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Cullen plans to fast-track building of incinerators

By Harry McGee The Irish Examiner

ENVIRONMENT Minister Martin Cullen plans to fast-track the construction of municipal waste incinerators around the country by the end of the Government’s term in 2007.

Mr Cullen aims to introduce the incinerators under the proposed National Infrastructure Board (NIB). Seven incinerators are planned under regional waste management strategies but those that have reached the planning stages have become bogged down in the planning process because of fierce local objections.

Department sources confirmed to the Irish Examiner yesterday that the minister’s view of Ireland’s growing waste management problem was “realistic” and that urgent action was need to replace municipal land-fills, most of which will have reached capacity by 2006.

In terms of where Ireland stood on waste-management in European terms, the source said: “We are in the relegation zone. We need to do something about it quickly.”

While remaining tight-lipped on the planned structure and functions of the NIB yesterday, the minister reiterated his view that emissions from thermal-treatment plans comprised less than 2% of dioxins in the atmosphere, a level that was less harmful than dioxins emitted by bonfires on Hallowe’en night.

Mr Cullen favours a limited number of high-tech thermal treatment facilities around the country.

So far, one municipal plant in Co Meath, run by private company Indaver, has received permission while another in Ringaskiddy is currently in the planning process.

Under the regional plans, further plants are earmarked for the south-east, Connacht, the north-east, Dublin, the midlands, and in the Limerick-Clare-Kerry region.

The minister was speaking at the launch of the Office of Environment Enforcement (OEE) yesterday and also promised that he would target the “quick-buck” merchants who flouted environmental laws.

The OEE, with 70 staff, will be a unit of the Environmental Protection Agency that will enforce waste and pollution control licences, supervise the environmental performances of local authorities and have power to prosecute for licence breaches and illegal dumping.

The 2003 Environment Act substantially increases the maximum fines of 15m for environmental pollution. Significantly, it also provides for a reversal of the burden of proof, leaving the defendant to prove that an activity did not cause environmental pollution.

Also, for the first time, landowners can be deemed to be complicit in illegal dumping on their land unless they can prove otherwise.

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