Incinerator bid clears final hurdle
The controversial 600 million euro Poolbeg incinerator in Dublin has cleared its final hurdle after city bosses secured a value-for-money certificate.
Seven years after planning permission was granted, and despite a series of financial, political and regulatory obstacles, work on the contentious waste-to-energy plant is expected to begin in November.
The heads of the four Dublin local authorities have been asked to sign off on the massive burner with or without the support of elected representatives.
Councillors, who went against it in March, have been told a second no vote will not stop the radical shift in waste management and an incinerator big enough to handle 600,000 tonnes of rubbish, power 80,000 homes and potentially heat 50,000.
Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan warned failure to get it signed off from bosses in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin would leave a 105 million euro bill for a botched plan.
Ciaran Cuffe, Green Party councillor, said: "This is a poisoned chalice whoever has to deal with it - Dublin City Council, the minister or councillors - b ut we certainly feel there are better ways of dealing with our waste."
Councillors will debate the merits of the plan on Monday after receiving three reports from Mr Keegan outlining why the massive incinerator is the best option for waste management.
It is being forecast to earn from 30 million to 155 million euro for the four councils over its 45-year lifetime, depending on electricity prices and fees charged for burning waste.
And the city boss said failure to get agreement would force budget cuts to parks, recreation, transport and flood defences - 43 million euro in Dublin City; 22 million euro in South Dublin; 23 million euro in Fingal; and 17 million euro in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown.
Building the plant will cost about 500 million euro - on top of the 97 million euro already spent planning it - with about 300 jobs created over the three-year construction.
Some 100 staff will run the plant.
Poolbeg will be large enough to handle 600,000 tonnes of waste but the operating contract agrees it will only take in 550,000 tonnes to power the 60 megawatt turbine. Aside from that it will also contain modern thermal technology which could heat 50,000 homes if the required infrastructure is built in local neighbourhoods.
Estimates say 121 rubbish trucks will visit the site each day.
Environmental consultants RPS assessed the scheme for the council and found there should be more than enough rubbish fit for burning to meet the levels needed even after mandatory recycling and landfill targets are met.
The incinerator is also backed by the major players in the waste management business in Dublin, councillors have been told.
RPS said that by 2020 with 550,000 tonnes of rubbish going to Poolbeg, 220,000 tonnes going to the Indaver incinerator in Meath, 32,000 tonnes being biologically treated and 121,000 tonnes being incinerated in cement kilns, there will still be 485,000 tonnes of waste in Ireland requiring treatment or disposal.
It also said the cost of sending rubbish to Poolbeg will be competitive with landfill and export.
The final hurdle - after the European Commission ruled earlier this year that state aid was not an issue - was the value-for-money certificate.
In his report, Mr Keegan revealed the Government body that sanctions public private partnerships, the National Development Finance Agency, has given the green light.
The decision clears the way for the largest operator of waste-to-energy facilities in the world, US firm Covanta, to build and operate Poolbeg.
According to the documents, air pollution will be continuously monitored and water from the Liffey and Dublin bay will cool condensers in the plant.
Residue from the plant will be treated for metals at a different site and used to produce other materials which can be used in construction and buried in depleted salt mines.
First proposed in 1997, the Poolbeg incinerator was granted planning permission in 2007.
Only some clearance work has been carried out due to near-constant delays, including former Green leader John Gormely refusing to grant a foreshore licence when he was environment minister.