Fine Gael Waterford TD and member of the Oireachtas Environment Committee, Paudie Coffey, has today (Thursday) criticised Fianna Fáil for undermining the independence of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). Deputy Coffey was responding to a Bill published by Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen which calls for exemptions from water charges for those subject to boil water notices.
“The Government is fully aware of the challenges faced by those who are subject to boil water notices. The Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan TD, has specifically directed the energy regulator, which is responsible for setting water charges, to give special consideration to people subject to boil water notices.
“I am concerned at Fianna Fáil’s flippant approach to the role played by the regulator. Deputy Cowen in a public interview called into question the integrity of the CER just to score cheap political points.
The CER has been in place since 1999, and has proven itself to be capable of regulating other national utilities companies.
“The regulator will play a crucial role in protecting customers interests and ensuring that consumers are best served by Irish Water. This underpins the fact that the bill published by Deputy Cowen is not necessary as a fair regulatory system is already in operation. Deputy Cowen’s Bill is unclear, short on detail, with no clear definitions or costings associated with it.
“I am calling for a customers’ charter to be established by Irish Water, which will be subject to full independent oversight by the CER, to further protect customers’ interests in respect of water quality and supply.
“The regulator is due to report on water charges in September, and a full public consultation period will also be held before charges commence in October. In the meantime, Irish Water is prioritising the elimination of boil water notices, which are currently in place for an estimated 23,000 people. For example, in relation to Roscommon, a new treatment plant for Boyle will be completed by December. Improvements in Killeglin and Castlerea are also being fast tracked, to resolve the issue for more than 18,000 people.
“It is ironic that when resources were plentiful successive Fianna Fáil-led governments did not manage and invest in our water supply systems. This left us with a water system with 40% leakage and boil water notices in certain locations; this is the real legacy left by Fianna Fáil. Deputy Cowen conveniently forgets these facts when he speaks about our water system.
“Irish Water has been set up to deal with the legacy of under investment in our water infrastructure, which characterised Fianna Fáil’s time in power. We want to invest €10 billion in our water systems over the next 10 years. Only through proper investment and regulation can we put the days of boil water notices behind us.”