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Irish Times - 17-02-05
Incinerator hearing chairman defends his decision on EPA

The chairman of the EPA oral hearing into the granting of a draft waste management licence to Indaver Ireland for its proposed incinerators at Ringaskiddy yesterday defended his decision not to call EPA directors or staff to attend the hearing.

Dr Jonathan Derham faced repeated criticism from opponents of the proposed incinerator on Tuesday when several speakers said the hearing was degenerating into a farce because they could not question the EPA on its decision to issue a draft licence.

Dr Derham said yesterday that the EPA board including its director general, Dr Mary Kelly, had not reached a final decision in relation to the Indaver waste licence application even though they had issued a draft licence.

"What they have issued is a proposed decision which indicates the direction they are heading, however, I stress that no final decision has been made, the statutory process is that objections to this proposed decision can be made," he said.

Dr Derham noted the demands from objectors that the EPA directors attend and defend their draft decision, but that was not the function of the oral hearing nor had he the power to demand that the directors - who are not employees of the EPA - attend the hearing.

"Furthermore, it is my view that it would be inappropriate that the board who decided to hold this hearing and who have to decide on the report on it, proceed to become part of it," said Dr Derham. "An oral hearing is for the primary purpose of gathering information and evidence that supports or details an objection. It is not a forum for the cross-examination of agency directors. If that is what some were expecting, you are mistaken," he added.

Dr Derham said that he had the discretionary power to request an EPA employee to attend if he believed it would help his task but so far, he didn't.

Mr Derry Chambers of Cork Environmental Alliance asked that the hearing be adjourned until objectors to the Indaver licence received a response to their request faxed to the EPA for its directors to attend the hearing.

"Unless the issue of attendance or non-attendance by representatives of the agency is established now, this hearing may have to reconvene at a later date, should the agency be directed to do so by a court of law," he said.

Dr Derham noted the request but refused it.

Barry Roche
© The Irish Times


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