years ago, of alleged maladministration at the Environmental Protection Agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15355/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I propose to take Questions Nos. 538 and 539 together.

The EPA was established under the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1992 as a non-commercial and independent state-sponsored body. While I am precluded, under the 1992 Act, from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by the EPA of its functions in specific cases, I am happy to respond in relation to the general issues raised by the Deputy.

Firstly, although the EPA, like many State Bodies, has immunity from liability for civil damages, it is important to clarify that it is not immune from prosecution, as it is answerable and accountable before the Irish Courts. More generally, it is also accountable to the Oireachtas.

Furthermore, the independent review of the Agency did not conclude that there was "maladministration" at the EPA. The reference to maladministration referred to in the Deputy's question relates to a discussion in the independent review as to how any such alleged maladministration might be managed were it to occur. The document does not refer to any actual allegation of maladministration against the EPA and thus there is no basis for an investigation as suggested in the question.

The independent review of the EPA ultimately concluded that the EPA has the independence to arrive at informed and objective decisions, and to undertake objective assessment and reporting on the state of the environment. This independence is one of its key strengths and is well provided for in existing legislation, including in relation to the enforcement of licences and consents in individual cases.

I am confident that the EPA will continue to meet its statutory mandate to safeguard and improve Ireland’s environment by working with all its stakeholders, and that its procedures in regard to issuing licenses, and maintaining compliance with the licenses, are robust, so that the public in general can have confidence that the environment and human health are being properly safeguarded.

Air and Water Pollution

 540. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten his plans to seek legal advice from the Attorney General following the findings by the European Environmental Agency in 2012 that emissions from certain industries, holding IPPC licences granted by the EPA, were causing damage to the environment and to human health in view of the provisions of section 4 of the Criminal Damage Act 1991; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15356/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten Industrial facilities, including all power plants in Ireland, are subject to the licensing, monitoring and enforcement requirements of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED).

Monitoring and inspections, both routine and non-routine in nature, of these facilities are undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure the terms of IED licenses are respected, including in relation to emissions. The emission limits are set to ensure an appropriate balance which allows the operation of a facility to apply good practice, and to ensure the protection of human health and the environment.

Since the European Environment Agency Report was published in 2012, monitoring undertaken by the EPA, which is available on the EPA's website www.epa.ie, has shown that emissions from all such facilities are substantively in compliance with the emission levels prescribed in their IED license.

Where there are alleged breaches to the license conditions, the EPA has the necessary powers to prosecute the owners of the facility. The EPA , although under the remit of my Department, operates independently of my Department in activities such as licencing and enforcement, including prosecutions. It obtains its own legal advice as necessary as to whether a prosecution is warranted or otherwise. Under the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 (as amended), I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by the EPA of its licensing or enforcement functions in individual cases.

I am confident that the EPA has the requisite legislative framework to enable it to continue to meet its mandate to safeguard and improve Ireland’s environment and human health, although these matters are of course kept under on-going review in the light of any relevant developments.

Broadband Service Provision

 541. Deputy Pat Deering Information on Patrick Deering Zoom on Patrick Deering asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the details of the broadband roll-out for County Carlow (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15371/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to deliver high speed broadband services to every city, town, village and individual premises in Ireland. The Programme for Government commits to the delivery of the NBP as a matter of priority.  This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment by the telecommunications sector and a State Intervention in those areas where commercial investment has not been fully demonstrated.

  A key principle of the NBP is to support and stimulate commercial investment through policy and regulatory measures. Commercial investment since the publication of the NBP has considerably exceeded expectations. To date, the commercial telecommunications sector has invested over €2.5bn in upgrading and modernising networks which support the provision of high speed broadband and mobile telecoms services.

  There has been significant progress in relation to broadband rollout so that today, approximately 1.4m or 61% of premises in Ireland can get high speed broadband of a minimum of 30 Megabits per second. The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector, which is continuing to expand this footprint.

  The High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie, shows the current extent of the State Intervention area:

  - The areas marked BLUE represent those areas where commercial telecommunications providers are either currently delivering or have previously indicated plans to deliver high speed broadband services;

  - The areas marked AMBER on the High Speed Broadband Map represent the target areas for the State Intervention, which are the subject of the current procurement process. It is intended that premises within this area will have access to services of at least 30 megabits per second when the procurement process is completed and the network rolled out.

  There are c.27,500 premises in County Carlow, of which approximately 10,500 are located in the Amber area on the Map, and will benefit from the NBP’s State Intervention.  The remaining 17,000 premises are located in the commercial blue area and will be served by commercial operators.

