Gormley's €350m Poolbeg penalty claim dismissed
THE country's biggest local authority yesterday hit back at Green Party leader John Gormley after the former minister leaked details of a confidential government report into the controversial Poolbeg incinerator.
Dublin City Council accused Mr Gormley of electioneering after he claimed the taxpayer could be forced to pay more than €350m in penalties if the plant was built in his constituency. Extracts of an unpublished report, which is being considered by the Government, were included in a letter from Mr Gormley to Environment Minister Eamon O Cuiv.
It warned that if the incinerator was built, the capital's four local authorities could pay between €187m and €350m in penalties if it did not ensure that 320,000 tonnes of waste were treated at the plant every year.
Dublin City Council dismissed the report which was commissioned by Mr Gormley as minister and completed last September by senior counsel John Hennessy. A spokeswoman said it was based on a situation which would not arise.
"There's nothing surprising in these leaked extracts . . . the scenario envisaged will simply not arise," spokeswoman Elizabeth Arnett said.
"When this plant is up and running, it will earn the local authorities money from the heat and energy produced of at least €10m a year. This was an unpublished report and we're seeing it at a time of elections."
Mr Gormley has strongly opposed the waste-to-energy plant which, he claims, is too big for the capital. Designed to treat up to 600,000 tonnes of waste a year, it is being built by US firm Covanta under a public-private partnership deal. Work is expected to begin shortly.
The Green Party leader said he made the findings of the report public to spark a debate on the plant.
"I think it's in the public interest to have this published," he said. "I did not leak the stuff that could be considered commercially sensitive. It's not a question of suiting me, but having a debate.
"It's a national issue in terms of waste policy and the amount of money we would have to pay. This will undermine sustainable waste policy. It is now up to the political parties to state where they stand in relation to this issue."
The report concluded that the council's obligation to deliver the 320,000 tonnes of waste a year could prove to be "extremely difficult" to achieve.
Waste volumes would have to increase at "Celtic Tiger rates" for the next 25 years for the plant to make economic sense.
The Irish Waste Management Association called for the report to be published in full. The Department of the Environment said it was being considered by the Government and would not be published.