Wednesday 3 December 2008

Council's 12-year battle to build plant in Poolbeg

FIRST proposed more than a decade ago in 1996, it's been a long-running battle for Dublin City Council to get its incinerator built on the Poolbeg Peninsula in the heart of the city.

First proposed in the Dublin Regional Waste Management Strategy, incineration became council policy after being adopted by members in 1997 and since then officials have gone through two lengthy public hearings -- one concerned with planning, and the other with the environmental effects of the plant -- before one of the final hurdles was crossed yesterday.

In granting permission, the Environmental Protection Agency has allowed the council enter the final stage of delivering the plant, estimated to cost €266m.

There are still two more licences to be secured -- one from Eirgrid which will allow the council export electricity to the national grid, and the second from the Commission from Energy Regulation which must issue "authorisation to construct".

But the battle is not yet over, if Environment Minister John Gormley has his way.

Yesterday he said that a review of best practice in handling waste -- which will be completed by next summer -- could lead to changes in how local authorities dispose of their rubbish and which could make the incinerator a white elephant.

He has a number of proposals which could see waste not going for incineration.

The best way to dispose of waste is outlined in the 'waste hierarchy'. At the top of the pile is prevention.

At the bottom is sending waste to landfill. Incineration -- or waste-to-energy which burns waste to produce electricity -- is preferable to landfilling.

But Mr Gormley wants waste to go through a process called mechanical and biological treatment -- which is higher up the waste hierarchy than incineration -- which would see black bin household waste separated into recyclable components and the rest composted where methane is produced, and from which electricity can be produced.

Mr Gormley is also considering placing a cap on the amount of waste that can be sent for incineration, and is looking at introducing a levy on incineration -- where waste companies would be obliged to pay to burn rubbish.

The waste review will not be completed until the summer and the city council is unlikely to begin construction works before then.

In just six months, the whole waste landscape may have changed and the incinerator could be put on the back burner.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

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