Wednesday 3 December 2008

Gormley in bid to stymie Poolbeg incinerator plan

PLANS to build one of Europe’s largest incinerators descended into farce after a state agency granted it a licence to operate while the Environment Minister threatened regulations to make sure it could not.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday granted an operating licence to the planned Poolbeg incinerator in Dublin Bay, which will burn 600,000 tonnes of domestic and commercial waste each year in a plant three times larger than the next biggest facility licensed in the country.

The decision came despite opposition from Environment Minister and TD for the area John Gormley, who warned it would be “unwise” for the project to proceed as he was conducting a review intended to reduce the amount of waste designated for incineration, effectively making the Poolbeg plant unviable.

Mr Gormley cannot directly interfere with the EPA and admitted he could have legal difficulties trying to stop the Poolbeg operation, but under plans to force more recycling, he calculated there would be only 600,000 tonnes of waste left for incineration in the entire country — not enough for the competing demands of the incinerators planned or already under construction.

“If they go ahead and they decide to forget about those issues, I think it would be unwise because obviously that affects the way that this plant will operate,” he said.

The project, which has been mired in controversy over health and environmental concerns for a decade, is the brainchild of Dublin city council, who intend handing over its running to private waste management firm Covanta Energy.

Dublin City Council indicated yesterday there would be no rush to build the facility.

Residents fighting the incinerator warned their support would not be bought by promises of “community gain” and that they were not interested in more talks with the council.

Meanwhile, Damien Cassidy of the Ringsend and Irishtown Environmental group, called on Mr Gormley to either find a way to stop the incinerator or stand down as minister.

All sides have a two-month period in which to apply to the high court for a judicial review.

Irish Examiner

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