Irish Independent - 16-02-05
THE chairman of an oral hearing into a €100m toxic waste incinerator outraged opponents yesterday when he ruled it was not necessary at this stage for directors of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be called to testify.
The ruling by Dr Jonathan Derham, who was appointed by the EPA to the inquiry, led one senior environmental campaigner to dismiss the hearing as "a farce and a joke".
His ruling came on the second day of the oral hearing into the incinerator proposed for Cork Harbour by Belgian firm, Indaver, as opponents again demanded that direct evidence be offered by the EPA's board of directors who signed off on a provisional waste licence for the project last year.
But Cork Environmental Alliance (CEA) member Derry Chambers said such evidence was central to the entire oral hearing.
"These are the people that indicated they would grant a waste licence - so why can't we have them here to answer questions about their reasons?" he asked.
An Taisce's Peter Sweetman walked out of the hearing yesterday after his repeated demands for a senior EPA inspector to be brought to the inquiry for questioning were rejected by the chairman.
Others demanded that the competency and qualifications of those EPA executives who agreed to endorse the Indaver licence application be open to scrutiny.
Engineer Peter North said it was of "absolute importance" for the competency of those officials to be examined - and he told the hearing that he was flatly refused this information when he sought it.
"If these details aren't forthcoming, then I believe the entire application matter should be legally investigated," he declared.
Last October, the EPA signalled its intention to grant an outline waste licence for the project.
However, a full licence depends on the oral hearing report, which Dr Derham will compile.
Yesterday, for the second day, Cork Harbour for a Safe Environment mounted a show of strength outside the oral hearing.
It is objecting on a number of grounds, including concerns about lack of a health monitoring body for Cork, public health concerns, and the integrity of the hearing process.
It is also concerned that Indaver will introduce a second incinerator for municipal waste.
The oral hearing - which is expected to continue throughout the next two weeks - will be addressed by all 15 objectors, including Indaver itself.
The waste management firm is seeking amendments to the licence conditions demanded by the EPA. Its submission will conclude the oral hearing.
A report on the hearing, which was ordered under Section 41/44 of the Waste Management Act (1996), will be compiled by Dr Derham and submitted to the EPA board together with his recommendation.
Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment