Dublin City Council’s decision to go ahead with the construction of Poolbeg incinerator is likely to result in legal action, Minister for the Environment John Gormley has said.
The council today said it would be starting construction of the 600,000 tonne incinerator in just over two weeks time, a move described by Mr Gormley as “most unwise” and “foolhardy”.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, Mr Gormley said it was likely that he would introduce a cap on incineration which would limit the facility to burning just half its annual waste capacity.
“Where I make legal changes, in other words if I impose a cap on incineration, they have to abide by that. In my view it makes sense to impose the cap on incineration and under those circumstances they should be building an incinerator which is no more than 300,000 tonnes.”
A report commissioned by private waste contractors, which was published last week, claimed the incinerator’s capacity should be halved.
The Irish Waste Management Association report said a facility with a capacity of 250,000 to 300,000 tonnes per annum would be more than adequate to meet Dublin’s requirements until at least 2037.
The council’s announcement that construction of the facility is to start on December 14th comes just one week after Mr Gormley published his International Review of Waste Management Policy which suggested measures which would limit the amount of waste available for incineration.
Mr Gormley is in the process of appointing an official to examine the “put or pay” contract which requires the council to provide 320,000 tonnes of waste to the incinerator annually or pay penalties to the developers Covanta. He has also asked the Attorney General to investigate competition issues arising out of contracts related to the proposed incinerator.
The city council said it could not say what action it might take until it was given detailed proposals of any cap on incineration. However a spokesman pointed out that it had planning permission from An Bord Pleanála and a waste license from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the facility.
While construction has not yet begun the developers have for several months been clearing the site and conducting ground investigation works in preparation for construction.
Politicians representing the south east area of the city said Mr Gormley should have stopped the facility before it reached the construction stage.
Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton said Mr Gormley has failed to act in time. “His indication that he will appoint someone to review the project is irrelevant, given that work has started. He has been out-manoeuvred yet again on this, and is left looking like the Minister for futile posturing and empty gestures.”
Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews said Mr Gormley should stop construction from going ahead. “The council are not a law unto themselves and cannot be allowed to behave as such.”
The council’s attempt to “force through” the development was a “blatant show of defiance to the Department of the Environment,” Mr Andrews said.
Labour city councillor Kevin Humphreys said Mr Gormley had let the country down by failing to deliver on his election promise the stop the incinerator going ahead.