THE MINISTER for the Environment John Gormley has rejected Opposition claims that yesterday's decision to give the go-ahead for a controversial incinerator in his own Dublin constituency has highlighted the Green Party's "ineffectuality" in Government.
The proposed €250 million incinerator in Poolbeg, set to be one of the largest municipal waste incinerators in Europe, was yesterday granted an operating licence by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is located in Mr Gormley's own constituency of Dublin South East.
The Green Party leader has been one of the project's most vocal opponents over the past 10 years and yesterday's decision was viewed as politically awkward for him.
Dublin City Council will be allowed to burn 600,000 tonnes of waste annually. The licence also frees the council from having to pre-sort the waste using mechanical biological treatment (MBT), a waste management process favoured by the Green Party leader.
Mr Gormley has said that the use of MBT and other methods could reduce the volume of waste for incineration throughout the State to 600,000 tonnes per annum, a fraction of the proposed capacity of the eight incinerators envisaged by regional waste plans. It is equal to the total volume of waste Dublin City Council has committed to provide the Poolbeg incinerator each year.
The licence is subject to more than 216 conditions relating to the environmental management, operation, control and monitoring of the facility.
However, it is understood that despite the many conditions, some of which are likely to result in considerable extra costs, the council will be able to go ahead with the facility and expects to begin construction in the second half of next year. It will also need approval from the Commission for Energy Regulation.
Ruairí Quinn of Labour, also a TD in Dublin South East, called on the Minister to fund a judicial review of the decision and claimed he could have used his powers as Minister to stop the incinerator.
"This really is his last chance to act. If he doesn't, he will be to blame if this incinerator is built," he said.
Lucinda Creighton, the Fine Gael TD in the constituency, contended that Mr Gormley was a "do-nothing Minister" who had sat on his hands rather than intervening. Mr Gormley portrayed Opposition calls on him to intervene as "bogus" and "hypocritical". "That planning process had begun before I entered office. You have to go back many years before this process began," he said, adding that the legal framework forbade him as Minister to intervene.