From top: Model of the incinerator planned for Cork Harbour; Dan Boyle
Plans for a toxic waste incinerator in Cork Harbour have resurfaced.
Will common sense now go up in smoke?
Dan Boyle writes:
It was fifteen years ago, almost to the day. A local reporter had tipped me off. A Belgian company was holding a press conference to announce their intention to construct not one, but two, incinerators in Cork Harbour. I invited myself.
The announcement had been carefully choreographed. It had been an open secret that senior officials in the Department of the Environment had been pushing incineration as a ‘convenient’ method of waste disposal. Consultants were appointed to come up with right answers, through the usual means of presenting contention as fact and doctoring the necessary figures.
The decision making process was turned arseways to produce a desired result. This would see the granting of an EPA licence before Bord Pleanala would decide if the proposed site was suitable for the suggested plant and buildings.
The director of the EPA, herself an IBEC appointment, declared herself in favour of incineration even as her organisation had yet to adjudicate on a licence. This was all part of the Department’s Yes Yes strategy.
However, in a rare show of independence, Bord Pleanala couldn’t give permission to a site with an inadequate road network that was prone to flooding.
There we thought it would lay. What I tried to do in the Oireachtas was to economically undermine incineration, to factor in its real environmental costs. Those pushing incineration didn’t seem to give damn about economics.
That fine public servant, John Tierney, when Dublin City Manager signed a contract for a Dublin incinerator days before John Gormley became Minister for the Environment.
Included in the contract was a clause that obliged the Irish taxpayer to pay the incinerator company whenever the Dublin local authorities did not present enough waste to burn.
Green objections to incinerators have never been about Nimbyism. We never wanted incinerators in anyone’s back yard. It’s a combustion process that adds to CO2. It undermines the need to recycle waste.
It’s a cocktail technology where different materials are mixed in quantities creating uncertainty as to what its potential by products are. It doesn’t get rid of waste, it merely puts it into other forms like fly ash and air pollution.
In government we drafted legislation which sought to introduce an incineration levy, that was to parallel an already existing landfill levy. The bill was published and was being considered when the government fell.
In his first act as Minister Phil Hogan took the bill, but removed the levy.
The viability of incineration increased hugely. Indaver, the Belgian company, last Monday announced its intention to resubmit its Cork application. It has reason to be even more confident that it will be successful this time.
The current Director General of the EPA is the person previously who presented the environmental case for Indaver at previous EPA and Bord Pleanala hearings.
When it comes the policy and decision making in Ireland it’s a very very small World.