Friday 10 September 2010

City manager to extend incinerator contract to May

DUBLIN CITY manager John Tierney has said he could now terminate the contract with the developers of the controversial Poolbeg incinerator, but has decided to extend it until next May.

City councillors last night called on Mr Tierney to publish the contract with incinerator developers Covanta which RTÉ last week reported could be terminated last Sunday if conditions necessary for the development of the facility had not been met by that date.

Minister for the Environment John Gormley, who has a copy of the contract, has yet to grant a foreshore licence for a cooling facility needed for the plant.

Mr Tierney said the contract was subject to a confidentiality clause, but notwithstanding that he said “some people have seen fit to comment on the contract in public”. As elements had now been put in the public domain, he said he would ask Covanta if it would agree to a redacted version being published which would omit any commercially-sensitive information.

“It is probably not open to us to find out how the breach of confidentiality occurred,” he told councillors.

He said while he had the right as of last weekend to terminate the contract, some €60 million had already been spent on the development and up to €60 million was expected to be claimed by those whose land had been compulsorily purchased for the development.

He said this did not take into account the further costs the council could face from compensation claims from the developer. He could not put a figure on these claims as they would likely be a matter for litigation.

He had extended the contract to give time to consider “the way forward” for the project. It was now likely that the incinerator would not be built before 2014.

Mr Tierney said the council was following existing waste policy in relation to the development of the incinerator, but if Mr Gormley changed waste policy with the effect of making the incinerator unviable “someone will have to pay for what has been spent to date”.

He said the managers of the four Dublin local authorities had been put in an “impossible position”. They had been given the responsibility by Government to ensure waste policy was implemented but “at the 11th hour complete and utter uncertainty has been created”.

Construction of the incinerator began last December, but has been suspended since May because, Covanta has said, of the lack of a foreshore licence.

An application for the foreshore licence was made to the Department of Agriculture in 2008. Responsibility for determining foreshore licences was transferred to Mr Gormley’s department last January.

The council, following a request from Covanta, last month began a process to compulsorily purchase the land needed for the cooling facility. By taking ownership of the land, the council would no longer need the licence from Mr Gormley. The compulsory purchase process could involve a Bord Pleanála hearing, and could involve further delays for the project.

Irish Times

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