Environment Minister John Gormley, a long-term opponent of the planned incinerator in the heart of his Dublin South-East constituency, is due to bring forward legislation during this Dáil term to extend waste management levies to include incinerators.
US firm Covanta Energy, which won the contract to construct and operate the €350 million waste-to-energy plant in Poolbeg, yesterday accused the Green Party leader of engaging in “backyard politics” over the proposed levies.
Covanta European president Scott Whitney said he would be seeking reassurances from Taoiseach Brian Cowen that the Government will not introduce legislation that would place discriminatory levies or caps on waste-to-energy plants.
Mr Whitney said any attempt to apply the same levies on waste-to-energy facilities as landfill sites would be contrary to EU legislation, which ranks incinerators as preferable to landfill as a means for treating waste.
Covanta pointed out that a recent report by Forfás on waste policy had also highlighted how levies were not a feature in the cost of thermal treatment of waste in most EU countries.
Forfás said that the proposed levies would inhibit the development of waste-to-energy as a waste management option and would prevent Irish waste costs from coming into line with other EU member states.
Mr Whitney said many state bodies, including An Bord Pleanála, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Commission for Energy Regulation had endorsed the Poolbeg project.
“The draft waste legislation Mr Gormley is proposing is simply backyard politics and these agencies and independent regulatory bodies without a vested interest in the issue recognise that this project is good for the Irish environment, good for the Irish economy and, most importantly, good for the people of Ireland.”
Covanta is cautiously optimistic that building work will restart in early 2011 on the incinerator, which will generate heating for the equivalent of 80,000 households per annum and create 500 jobs during the construction phase.