Poolbeg incinerator firm will scrap project if levies imposed
THE US firm behind plans to build the €350m Poolbeg incinerator is threatening to pull out of the project unless the Government scraps proposals to impose a levy on waste collectors who use the facility.
Last night Covanta warned Taoiseach Brian Cowen that the State faced the prospect of legal action if the levies were imposed, and accused Green Party leader John Gormley of pursuing a vendetta against the company.
The 600,000-tonne plant is located in his Dublin South East constituency -- prompting claims he is opposed to the project for local political reasons.
If Covanta pulls out of the project it would mean the loss of more than 600 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs at the plant as well as a multi-million euro compensation action.
The Department of the Taoiseach refused to comment last night.
Mr Gormley has repeatedly said waste policy will not be decided by a private company.
Jens Kragholm, the Covanta project implementation director, said yesterday the project would not proceed if Mr Gormley succeeded in getting the levies passed by Government.
"We would not be so stupid to spend €350m if these levies are introduced," he told the Irish Independent in Copenhagen yesterday.
"Our shareholders would not allow this. There would be no business for us. We want the project to go ahead, but the levies are aimed directly at Poolbeg."
The Government plans to introduce an incineration levy which would be imposed on waste operators to discourage use of incineration to dispose of waste.
First proposed in 2001, it is designed to encourage higher recycling rates and composting to dispose of rubbish. Mr Gormley has said he will introduce a levy of between €20 and €38 per tonne or waste treated in the incinerator. A decision is expected before the end of the year.
The heat was turned up yesterday when Scott Whitney, the European president of Covanta Energy, accused Mr Gormley of "backyard politics" over the project.
The US chief said he would be writing to the Taoiseach and some ministers this week seeking assurances they would not support the threatened levies on energy-from-waste plants.
Mr Gormley objects to the project as he claims it is too big for the capital's needs and that the taxpayer will be forced to pay if the plant does not process the bulk of the city's waste.
Mr Whitney said imposing levies would be contrary to EU law, and that the plant was needed to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill.
Mr Whitney made his comments as Irish journalists were brought by Covanta to an incinerator in the heart of Copenhagen similar in design to the Poolbeg model.
Forfas, Ireland's national policy advisory body for enterprise and science, said the proposed levy will affect the development of incinerators here.