Friday 24 January 2020

Poolbeg incinerator firm wants talks with Taoiseach

The US company behind a controversial planned incinerator for Dublin has asked for face-to-face talks with the Taoiseach, it emerged today.

Brian Cowen is considering the request from Covanta as it steps up pressure on Environment Minister John Gormley to grant a foreshore licence for the stalled €350m Poolbeg project.

Scott Whitney, president of Covanta Europe, accused Mr Gormley of doing everything possible to make the plant uneconomic.

"It seems to us he's saying, in his role as a judge, I know you're guilty but I'll give you a fair trial before I hang you," he said.

The US waste giant said construction work stopped on the Dublin Bay facility on May 7 because Mr Gormley has not granted a foreshore licence for a water cooling system.

Mr Gormley has rejected allegations he has a conflict of interest over the project, which is in his constituency.

Launching a draft waste policy last week, he said it would be unwise for the plant to go ahead as planned because proposed incinerator levies would make it unviable.

At a press briefing, Mr Whitney said controversy over similar projects his firm has worked on around the world is usually resolved once someone in power pushes the plans through.

"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," he said.

"I guess we're a bit disappointed we haven't seen that here."

A Government spokeswoman confirmed Mr Cowen is considering a meeting with Covanta.

"The request has been received and it is being looked at," she said.

Covanta has also lobbied the US embassy and Mr Gormley's department is planning a meeting with US ambassador Dan Rooney.

Mr Whitney claimed other American investors who could be considering creating jobs in Ireland are "dismayed" at the stalling of the Poolbeg project.

The Department of the Environment insists it is dealing with Covanta's application for a foreshore licence the same way as it deals with every other application.

A spokesman said it was working through a "substantial backlog" of applications it inherited in February after responsibility was passed from another department.

Covanta claims the Poolbeg project would create 500 jobs.

Mr Whitney said that number would be employed during the "middle of the project" with around 200 jobs created within a year of the foreshore licence being granted.

He said tens of millions of euro has already been spent on the project and the company would not rule out legal action against the Government if their plans are scuppered.

PA Media

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