Poolbeg incinerator approval despite cost controversy
Published 22/06/2011 | 05:00
THE controversial Poolbeg incinerator finally got the green light from the Government yesterday despite a new war of words over the cost to taxpayers.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan announced he was not going to block the Dublin facility, after publishing a report warning that taxpayers face penalties as high as €350m if there was not enough waste available.
The report, commissioned by Mr Hogan's predecessor, John Gormley, predicted taxpayers would face huge bills whether the facility was built or not.
If it is built, Dublin City Council will not be able to provide the 320,000 tonnes of waste for the facility and will be hit with cash penalties under the so-called "put or pay" contract involved, according to the report by John Hennessey SC.
"DCC (the council) may well be paying for a considerable period of time, for the processing of significantly more waste than it is able to deliver to the facility," the report found. This was rejected by the council.
The possible cash penalties are redacted in the report, but they have previously been cited as between €187m and €350m.
Mr Hennessey said terminating the incinerator contract would give rise to "significant financial cost" for the council and possibly the Exchequer.
Work on the incinerator is not expected to begin until next year -- with a completion date in 2014.
The project will involve 500 construction jobs and the creation of up to 100 permanent jobs at the facility when it is up and running.
In a statement, the minister said Mr Hennessey had to work "within predetermined parameters and scenarios set in the terms of reference given to him".
The Hennessey report was commissioned by Mr Gormley, who opposed the facility.
"Having consulted with my colleagues, I have concluded that there is no national waste policy justification for the Government to intervene in this matter," Mr Hogan said.
Dublin City Council has vigorously disputed predictions it will not be able to provide the required 320,000 tonnes of waste to the plant every year.
It said the terms of reference for the Hennessey report did not take account of the lack of a long-term viable alternative.
The four Dublin authorities had to issue a contract every six months to send waste "around the country as there is no more landfill space available in the Dublin region", it added.
The Poolbeg project had been assessed and approved by An Bord Pleanala, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commission for Energy Regulation, the National Development Finance Agency, the Competition Authority and the Department of the Environment.