A Laois Offaly TD has claimed legal action to prevent the removal of stockpiled peat may inadvertently pollute watercourses and prevent bog rewetting.
According to Deputy Brian Stanley, the peat is covered in plastic sheeting which will disintegrate and enter watercourses along with loose peat if stockpiles aren’t removed. He claimed the group seeking to block the use of stockpiled peat could cause environmental damage.
He raised the issue during a debate on Just Transition in the Dail, where he noted the need for climate action and said global warming is accelerating.
“Peat harvesting in the midlands was to be phased out over a ten-year period. It was phased out in ten months. The people of the midlands, who were most impacted by that, in particular those in Laois/Offaly, sucked that up. Those people have borne the brunt of that and have got on with it,” he told the Dail.
“However, Bord na Móna is currently facing legal threats from a group which is trying to block the removal of harvested peat. This is peat that was harvested four or five years ago on bogs such as Cul na Cart, Cúil na Móna and Cashel bogs. That peat is stockpiled and can only be used legally for horticulture in Ireland. That is the agreement of the contract for moving the peat,” explained Deputy Stanley.
He said: “This peat is covered in polythene. The polythene will disintegrate over the next couple of years if it is not removed. The polythene will enter watercourses and the peat piles will become destabilised and enter the watercourses because there is dry peat underneath. This will cause pollution in the vicinity of the bogs.
Bord na Móna wants to rewet these bogs. As we all know, we need them as carbon sinks. However, Bord na Móna cannot rewet them while the peat stockpiles are on them, so they need to be removed. Bord na Móna is trying to find an environmental solution and cannot do it if this threat is followed through. What are the Government and the Minister of State doing about this? We need to get on top of it.’’
Deputy Stanley also pointed out that Laois/Offaly has been hard hit by the transition from peat as it has the highest proportion of homes dependent on solid fuel and peat.
“They do not have an option. Many homes do not have oil. They have no retrofitting because it is not coming quickly enough. An answer to a recent parliamentary question indicated that only ten deep retrofits were completed last year. The Government said that 5,000 will be done in 2022 but there are almost a million homes to be done. We need to ramp that up drastically,” he said.
Deputy Stanley noted €650 million was collected in carbon tax last year and more than €400 million in the previous years. “Money needs to be ploughed into ramping up the retrofitting of homes, in particular homes that are not even double-glazed. There are low-income households whose homes - I have been in them - do not have insulation and double glazing and the heat is flying out of them. Those people are being most impacted by fuel poverty. We need to help those people and we need to get on top of it now.’’
“We need a just transition. What we have had so far is an unjust transition. In particular I want the Minister to pay attention to that Bord na Móna issue of peat stockpiles. We need to rewet those bogs. This group is stopping an environmental solution and is going to cause environmental damage. Someone needs to talk sense to this group.’’
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