Panda says change to waste plan is driven by Poolbeg


THE PLAN by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to require waste-management companies to bid for franchises to collect household waste is “driven by one engine only – Poolbeg”, according to Panda, a leading firm in the sector.

Eamon Waters, the company’s managing director, said it had engaged solicitors A L Goodbody to prepare a legal action against the Minister if he proceeded with the proposed change to competitive tendering for household waste collection.

This was “patently motivated by the need to make Poolbeg happen” by giving back control of the waste stream to Dublin City Council and the region’s other local authorities so that they could direct it to the proposed incinerator.

An attempt by the local authorities to take control of Dublin’s waste failed in December 2009 when the High Court quashed a variation to the regional waste management plan; this would have introduced “franchise bidding” for local authority contracts.

In a judicial review case brought by Panda, Mr Justice William McKechnie found that Dublin City Council had “abused [its] position of dominance” and shown “bias and prejudgment . . . in seeking to re-monopolise the market for household waste collection”.

Now, Mr Waters said, the Minister was trying to “fast-track new legislation” that would have the effect of overcoming the High Court judgment.

“I’m sure he will give plenty of views why this will be good for everyone, but I totally believe it’s for one reason only – Poolbeg.”

There was “not a single scrap of evidence as to what is broken that needs fixing. And even if they had 10 reasons, which they don’t, they would need to show that this huge alteration to a market that is working well is needed to fix all the problems they haven’t said exist.”

Mr Waters said there was “a lot of competition at present” and householders were “benefiting from better service and cheaper waste collection”. Ireland now also had “one of the highest levels of recycling rates in Europe – delivered by the private sector”.

Under the proposed regime, householders “will no longer have any competitive choices for waste collection”. Instead, the local authorities would “determine the frequency of service, the type of material collected [waste, organic, recyclables] and the price.

“There is a certain irony in the fact that at the same time as the Department [of the Environment] is trying to regain control of the household waste market, Fingal County Council are engaging with the private sector to sell the very same business,” he added.

Mr Hogan has already scrapped an incineration levy proposed by his predecessor, John Gormley. A leading executive of Covanta, the US firm planning to develop Poolbeg, has said that the political situation had “changed totally in Ireland with the new Government”.

A spokesman for the Minister said the proposed reorganisation was not “dictated by any one facility, technology or sectoral interest, it is designed to enhance competition, reduce costs and result in better service and environmental outcomes”.

Panda’s assertion that local authorities would determine the price for waste services under the proposed arrangements “is simply not the case, [as] the price for the provision of a given level of service would be determined by a competitive bidding process”.