US firm asks to meet Cowen over delays to incinerator
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen is "considering" meeting with the US firm behind the controversial €350m Poolbeg incinerator to discuss delays at the plant.
This is despite opposition to the project by his coalition partner and Environment Minister John Gormley, who last night insisted he would not be dictated to by a private company.
A government spokeswoman confirmed Mr Cowen may meet US firm Covanta Energy, the main backer at the plant.
"We have received a request for a meeting and it is being considered," she told the Irish Independent.
Covanta Energy yesterday accused Mr Gormley of doing everything possible to make the plant uneconomical and delaying it at every turn.
The company has been waiting for his department to grant it a foreshore licence, needed for a cooling system, for two years.
"It seems as if he's saying, in his role as judge, I know you're guilty but I'll give you a fair trial before I hang you," said Covanta Energy's vice president, Scott Whitney.
Covanta and its partner in the project, Dublin City Council, are seeking to move ahead with the construction of the incinerator, which will be in Mr Gormley's South Dublin constituency, and is due to start processing 600,000 tonnes of waste a year in 2013.
Mr Whitney said work has stalled at the plant because the foreshore licence has not been granted.
He added that Covanta has had experience in other countries where controversies had arisen over plant locations but someone in power usually steps in to sort things out.
"What we've seen in other places is, eventually, somebody in a position of authority steps up and says: 'We've got to cut through this Nimby (not-in-my-back-yard) perspective and do what's best for the broader community'."
A spokesperson for Mr Gormley, who has also claimed the operation is too big, said: "The Government's priority in waste management policy is the taxpayer and the consumer. We will not be dictated to by private companies."
Mr Whitney also accused the minister of having an anti-incinerator waste policy.
Last week, Mr Gormley published a new waste policy which would make large incinerators, such as Poolbeg, unviable.
It included plans to introduce levies on incineration and proposed fines for local authorities that do not prevent waste from going to landfill or incinerator sites and favours recycling and mechanical biological treatment of refuse.
Mr Whitney also claimed other US firms looking to invest in Ireland are "dismayed" at the stalling of the Poolbeg project, which the company claims will create 600 jobs.
"We've suggested at some point a meeting with the Taoiseach might be useful," Mr Whitney said. The company has already lobbied the US embassy and Mr Gormley's office is planning a meeting with the ambassador, Dan Rooney.