Copy of Poolbeg incinerator contract goes to councillors


A COPY of the contract between Dublin City Council and the developers of the Poolbeg incinerator, Covanta, has been released to city councillors for the first time. However all financial information has been removed from the document.

Councillors have been demanding sight of the contract since it was signed more than three years ago but were told it could not be released due to confidentiality.

City manager John Tierney last month told councillors he would seek permission from Covanta to make the contract available following media reports that it contained a break clause which would have allowed the council to back out of the deal last month. Mr Tierney has chosen to extend the contract until next May.

The heavily redacted contract does confirm the existence of the break clause, and the so-called “put or pay” clause which requires the council to provide 320,000 tonnes of waste annually to the facility or pay a penalty. However, all information in relation to financing and costs, including gate fees, revenues and the levels of compensation and penalties payable has been removed.

Leader of the Sinn Féin group on the council Larry O’Toole said the delay in getting the contact was unacceptable and the level of redaction had made matters worse. “What makes it even more infuriating is that this contract has been heavily censored . . . indeed whole sections removed to ensure the cover-up continues.”

Separately, Covanta is to ask Taoiseach Brian Cowen to prevent Minister for the Environment John Gormley from introducing punitive levies or caps on incineration, which the firm said would be in violation of European law.

Mr Gormley proposes to bring forward a Bill which would create a levy system for incinerators pegged at the same level as landfill. The levies are likely to be €50 a tonne next year and could rise to more than €100 by the time the Poolbeg facility has been built.

Waste-to-energy facilities such as the Poolbeg plant, which produce energy from incineration, are at a higher point on the EU waste hierarchy than landfill. Applying the same levies to both types of waste processes would be contrary to EU law, Covanta’s European president Scott Whitney said.

“We need assurances from the Government that the proposed waste levies legislation will respect the principles of the EU’s waste hierarchy, as is the case in other EU countries that have already developed infrastructure sufficient to meet the impending EU requirements,” he said.

The introduction of the levies at the rates proposed by Mr Gormley would make the operations of the facility financially unviable. Mr Gormley was engaged in “backyard politics” Mr Whitney said while Covanta’s position has been endorsed as recently as last week by the policy advisory body for enterprise and science Forfás.

In a report Forfás said caps on incineration should not be introduced, and the proposed levies would inhibit the development of waste-to-energy facilities as a waste management option for Irish enterprise. The proposed measures could damage Ireland’s reputation as a destination for investment, the report said.