Sunday 27 April 2008

Gormley plans to publish bill on waste levies by summer

Environment minister John Gormley is close to publishing legislation on a new system of waste levies which are aimed at making incineration commercially unviable.

Gormley, who is opposed to the €250 million Poolbeg incinerator in his own Dublin South East constituency, is drawing up a new waste policy to hike landfill and incineration levies, while promoting mechanical and biological treatment of waste.

He expects to publish the new legislation before the Dáil summer recess. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held oral hearings on the proposed granting of a licence for the Poolbeg incinerator last week.

The hearings were adjourned until this Thursday to allow consideration of a new report on air quality submitted by Dublin City Council.

Gormley did not address the EPA oral hearing and a spokesman for the minister said his powers did not extend to directly intervening to stop the incinerator proceeding.

‘‘He can’t ride in on a white horse and stop the incinerator in its tracks, but our policy is that the well-managed landfill of residual waste is superior to burning it in our backyard,” said Ciaran Cuffe, the Green Party TD for Dun Laoghaire who addressed the oral hearing.

The Poolbeg incinerator would be capable of taking 600,000 tonnes of municipal waste, which is more than the amount of waste produced in the Dublin City Council area. Waste experts believe the facility would need to take waste from the rest of the country to prove viable.

However, the Green Party has claimed that this would undermine the national waste policy set out in the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Programme for Government. Cuffe said a report by Dr Brian Broderick, an air-quality expert at Trinity College, which was revealed at the hearing last week, ‘‘raises serious questions about the potential impact on air quality from the proposed incinerator’’.

Broderick, who was retained by An Bord Pleanála, said air pollutants in the area exceeded EU limits in some cases, and that the level of pollution meant there was limited capacity for further pollution, either from emissions or truck traffic.

‘‘This raises serious questions about the validity of the evidence that Dublin City Council is putting forward,” Cuffe said.

Two previous reports from Dublin City Council stated that air-quality standards in the area were within the limits laid down by the EU, and that the incinerator would not exceed these limits.

Cuffe said studies showed that the amount of residual waste for disposal after pretreatment in the country could be reduced to between 400,000 and 600,000 tonnes from 3.2 million tonnes, which would meet the terms of an EU landfill directive.

Sunday Business Post

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