From top: protests in Carragiline, County Cork ahead of oral hearings into the proposed incinerator in 2016; Dan Boyle
Recently the twelfth deferral of a decision took place, on whether Bord Pleanala would make public its decision on whether or not it would approve its decision to grant permission for a toxic waste incinerator for Ringaskiddy in Cork Harbour.
That deferral happened on May 25, the day of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment to The Constitution. In PR terms it was a clear attempt to present bad news when thoughts were elsewhere.
There wasn’t too long to wait for the next possible opportunity, the Thursday before the bank holiday weekend. It was the expected bad news.
The reason for the previous 11 deferments, in the 27 months since the holding of a public oral hearing, being the inability of Bord Pleanala to spin its decision on planning grounds.
In the 18 years since this proposal was first mooted, this was the fourth planning process. The previous three applications also resulted in public oral hearings. A fifth oral hearing took place over the question of granting an EPA pollution licence, which illogically but unsurprisingly was heard first.
In the three of the four planning oral hearings, the appointed planning inspector recommended that the application be refused.
There are, and always have been strong planning grounds, to refuse this application. The proposed site is subject to both flooding and coastal erosion. At the most recent hearing the Defence Forces argued that the plumes from the incinerators would impact on the navigation of helicopters in and out of Haulbowline Naval Base.
The other telling feature of the most recent oral hearing was the proposing applicant, Indaver, being called out by the planning inspector for having presented falsified figures.
The successive public hearings have shown that is not even a pretense that consultation on the issue of planning exists. Bord Pleanala is now not pretending it is deciding on planning grounds. The reasons it gave for its decision was EU and Irish government ‘policy’.
Mention of EU policy is overblown. Incineration, even under its pseudonyms of ‘thermal treatment’ and ‘waste to energy’, is well down the pecking order in terms of the EU Waste Directive. It is seen as a diminishing and inefficient technology, one of the most expensive and dirty means of producing energy.
What Bord Pleanala is really saying with this decision is that incineration is Irish government policy.
When the Tánaiste, and local TD, Simon Coveney, says he is disappointed in this decision he is the person who is best positioned to do something about this.
He could start by re-introducing an incineration levy, designed to measure the true environmental cost of incineration co-inciding with an existing landfill levy. The emphasis in waste policy must be in reducing the creation of unnecessary waste, while also promoting the greatest possible take up of Recycling. Incineration discourages both.
Opposition to this facility is as far from NIMBY as it is possible to be. For almost half a century the village of Ringaskiddy has been an industrial sacrifice area.
The community has already taken on more than its fair share. It should not have to take a puff of smoke more.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle
Top pic: Mother Jones Cork