October 6, 2008

Poolbeg Incinerator Finances Built On House Of Cards


Legal action threatens Poolbeg incinerator plan

By Paul Melia
Monday October 06 2008

A LANDMARK court case could result in the controversial Poolbeg incinerator being shelved.

Private waste collectors Greenstar and Panda are to ask the High Court to stop Dublin City Council limiting their activities in the city, and if successful it could throw the whole financial model for the waste-to-energy plant into doubt.

The council wants to tender out household waste collection routes in the city, saying that the current free-for-all is not working and is causing pollution because of the large number of bin trucks operating.

It proposes to allow companies to compete against each other to win household collection contracts, giving city bosses control of the waste stream.

This is essential because the council has entered into a 'put and pay' arrangement with the company which will operate the incinerator.

The agreement guarantees that a set amount of waste is sent for thermal treatment every year, or the council must pay a financial penalty.

However, two of the country's biggest private operators have sought a judicial review of the new regulations, which will be held in the High Court at the end of the month.

If they win the case, the council cannot guarantee a waste stream, and the whole financial model justifying the 600,000 tonne a year plant will be thrown into doubt.

"All of the infrastructure is based on owning the waste stream," one industry source said yesterday. "Everything stems from ownership of the waste.

"Poolbeg is fraught with difficulty. It's built on a house of cards and if one falls, the whole thing comes tumbling down. Dublin City Council must own and direct the waste."

Dublin City Council were not immediately available for comment, but Greenstar said that while incineration had a role in waste disposal, there was "no flexibility" in the system.

"Incineration has a role as an end of life disposal facility," spokesman Jerry Dempsey said.

"The Poolbeg one is too big and in the wrong place. Why lock into a system that offers no flexibility for the next 30 years?" he said.

The incinerator, which is opposed by Environment Minister John Gormley, was granted planning permission last November.

- Paul Melia

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