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Councils could face millions in fines over incinerator

Councils across Dublin will face fines running to €350m if a waste incinerator in the city goes ahead as planned, Green leader John Gormley claimed today.

The former minister said a confidential report handed to Government departments last year shows the potential for massive financial penalties if the giant Poolbeg burner is not scaled back.

Mr Gormley claimed local authorities had signed a "crazy" deal with operators and developers of the waste-to-energy plant, Covanta.

"I believe it to be in the public interest for this report to be published as soon as possible, as it it identifies potential penalties of up to €350m if the project goes ahead," he said.

"Under the crazy deal signed, the Dublin local authorities will have to pay significant penalties if they fail to provide sufficient levels of waste to the facility.

"Now, because of the recession, increased recycling rates and more competition, the councils are collecting nowhere near the 320,000 tonnes a year they are obliged to provide."

At full capacity, Poolbeg could handle 600,000 tonnes of rubbish a year.

Mr Gormley said he has known about the threatened multi-million euro fines for months after commissioning Senior Counsel John Hennessey to investigate the Poolbeg contract.

The former Environment Minister claimed he sent the confidential report to the Taoiseach's office and sought advice from the Attorney General over its publication last Autumn.

"I am concerned that plans for publication may now be shelved during the election and indeed after a new government takes office," Mr Gormley said.

Brendan Keane, spokesman for the Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), said it supports a balanced approach to incineration.

"The Poolbeg incinerator is a relic of the 'Celtic Tiger', and the potential waste of money associated with it now mirrors the types of losses more commonly associated with Nama," Mr Keane said.

"The IWMA is fully supportive of incineration as part of a balanced approach to waste management but it is essential that it is appropriately sized in the market.

"Not alone does the Poolbeg project represent a massive loss of money to the taxpayer, it poses a risk to recycling rates, to employment, and to our chances of developing a balanced approach to waste management."

PA Media