Irish Times - 16/01/06
The Department of the Environment spent 18 months trying to find ways to accommodate incinerator company Indaver's objection to rules that prevented the transportation of rubbish over regional boundaries, according to confidential briefing notes.
Up to June 2005, the Government had ruled that the State would be divided into 10 regions for handling waste management with each being held responsible for the handling of rubbish generated in its own area by landfill, recycling or incineration.
During meetings in 2004 with then minister for the environment Martin Cullen and senior officials, Indaver strongly objected to rules forcing it to burn only rubbish from Cavan, Meath, Monaghan and Louth at its Carranstown incinerator near Duleek, Co Meath.
In January 2004, the company told Mr Cullen it had "major difficulties" with the restrictions because they would increase its costs and allow its customers "to dictate terms" and could threaten the withdrawal of vital bank loans.
However, a briefing document prepared by officials for Mr Cullen for that meeting shows that the Department was already inclined to find some solution acceptable to the company and had already tested a solution with its lawyers.
"The concern that they have is that the effect of the condition (barring such movements of rubbish) attached by Bord Pleanála would leave Indaver at the commercial mercy of a cartel of the waste collectors in the regions," states the Department of Environment briefing note.
"In other words, the collectors (en masse) could dictate to Indaver the price they would be willing to pay for sending waste to the Carranstown facility, threatening to take their waste to another facility if the price was not acceptable. Such a situation would render the development of the plant commercially unacceptable," the briefing note, seen by The Irish Times stated.
Furthermore, environment officials told Mr Cullen that it was "important to bear in mind that Indaver remain fully committed to the regional approach to waste-management in Ireland.
"While many of the other private sector players would prefer to move away from this, Indaver would stand apart in the sense of their commitment to making the regional approach work," the note reads.
Louth Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd said the tone of the documentation and the number of meetings Indaver had with the minister and senior officials showed that it had the State's favour. "People who opposed the development at Carranstown have never been given the same level of access or enjoyed the same sort of relationship with the department," he said.
In a letter written to the Department in November 2003, Indaver said the changes it sought to the regional boundaries' transport ban made environmental and business sense.
Under the change, eventually accepted by Mr Cullen's successor Dick Roche, the Meath incinerator will "primarily", but not exclusively, burn rubbish from Cavan, Meath, Monaghan and Louth.
Making clear that Indaver would not be seeking a licence to burn more than the 150,000 tonnes it originally sought, the company's general manager, John Ahern, said: "We are not trying to undermine the regional plan."
In an effort to accommodate Indaver, the Department of Environment considered whether it could force collectors in a region to send their rubbish to a particular plant, but lawyers ruled this out.
The briefing note prepared for Mr Cullen made clear that Indaver's opposition to the transport ban was shared by the Environmental Protection Agency.
© The Irish Times
Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment