PLANS to introduce a levy on waste incineration have been scrapped, clearing the final obstacle in the way of the controversial facility at Poolbeg in Dublin.
The Government will not be imposing an incineration tax on waste collectors, which means they will be encouraged to use thermal treatment instead of disposing of waste in landfill.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan yesterday overturned the previous government's policy on the issue, meaning there is no reason why the massive 600,000 tonne plant cannot go ahead.
The move ends years of uncertainty about the project, which promises to create 500 construction jobs while it is being built.
Last night Covanta, the US firm which will build the plant on behalf of the four Dublin local authorities, welcomed the decision and said it was "committed" to the project.
A decision on funding the €200m plant is expected later this year, with construction set to start in 2012.
"The minister's proposal is consistent with policies that have been adopted by numerous EU countries that have achieved significant success in diverting waste from landfill," it said in a statement.
"Covanta remains committed to the development of the Dublin Energy from Waste plant at Poolbeg."
Dublin City Council, which is leading the project, said the decision "made sense" but the move was criticised by the Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), which said that levies should be imposed to encourage more recycling.
It has complained that the proposed incinerator is too big and will distort the market.
"IWMA members handle 90pc of the commercial waste and 80pc of the municipal (household) solid waste generated in Ireland today," a spokesman said.
"IWMA members work with all waste treatment technologies and employ more than 6,000 people nationwide.
"The policy of the IWMA is to support a system of levies that promotes the movement of waste up the waste hierarchy to the highest order treatment options."
The incinerator was first proposed in the late 1990s but has been bitterly opposed locally, most notably by former environment minister John Gormley.
Opponents say the plant is too big for the city, and that the taxpayer could face penalties as high as €350m if less than 320,000 tonnes of waste is treated every year under a 'put or pay' clause deal between the council and Covanta.
Construction of the plant will take three years, and up to 100 permanent jobs will be created when it is up and running.
A spokesman for Environment Minister Phil Hogan said there was a need to introduce clarity to the waste management industry because the previous government had "only created confusion".
The levies were proposed by the last government in a bill published late last year. The relevant section has now been removed, meaning levies will not be imposed. The EU has told Ireland to stop disposing of waste in landfill or face multi-million euro penalties.