Plans for the incinerator, which would convert much of the city’s waste into energy, have sparked strong feelings amongst local and environmentalists who fear a large-scale plant would cause unacceptable damage.

One of the arguments used against the incinerator has been financial rather than environmental, will opponents saying it will leave the public out of pocket if people’s waste habits improve and less rubbish is sent to fuel the plant.

A ‘put-or-pay’ clause sets the minimum volume of waste that must be supplied by the city council and other local authorities.

If they fail to meet this level, they will pay a penalty.

This is because waste to energy plants require a constant supply of fuel – waste – to operate economically and operators will suffer a loss if this supply runs low.

Now Environment Minister John Gormley has appointed senior counsel John Hennessy to conduct a thorough investigation.

The report will consider the legal and financial risks to Dublin City Council if it enters the public private finance agreement required to build the plant.

A statement from the Minister’s office said:

“The report should identify, explain and quantify the financial and related consequences for both the DCC, and the PPP Company associated with the project proceeding in a range of different scenarios, including:

  • Household waste volumes remain static.
  • Household waste volumes fall by average 1% per annum over the period.
  • Household waste volumes increase as projected in the EPA Waste Report 2008.
  • Recycling rates commence at current recycling rates and remain static.
  • Recycling rates commence at current recycling rates and increase by varying rates such as an average of 1%, 2%, 3% per annum over the period.
  • Loss of of varying levels of market share.
  • A combination of any of the foregoing.
  • The Report should also identify, explain and quantify the financial risks and consequences for DCC associated with the alteration or abandonment of the Project in a range of scenarios.”

    It is expected that Mr Hennessy will report back to the Minister in six weeks.

    Minister Gormley said: “There have been a wide range of claims regarding this project, its financial viability, and the financial consequences of either proceeding with or abandoning it.

    “I believe a proper and full independent examination by a qualified expert is required to bring clarity to these issues.”

    Sam Bond

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