Dublin's proposed Poolbeg incinerator has been cleared for construction by the European Commission following its finding that the project is not in breach of State aid rules.
However, doubts remain over whether Dublin City Council will go ahead with the development of the 600,000-tonne waste-to-energy plant.
Since planning permission was granted in 2007 construction of the incinerator has been beset by delays, including the failure to secure a foreshore licence from previous Environment minister John Gormley, and problems securing finance for the scheme. The plant faced further obstacles when a number of complaints were lodged with the EU Commission by Sandymount residents Joe McCarthy and Valerie Jennings in relation to contracts for the facility. Most of these complaints were closed by the commission last year, but two remained open. One, in relation to "public procurement" involved the payment by the council of more than €32 million to consultants to act as client representatives for the project.
The contract with consulting engineers RPS was terminated by the council last January and a spokeswoman for the council said it received confirmation last month that there was to be no further investigation of the public procurement complaint.
The commission has now resolved the remaining complaint, in its finding that the project is in line with EU State aid rules.
“The commission’s investigation demonstrated that the project will be carried out on terms that a private investor operating in a market economy would have accepted,” a statement from the commission said.
“Indeed, the Dublin local authorities see in the project a business opportunity with a fair return on investment. The project therefore involves no State aid,” the commission said.
The city council welcomed the commission’s decision but said there were “further steps to be undertaken before the project can proceed”.
'Revised project agreement'
A "revised project agreement" must be finalised with the plant's developers Covanta, the council said and this must then be submitted to the National Development Finance Agency and the facility's project board, which includes a representative of the Department of the Environment, for approval.
City manager Owen Keegan has also committed to seeking the views of councillors before deciding whether to go ahead with the development.
“Subject to the necessary NDFA and Project Board approvals a final decision will be made to proceed or not with the project by the Dublin city and county managers.”
In the region of €100 million has so far been spent by the Dublin local authorities on the incinerator, one-third of which has been paid to consultants, and more than €50 million of which went to buy land for the facility.
Mr Keegan last January told an Oireachtas committee that money would be lost if the project did not go ahead, but said: “If the project does proceed there is a very good chance we will recoup this investment.”
Mr McCarthy and Ms Jennings said they have not received responses to some of their submissions to the commission, and had not been notified that a decision had been made in relation to the procurement complaint last month.