Monday 20 November 2017

Opposition may force council out of €145m plant lease

Conn Murray
Conn Murray
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A local authority is seeking legal advice on whether it can back out of a lease agreement for a controversial €145m gasification plant.

Limerick City and County Council signed an agreement in May to lease land to a US company for five years so it can build a waste to energy plant.

However, following a swell of public opposition to the project in recent weeks, councillors voted unanimously to seek a review of the lease arrangement.

The Irish Independent has learned the council's chief executive, Conn Murray, is now seeking legal advice to see if it is feasible for the local authority to cancel the lease agreement with Cadence EnviroPower Ltd.

The Florida-based firm's project was chosen following an international competition after the council sought to find a new use for a landfill at a 14 hectare site in Gortadroma, west Limerick.

However, last week councillors backed a motion calling on the council to conduct "an immediate comprehensive review" of the lease agreement and to examine the council's options, including the possible termination of the lease.

This came after opposition to the plant intensified over environmental and traffic concerns. The move represented a dramatic U-turn by councillors, who agreed to the lease at a meeting only last March.

In a statement, the council said Mr Murray would report back to the members once he has received legal advice.

It is thought any attempt to renege on the lease agreement could prove costly and expose the council to litigation from the company.

The agreement is subject to Cadence EnviroPower securing planning permission from An Bord Pleanala and securing necessary permits from the Environmental Protection Agency.

In the statement, the council said the public would have "ample opportunity" to raise concerns with both bodies.

"These concerns will most certainly be taken into account before any decision is made," the statement said.

The landfill closed last year, having been in operation since 1999. The council began examining future options for the landfill five years ago, but concluded selling it was "not a viable option".

It began seeking proposals for alternative uses for the site in 2013, hiring consultants to seek expressions of interest.

Following a technical and financial appraisal of a number of bids, consultants RPS recommended the selection of the plan put forward by Cadence EnviroPower. Councillors initially backed the plan after visiting a similar facility in France.

If the project goes ahead, the plant will create around 150 full-time jobs once completed.

Among the concerns expressed by a local action group is the potential impact of nanoparticles released during the gasification process and the extra traffic in the area.

Cadence EnviroPower has defended its health record, citing a similar project in the US.

Irish Independent

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