DUBLIN CITY Council’s decision to go ahead with the construction of the Poolbeg incinerator was likely to result in legal action, Minister for the Environment John Gormley has said.
The council yesterday said it would begin construction of the 600,000 tonne incinerator in just over two weeks’ time, a move described by Mr Gormley as “most unwise” and “foolhardy”.
Mr Gormley said it was likely that he would introduce a cap on incineration which would limit the facility to burning just half its annual waste capacity.
“Where I make legal changes, in other words if I impose a cap on incineration, they have to abide by that. In my view it makes sense to impose the cap on incineration and under those circumstances they should be building an incinerator which is no more than 300,000 tonnes.”
The council’s announcement that construction of the facility is to start on December 14th comes just one week after Mr Gormley published his International Review of Waste Management Policy which suggested measures which would limit the amount of waste available for incineration.
Mr Gormley is to appoint an official to examine the “put or pay” contract requiring the council to provide 320,000 tonnes of waste to the incinerator annually, or pay penalties to the developers, Covanta. He has asked the Attorney General to investigate competition issues arising from contracts related to the incinerator. “I suspect that at some stage this will end up in the courts and they [the council] are most unwise – it is foolhardy to proceed in this way,” he said on RTÉ radio yesterday.
While construction has not yet begun, the developers have for several months been clearing the site and conducting ground investigation works. Politicians representing the southeast area of the city said Mr Gormley should have stopped the facility before it reached the construction stage.
Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton said Mr Gormley has failed to act in time. “His indication that he will appoint someone to review the project is irrelevant, given that work has started. He has been out-manoeuvred yet again on this.”
Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews said Mr Gormley should stop construction from going ahead. “The council are not a law unto themselves and cannot be allowed to behave as such.”
The council’s attempt to “force through” the development was a “blatant show of defiance to the Department of the Environment”, Mr Andrews said. Labour city councillor Kevin Humphreys said Mr Gormley had let the country down by failing to deliver on his election promise to stop the incinerator going ahead.