Stephen Collins on Gormley and Poolbeg Incinerator

I am in favour of incineration. The decisions are made. My reservation is in the site of the incinerator which I believe should have been near the Red Cow Junction on the Naas Road/ M50. This would have minimised the truck traffic into the core city. Otherwise, I think three TDs in South East are playing nimbism and opportunism or moral funk and Gormley is just being John Gormley. I respect John Gormley but I think that he is wrong on incineration. He has argued about the size of the plant etc and there are problems with the volume of waste needed for efficiency and details of contracts but where propaganda begins and ends on this subject is difficult to delineate. As you all know, I am in the Collins Party so:

From the Irish Times

Questions for Gormley on Poolbeg conflict of interest


INSIDE POLITICS: Hundreds of millions of euro of taxpayers’ money could be
at stake over hold-ups in granting a licence for an incinerator in Dublin

REBEL FIANNA Fáil TDs created a hullabaloo in the Dáil over John Gormley’s
plans to ban stag hunting but a far more important policy of the
Minister’s, which threatens to cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of
euro, has generated surprisingly little comment.

The issue is Gormley’s handling of the planned Poolbeg incinerator in
Dublin’s docklands, or the energy-from-waste project as its promoters
prefer to call it. At stake is the city’s future waste disposal system, its
natural environment, hundreds of jobs, Ireland’s image as a place to do
business and a potentially massive bill to the taxpayer.

The politics of the case, as distinct from its merits or demerits, is that
Gormley is an inveterate opponent of the project, as are TDs from all
parties in Dublin South East where it is located. On the other side the
backers of the plan are the four Dublin local authorities who have a duty
to develop the safest and most efficient waste disposal system for the
capital in line with EU directives.

Gormley and the local authorities are locked in an increasingly bitter
battle. Potential EU fines are starting to clock up, because the continuing
over- reliance on landfill is in clear breach of an EU directive which came
into effect at the beginning of this year. Meanwhile the commercial
developers of the project may be lining up for a multi- million euro legal
action over the delaying tactics that have blocked its development.

Gormley has made no secret of the fact that he is not going to allow the
project to get off the ground under any circumstances while he is Minister
for the Environment and one of his latest moves has been to employ a senior
counsel to try to pick holes in the contracts.

The project, first mooted over a decade ago, has been approved by An Bord
Pleanála, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Development
Finance Agency and the Department of the Environment itself. Site clearance
work is complete but, before it can proceed, a foreshore licence is
required for the construction of a water cooling system.

Dublin City Council first lodged an application for a foreshore licence
almost two years ago and until it is issued the US developer of the
project, Covanta Energy, will not be able to proceed. All the preliminary
work on the licence has been done and the paperwork has been sitting on the
Minister’s desk for months but no decision has emerged.

Questioned in the Dáil a month ago, Gormley told Fine Gael’s Phil Hogan
that more than 700 foreshore applications were being processed. “As the
licence application in question is one of a large number at different
stages of consideration under the foreshore consent process my department
will be in contact with Dublin City Council on the matter as soon as
possible.” Gormley said.

He went on to say that his understanding was that the various processes had
not yet been gone through. The whispers in the corridors of power, however,
are that the Attorney General has told the Minister there is no legal
reason for him not to issue the licence but so far it has not emerged from
the department and there is no sign of it doing so.

To put the delay in context, a foreshore licence was issued within days to
facilitate repair work when the Donabate to Malahide railway bridge
collapsed a year ago. Of more relevance to Poolbeg, a foreshore licence
application was made for the controversial Shell Corrib project in January
of this year.

Significant work will be carried out in a special area of conservation and
the Shell application had to go to a public consultation with hundreds of
written objections being considered. Nonetheless, the permit was granted
last week, five months after its initial lodgement. The sponsoring Minister
for this project is Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural
Resources Eamon Ryan and the licence was granted by his Green Cabinet
colleague, John Gormley.

The Shell decision shows how the system can work, even for a highly
controversial project, if the focus is there at political and official
level. The Dublin incinerator issue is clearly a matter of strategic
national importance not only for the people of the city but for the
taxpayers of the entire State.

Apart from refusing to sign the foreshore licence, the Minister has also
moved to undermine the Poolbeg plan through the introduction of waste
facility levies designed to penalise large incinerator projects. Forfás,
the IDA and Enterprise Ireland have made a submission to Gormley opposing
the measure and pointing out the damage it will do to job creation as well
as the waste-energy market.

The agencies point out that the countries with the best records, like
Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, have reduced landfill to
minuscule proportions and rely heavily on incineration, while Ireland is
bracketed with countries with poor environmental records like Poland,
Hungary and Britain which still rely heavily on landfill.

It is extraordinary that one Minister can simply block the project
indefinitely, regardless of national policy, EU policy and legal
considerations. Given his clear conflict of interest on the issue Gormley
should never have been put in a position where through the exercise of his
official functions he could simply hold up the project for as long as he
remained in office.

Either the Minister should have taken himself out of the equation in the
exercise of his official functions on Poolbeg or the Taoiseach should have
insisted that he do so. Gormley and the Greens have many fine achievements
to their credit in office in terms of improved planning, alternative energy
and political reform but that legacy is in danger of being tarnished by the
handling of one major project in the Minister’s backyard.