Incinerator battle heats up as ESRI refuses to bin report
ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley's dispute with the country's leading think tank intensified last night when the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) refused to withdraw a controversial report criticising government waste policy.
The ESRI stood over its finding that there will be enough rubbish generated in Dublin to make the Poolbeg incinerator viable.
According to the think tank, the waste policy has "no underlying rationale" and is likely to impose "needless costs" on the economy. ESRI's firm stance adds to the pressure on Mr Gormley over the incinerator, which is being built in the Green Party leader's constituency of Dublin South-East.
Mr Gormley has been accused by Fine Gael of trying to get out of the Department of Environment in the forthcoming reshuffle because he has failed to stop the incinerator.
Among the proposals believed to be being kicked around by the Greens is that Mr Gormley would move from his department to be replaced by backbencher Ciaran Cuffe.
The ESRI comments came as Mr Gormley announced he was appointing an "authorised officer" to examine the contract signed between Dublin City Council and US firm Covanta to build the controversial plant.
Mr Gormley has repeatedly said the council cannot guarantee that 320,000 tonnes of waste a year will be treated in the facility, which would result in the local authority being forced to pay annual penalties.
Senior counsel John Hennessy, who is also an accountant, has been asked to prepare a report showing the extent of the financial and related risks and consequences that may be faced by the council if the waste is not sent for incineration.
The report will also identify and quantify the financial risks and consequences for the council if it alters or cancels the project. It is expected that Mr Hennessy will report back to the minister in six weeks.
Senior counsels typically charge up to €3,000 per day, meaning the cost of the report could run to €90,000.
The ESRI yesterday admitted it had made some errors in its report, which was published last month. But it said it would not be withdrawing the report.
Last night, a spokesman for the minister said: "The minister welcomes the fact that they have corrected some of the significant errors. . . but is somewhat surprised they have not amended some of the conclusions."
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