Gormley rejects Poolbeg claims


Minister for the Environment John Gormley has rejected as “scaremongering” and “absolute nonsense” claims that the State will face massive EU fines for landfill waste if the controversial Poolbeg incinerator does not go ahead.

The Minister also said he would this week receive the report of the “authorised officer” he appointed in March to examine the contract between Dublin City Council and a consortium to build the €350 million incinerator.

Senior counsel and accountant John Hennessy was appointed to carry out an independent examination of the Poolbeg contract, including an examination of its financial implications in Dublin.

His remit included assessment of the financial risks should Dublin City Council and the three other Dublin local authorities be unable to meet the volumes of waste committed to in the “put-or-pay” clause of the contract, which requires the council to provide 320,000 tonnes of residual waste every year. The report may also look at the issue of compensation should the Poolbeg project be repudiated or scaled down.

As the war of words continued in the wake of the Minister’s publication last week of a draft waste policy plan which would make large incinerators such as Poolbeg unviable, Mr Gormley insisted Ireland was compliant with EU directives.

North Dublin Fianna Fail TD Michael Kennedy this morning insisted he had no reservations about the plant and called on Mr Gormley to grant a foreshore licence so the project can proceed.

Mr Kennedy told RTE Radio there was an agreement in place with Covanta Energy to run the plant and that a company that enters a contract has a right to compensation if it does not proceed.

Mr Kennedy would not be drawn on claims Mr Gormley had a conflict of interests in the plant as it was located in his constituency.

Mr Gormley said there was a “co-ordinated campaign saying we’re going to be facing fines. That’s absolutely untrue. It’s scaremongering. I would never allow anything like that to happen as Minister. I’ve been probably the most vigilant Minister in trying to deal with EU directives. I’ve made sure that the waste hierarchy is the thing that we abide by.”

He insisted Ireland would meet its waste management targets for 2010, and said the proponents of the Poolbeg incinerator “want the Minister to come in on his white steed and say ‘oh don’t worry, I’m going to make things nice for you’. Well, I’m not.”

Mr Gormley added: “I’m going ahead with my policy. I will be introducing the levy system.”
Ireland has “the lowest landfill prices in Europe. We have to have a landfill levy because we have to abide by the landfill directive.”

The Minister believed the “path we are pursuing is by far and away the most sustainable path in terms of waste management”. The local authorities “don’t want it because it conflicts totally with their ambition to construct a 600,000 tonnes incinerator”.

He said: “They cannot feed the beast at the moment. It’s just too big. They know that. The only way they can do that is by controlling the waste. They can’t do that in light of the McKechnie judgment.”

The High Court ruled in December 2009 that the council had abused its dominant position in the Dublin waste market by adopting a variation of its 1998 waste management plan, decreeing that waste would only be collected by the four local authorities or their chosen contractors.

Mr Gormley said the authorities wanted him to introduce legislation to reverse the McKechnie judgment. “I’m saying to you absolutely that I’m not going to do it.”

The local authorities, he added, “don’t control the waste”.