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Row heats up as Gormley bids to halt incinerator

The row between Dublin City Council and Environment Minister John Gormley over the €350m Poolbeg incinerator has escalated.

Mr Gormley has said the waste-to-energy plant cannot go ahead, even though the contract to build and operate the facility was signed in 2007.

City Manager John Tierney said he has informed Mr Gormley of the legal difficulties if the contract was now broken.

He said €59.5m had already been spent on the project -- €34m on acquiring the site and €25.5m in consultants' fees.

The latest flare-up in the dispute came after a council-commissioned Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report found the minister's own international review was flawed.

It added that Mr Gormley's stance against the incinerator, which is being built in the minister's constituency, lacked a coherent or compelling reason.

However, Mr Gormley criticised the ESRI for getting dragged into a political dispute.

The council has committed to provide the plant with 320,000 tonnes of waste each year.

Waste

Covanta Energy, which will operate the facility along with the council, will have to generate an additional 280,000 tonnes in order to reach the incinerator's capacity.

At an Oireachtas Committee hearing, the European president of Covanta, Scott Whitney, said the company sees no reason why enough waste will not be generated in Dublin to supply the plant. However, Mr Whitney admitted it is prepared to go outside the Dublin region to seek waste to meet its targets.

He said: "We have an additional 280,000 tonnes a year to fill. It would not be responsible if we were not out in the market to fill that fuel stream."

Mr Tierney told the committee the Department of the Environment had provided €7.5m towards the cost of the incinerator. He said the council is going ahead with the incinerator because of Government waste management policy.

But Mr Gormley said he decided national waste policy and not the city council.

He added: "I do regret that they [the ESRI] have been drawn into what is clearly a public-relations campaign on behalf of Dublin City Council and Covanta and it is no coincidence that the report was released today and it is simply to undermine Government waste policy."

Preliminary construction work began on the 13.6-acre site in Poolbeg in December.


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