Poolbeg developers say incinerator levy would breach EU law

 

THE GOVERNMENT would be in contravention of EU law if it introduced new punitive levies on incineration proposed by Minister for the Environment John Gormley, the developers of the Poolbeg incinerator in Ringsend, Dublin say.

Mr Gormley plans to publish new waste legislation before the beginning of the new Dáil term which would set levies on incineration at a level which, the developers say, could threaten the viability of the plant The levies, of up to €120 a tonne, are expected to be set at the same level for incinerators as for landfill sites.

Scott Whitney, European vice-president of Covanta, the developers of the plant, said yesterday the levies were a “thinly veiled attempt to prevent a specific infrastructure project from being constructed in a particular constituency”. Mr Gormley was seeking to persuade his Cabinet colleagues to act contrary to EU law by applying the same levies to incineration as to landfill, Mr Whitney said.

Mr Gormley said proponents of the facility had popularised the opinion that he was opposed to the incinerator because of its location.

“Regardless of where this facility was to be located, I would be opposed to it on the grounds that it is oversized.” Dublin City Council, which commissioned the incinerator, was “going to have to see sense” and abandon plans for the facility, he said.

A report by accountant and barrister John Hennessy, who was appointed last March by Mr Gormley to examine the financial implications of the contract for the incinerator, would be published very shortly, Mr Gormley said, and would vindicate his view that the 600,000-tonne capacity plant was too big.

Any incoming minister for the environment would be “extremely foolish” to allow the construction of the incinerator go ahead, Mr Gormley added.

He was speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday following a report in The Irish Times that Dublin city manager John Tierney expected work on the incinerator to restart by the end of April, if punitive levies on incineration are not introduced.

“The Hennessy report has been with the Minister for Finance for the last three months . . It shows very clearly that this is oversized, and it vindicates my stance, and I think eventually Dublin City Council are going to have to see sense,” Mr Gormley said.

Any future environment minister would be compounding a mistake and ignoring facts if they allowed the plant to be built, he said. “I think people are going to have to see sense here because this is like a multiple of e-voting machines.”

Mr Tierney said Mr Gormley was out of step with other Green parties in Europe in relation to incineration.

In a recent position paper put forward by Alliance 90/Greens – the German Green party – supported incineration over mechanical biological treatment (MBT), Mr Gormley’s favoured form of waste treatment, Mr Tierney said.

The paper which was written by Dr Michael Weltzin, scientific assistant to the party, said MBT had been supported by the Greens “in the early days”, but was now seen only as an intermediate solution.

Incineration, when the best available technology was used, had “very low environmental impact”, he said.