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Irish Times - 04-09-07
Minister denies bid to sway planning outcome
by Tim O'Brien

EPA conference: Minister for the Environment John Gormley has insisted that his anti-incineration comments of recent days were not an attempt to influence the outcome of incinerator applications currently before An Bord Pleanála.

Speaking at the opening of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conference in Dublin yesterday, Mr Gormley said he is to consider extending the current landfill levy to incineration, because he sees both landfill and incineration as waste disposal. He also said he is considering a significant rise in the landfill levy from €15 per tonne.

His remarks followed his recent comments that he did not want local authorities getting into "put or pay" arrangements with incinerator firms where the levels of waste going to incineration were guaranteed.

Mr Gormley said incinerators were expensive and required a 20- to 25-year payback period to the operators.

This would, he said, "require a guaranteed waste system . . . building them will define waste policy for a quarter of a century".

Mr Gormley also reportedly told a gathering at the recent Festival of World Cultures in Dún Laoghaire that incineration was no longer a key part of government policy, and that An Bord Pleanála should not overrule the recommendations of its own inspectors on that basis.

But he asserted strongly yesterday that he would "never" interfere with An Bord Pleanála.

Mr Gormley said his comments should only be taken in the context of the Programme for Government, which has pledged a review of the State's waste management strategy.

In taking a stance opposing put or pay arrangements, Mr Gormley said he was articulating exactly where he stood on the issue. "It was not a case of any influence [being used improperly]," he said.

The Minister said extending the landfill levy to incineration was one of a number of measures that could be considered to advance the waste management hierarchy of "reduce, reuse, recycle, which is waste minimisation", which, he said, came before incineration and landfill.

Mr Gormley laid emphasis on the mechanical and biological treatment of waste, which, he said, arise ahead of landfill or incineration in the hierarchy of waste management.

However, Jackie Kearney of Indaver Ireland and Irish vice-president of the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants, said incinerators that generated electricity created a form of energy recovery and contributed to the fight against climate change by "providing a sustainable, localised source of renewable energy".

According to Ms Kearney, an intergovernmental panel on climate report published recently says "waste-to-energy can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector, especially in the short term. This is because it emits fewer greenhouse gases than landfill and generates renewable energy."

John Ahern, managing director of Indaver Ireland, said he did not believe attempts to impose an incineration levy would prove to be legal under competition law.

© 2007 The Irish Times


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