  All the townlands which the Deputy refers to fall within Amber areas on the map, with the exception of Kernanstown, which is predominantly Blue and so to be covered by commercial operators.  Individuals can check whether their premises is in a BLUE or an AMBER area by accessing the High Speed Broadband Map and entering their Eircode.

  A formal procurement process is in train to select a company or companies who will roll-out a new high speed broadband network within the State Intervention Area. My Department will shortly update the High Speed Broadband map to finalise the Intervention Area for the Procurement process, taking into account industry investments that have not materialised in Blue areas, together with new industry investments within the proposed State Intervention Area, along with concrete and credible commitments by industry for further new investments within the Intervention Area.

  The procurement process is being intensively managed, to ensure an outcome that delivers a future-proofed network that serves homes and businesses across Ireland, for at least 25 years. Intensive dialogue with bidders is continuing and the three bidders have indicated that they are proposing a predominantly fibre-to-the-home solution. This provides for a future proofed solution for the 25 years of the contract and beyond.  A fibre-to-the-home solution means that householders and businesses may get speeds not just of 30 Megabits per second but much higher, potentially up to 1000 Megabits per second.

  The timeframe for the procurement continues to be dependent on a range of factors including the complexities that may be encountered by the procurement team and bidders during the procurement process. During the Department's extensive stakeholder consultations in 2015, telecommunications service providers indicated a 3-5 year timeline to rollout a network of the scale envisaged under the NBP.

  As part of the competitive process, the Department will engage with winning bidder(s) on the best rollout strategy, in order to target areas of particularly poor service, business needs and/or high demand. This will need to be balanced with the most efficient network rollout plan. A prioritisation programme will be put in place in this regard, in consultation with the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. A detailed rollout plan for the network will be published once contract(s) are in place.

  The Programme for Government also commits to measures to assist in the rollout of the network once a contract is awarded.

  In this regard, I and Minister Humphreys established a Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce in July 2016.  The findings of this Taskforce recommends practical actions that can be taken to remove barriers to and improve mobile phone and broadband access in Ireland. The Taskforce report is available at the following link: http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/en-ie/Pages/Publication/Report-of-the-Mobile-Phone-and-Broadband-Taskforce.aspx.

  Minister Humphreys has established two regional action groups, working with Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Offices and other relevant agencies to unlock barriers to investment in mobile and broadband services.  Since July, there has been significant progress made in discussions with the key stakeholders including local authority management representation, Government Departments and State agencies, as well as interaction with ComReg and telecoms operators.

  I have signed Regulations allowing ComReg to proceed with the allocation of spectrum in the 3.6GHz band. This will provide an 86% increase in total spectrum available for mobile and fixed wireless services. I have also secured €8m for RTE which will allow it to free up the 700MHz spectrum band, to provide enhanced mobile services.

  These investments should assist in significantly improving the coverage and quality of broadband and mobile voice and data services throughout the country including County Carlow.

EU Directives

 542. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross if there are current EU directives that have to be enacted here that deal with an issue (details suppled). [14934/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross Under the Road Traffic Act, 1961 as amended, compulsory motor insurance applies to vehicles used in a public place. A "public place" means any public road and any street, road or other place to which the public have access with vehicles whether as of right or by permission and whether subject to or free of charge.

  Golf caddy vehicles and ride on lawn mowers are mechanically propelled vehicles under the Road Traffic Act 1961 and if they are used in a public place they must have insurance as set out in the Road Traffic Act, 1961.

  The 6th EU Directive on Motor Insurance has been fully transposed into Irish law.  There has, however, been a decision in a European CJEU case (Case C-162/13) which could extend the range of motor insurance to include vehicles used even in non-public places. This decision has been under examination by the European Commission with a view to an amendment to the motor insurance directive to deal with any potential unintended consequences of the Court decision.  See http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/roadmaps/docs/2016_fisma_030_motor_insurance_en.pdf.

Taxi Regulations

 543. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross his views on the requirement for safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and first aid boxes, in taxis, in view of the fact some taxi drivers are not qualified to use the equipment; if there are any recorded incidents of fire extinguishers being discharged by accident or vandalism in taxis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14839/17]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross The regulation of the small public service vehicle industry, including issues pertaining to vehicle requirements, is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.

  I have therefore referred your question to the NTA for direct reply to you. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within 10 working days.

  The referred reply under Standing Order 42A was forwarded to the Deputy.


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