Fuel poverty fears over ban on coal in Northern Ireland
Thousands of families in Northern Ireland, particularly in rural areas, will be plunged deeper into poverty by a legal ban on burning coal.
That is the claim from the DUP which is to seek Assembly backing this week to urge Environment Minister Mark H Durkan to 'think again' on whether the current ban on cheaper 'smokey' coal is extended.
Former Environment Minister Sammy Wilson told the Belfast Telegraph that tens of thousands of households relying on cheaper coal would be hit by increasing levels of fuel poverty - that is, if more than 10% of household income is spent on heating.
Mr Wilson said: "The proposal by the Environment Minister will have a disproportionate impact on rural areas, and particularly on lower income households in those areas.
"It will therefore likely lead to an increase in fuel poverty whilst not necessarily making any impact on air quality."
Mr Durkan's department said there would be a full public consultation before any plans were implemented.