The planned south Dublin project has given rise to claims that taxpayers could be dumped with millions of euro in compensation if not enough waste is burnt in the incinerator.
It has now emerged that a three-year-old contract between its operators, Covanta, and Dublin City Council, could collapse from midnight tonight because of a break clause in the deal.
The plant is expected to help Ireland adhere to EU targets to keep waste away from landfills.
But environmentalists suggest the development could lead to a “mass burn” culture while politicians have warned the incinerator will be too big and cost taxpayers millions if not fully used.
The Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA) has called for an investigation and for all details surrounding the Poolbeg contract to be made public after the revelation about a “get out” clause.
“It now appears that Dublin City Council has always had the ability to walk away from the agreement to build the Poolbeg incinerator, if the necessary permits are not in place by September 5.
“The reported existence of this ‘get-out’ clause calls into question everything that Dublin City Council has been saying in recent months with regard to compensation payments if the project does not go ahead,” said IWMA spokesman Brendan Keane.
Dublin City council chief John Tierney is expected to update elected members about the Poolbeg project on Monday night.
The council said in a statement yesterday that reports it could walk away without any costs from the project this weekend by exiting the contract were “factually incorrect”.
The four Dublin local authorities had incurred substantial costs already in land acquisition and statutory processes. Any break from the contract could also include compensation payments to the company leading the project, it added.
The council further stressed its continued backing for the project. Environment Minister John Gormley’s office yesterday said an EU target of reduced landfill waste disposal was on target for 2010. A spokesman said: “There has been a significant reduction in the amount going there in recent years.”