Monday 3 September 2007

Government to strip councils of waste powers

The government will strip local authorities of all regulatory powers over waste management as part of a national review of the €1.5 billion sector, the Sunday Business Post has learned.

The move is expected to lead to a major showdown between the government and local authorities, who believe they must retain their regulatory position to protect their lucrative status as waste service providers.

Senior government sources said there was a consensus among Fianna Fail and Green Party ministers that councils should no longer regulate waste markets in which they are also major service providers.

However, officials have yet to decide on whether to create a national waste management regulator, which was one of the options proposed by former environment minister Dick Roche last year.

It is understood that one proposal being mooted is the complete removal of local authorities from the business of providing waste services. In that case, they could retain some minor regulatory control, but would lose a multimillion euro revenue stream.

However, that proposal seems unlikely to be agreed upon. One well-placed government source said that several major private waste companies are ‘‘entirely open to the idea of an independent waste regulator, or some such mechanism, given the relationship they have with local authority management’’.

Private waste company Panda last month claimed that Dublin City Council, which oversees waste management for the entire Dublin area, was attempting to skew the market in favour of supporting the controversial Poolbeg Incineration project.

Panda said the council was diverting a set amount of municipal waste to the facility, as part of the council’s proposed variation to the Dublin Waste Management Plan 2005-2010.

The government’s plans to end local authorities’ control over waste management follows environment minister John Gormley’s stern rebuke to councils which act contrary to national policy in their support for mass scale incineration and landfill.

Gormley evoked his powers under Section 60 of the Waste Management Act to instruct county managers nationwide that they will be prevented from entering into agreements to divert set amounts of municipal waste to major landfill and incineration operators.

Gormley’s move significantly diminished the viability of future incineration projects.

Sunday Business Post

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