ESRI stands by disputed report


THE ECONOMIC and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has said it will not withdraw its report which is critical of Minister for the Environment John Gormley’s incineration policies.

The institute yesterday defended the report, described by Mr Gormley as deficient, misleading and not based on the facts, and said it was irrelevant whether or not it pleased Mr Gormley.

However, following a re-examination of the report, An Economic Approach to Waste Management Policy in Ireland, published in the past month, the ESRI has admitted it made an error by presuming emissions from the Poolbeg incinerator would be covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

The report’s lead author, Prof Paul Gorecki, said this was the “only one valid criticism” of the report and it did not change the substance of the report or its conclusions.

In making the error in relation to the ETS, the institute had set recommended levies for incineration at €4.22 to €5.07 per tonne of waste. When the correction was made, levies would then be in the region of €9.80 to €10.70 per tonne.

This was still far lower than a €26 levy proposed by the International Review of Waste Management Policy, commissioned by Mr Gormley from environmental consultants Eunomia. Consequently, the institute’s change did not alter its conclusions or its comments on the Eunomia review, Mr Gorecki said. “No matter which way you look at it, the conclusions we came to remain broadly the same.”

The ESRI report, commissioned by Dublin City Council, supported the case for the construction of the Poolbeg incinerator. Moreover, it found Mr Gormley’s policies aimed at diverting waste from incineration had “no underlying rationale” and were likely to impose “needless costs on the economy”.

It criticised the Eunomia review, as “severely flawed”. It noted the review must be “considered a failure” in terms of “setting residual waste levies, per capita targets for reduction in residual waste and guidance on the appropriate mix of waste technologies”.

Prof Gorecki said the ESRI had not had direct contact from Mr Gormley in relation to its report. He said it was inevitable that sometimes the institute’s conclusions would conflict with Government policy. “We call it as we see it. Sometimes [a] Minister may not like it; sometimes they do.”

He also defended charging the city council €103,000 plus VAT for the report. Mr Gormley had said they had allowed themselves to be “used” by the city council to undermine the international review.

“We estimated how many days it would take. It was paid for at the usual rate,” Prof Gorecki said.

Mr Gormley said he welcomed the fact that the ESRI had corrected the report’s “significant errors”. However, he added he was somewhat surprised the organisation had decided that they did not need to amend the report’s conclusions. The Minister said he would look at the report as he would “any report commissioned by a vested interest”.

Financial Liabilities Of Poolbeg Incinerator Contract: Gormley Asks Senior Counsel To Submit Report

MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley has appointed a senior barrister to examine the financial liabilities of the contract for Dublin City Council’s Poolbeg incinerator.

John Hennessy SC is to investigate the implications of the contract requiring the Dublin local authorities to supply volumes of waste to the facility, now under construction, or pay penalties to its operators Covanta/Dong.

The council, on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities, has entered into a contract which includes a “put or pay” clause requiring it to provide 320,000 tonnes of waste annually to the 600,000 tonne capacity incinerator. If the council cannot provide the waste, and the operators cannot source sufficient waste elsewhere, penalties have to be paid.

Mr Gormley announced his intention to appoint an officer to examine the contract late last year after he claimed that the taxpayer could face bills of €18 million a year for the next 20 years in penalties paid to Covanta/Dong.

He based his projections on the council having to pay €100 for each tonne not supplied to the facility and that it was likely to be short about 180,000 tonnes a year. He subsequently said he intended to introduce caps on incineration which would impose fixed limits on the amount of waste incinerated, which would put the council in a position where it would be unable to fulfil the contract.

Mr Gormley has asked Mr Hennessy, who is also an accountant, to submit his report within six weeks.

The report is also to explain the financial consequences for the council of altering or abandoning the Poolbeg project.