Two separate challenges to the granting of a licence to Irish Cement, to allow it to continue to manufacture cement in Castlemungret, Co. Limerick, by replacing the current fossil fuel for the process with co-incineration of waste products, have been admitted to the fast track Commercial Court.
Limerick solicitor and president of Environmental Trust Ireland, Michelle Hayes, has brought a challenge against an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision to grant a revised industrial emissions licence to Irish Cement Ltd (ICL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of CRH plc.
A second challenge is also being brought by Sue Ann Foley, daughter of billionaire JP McManus, over the licence and an application for leave to bring that case had been pending before the court.
On Monday, both cases were admitted by Mr Justice Denis McDonald to the High Court's fast track commercial division.
The application was brought by ICL and the respondents were neutral on the application. The respondents in Ms Hayes case are the EPA, the Minister for Environment Climate and Communications and the State. The EPA and the State are respondents in Ms Foley’s case. ICL is a notice party in both cases.
The cement works at Castlemungret, around 5km from Limerick City Centre, has been in existence since 1938 and employ around 100 people.
It has a capacity to produce 1.3 million tonnes of cement a year and the process involves burning of limestone from the quarry, and locally sourced shale, with milled coal or coke powder at high temperatures in a kiln.
Under the revised licence granted by the EPA, it allows for co-incineration of waste as a replacement fuel and raw material for part of the existing fossil fuel material.
Among the reliefs sought in the legal challenges are an order quashing the EPA decision of last May on grounds including that there has never been an environmental impact assessment (EIA) or appropriate assessment (AA) of the quarry as required by EU directives.
In its application seeking admission of the cases to the Commercial Court, ICL says it intends to replace fossil fuels with non-fossil fuels and use alternative raw materials in its process at the cement factory.
It says it has spent €1.85m already in designing and procuring equipment for this purpose and another €1m on applying for the revised licence and for planning permission. It estimates the total cost of the project exceeds €10m.
The planning permission it got from An Bord Pleanála in 2018 expires in 2025 and there is a commercial imperative that the legal challenges be determined expeditiously, it says.
Mr Justice McDonald, after admitting both cases to the commercial list, adjourned them for two weeks to allow the parties address the issue of a costs protection application which, if successful, means an applicant will not have to bear huge legal costs if they lose because it was in the public interest that the case was brought.