The Village on Poolbeg

James Nix, master’s in real estate, barrister, and unsuccessful candidate for the Green Party, has a piece in the Village: “Incinerating money: the economics of Poolbeg”.

The summary is interesting: An overwhelming success story of private sector dynamism in recycling is set to be undone by an oversized incinerator at Poolbeg – at massive cost to Dublin’s businesses. This was told to me in confidence, but it is good to see it confirmed in print. IWMA is not against incineration. Rather, they know they cannot compete. Nix champions the local companies who are fighting to maintain their grip on an undersupplied market.

Nix claims (as are others) that the Poolbeg incinerator is vertically integrated with waste collection. It is not. The incinerator will burn waste from any collector.

Michael Smith, Village editor, has a companion piece: “The Poolbeg incinerator: an essay in cynical lobbying”, in which he argues that Minister “Gormley has faced an insidious onslaught from multiple quarters” — a cabinet member victimised by the powers that be.

This was published yesterday. Smith write: “[t]he most blatantly inaccurate presumption was that emissions from the Poolbeg incinerator would be included under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. This resulted in a significant underestimate of the costs of the facility.” This is disingenuous. After inclusion of CO2 emissions, incineration externalities are still far below the Eunomia estimates.

Smith also writes that “John Gormley is […] sitting on the foreshore licence” something that the Minister has repeatedly denied (see latest example).

64 thoughts on “The Village on Poolbeg”

  1. @Richard,

    I fear you will be accused of becoming obsessive about this issue (similar to the accusations I regularly field about my efforts to expose the nonsense being sold by Minister Ryan, his Department, the CER, the ESB and BGE).

    This is Ireland. It has all the trappings of a long-established, stable parliamentary democracy, but that is just a façade. The banking disaster has torn a big hole in this, but the realisation has not yet dawned sufficiently widely that the misgovernment and unapplied regulation and oversight that wrought this disaster permeates every aspect of Ireland’s economy and society.

  2. Richard,

    How does it make economic sense for Dublin City Council to guarantee a minimum tonnage of waste to be burned by the Poolbeg incinerator? Why is the project a joint venture between the city and the incineration company, rather than being left to private investors to fund?

    Is the provision of a put-or-pay clause not a subsidy to Covanta? And if so what does Dublin get in return for this subsidy? Will the effect of guaranteeing a minimum incineration tonnage not be to disincentivise actions such as waste prevention, reuse, recycling?

    Article 4 of the 2008 EU Waste Directive clearly mandates a waste hierarchy with incineration second from last.

  3. “The incinerator will burn waste from any collector.”

    Surely the issue is that Dublin City Council is suspected of trying to ensure that collectors will be obliged to send their waste to the incinerator, or that all the local authorities’ waste goes to the incinerator? Perhaps you disagree with someone treating that as quasi vertical integration but that is just playing word games.

    “IWMA is not against incineration. Rather, they know they cannot compete.”

    Please explain this? What are they competing at?

    As far as I know, IWMA are happy to compete on household waste as long as they can process household waste as they choose.

    Once they are not obliged to use the incinerator then they can weigh the cost of incineration against the cost of having their own facilities. For the most part, they compete at household waste collection. The problem is that they don’t want to be forced into using an incinerator which will cost more than their own facilities.

    Perhaps there are some issues around non-household waste processing but I think you should spell out how and why and in what markets other private operators will not be able to compete. Otherwise it is just a bald assertion.

  4. Stephen O’Byrnes should be happy with Michael Smith’s portrayal.

    O’Byrnes, being a former journalist, means that he has idiot journalists now eating out of his hand.

    I have never met this claimed Svengali of his profession but like others, I don’t need assistance in observing traditional Irish gombeenism.

    Gormley has been in office over 3 years and the top public official in Dublin City, the city manager, says the Dublin City Council is implementing national waste policy.

    The minister says it isn’t and rather than having the Government formally overturn past decisions, Gormley proposes charges and rules that appear to be geared towards undermining the economics of the Government approved incinerator by the back door.

    True to the tradition of Irish ministers, Gormley is awaiting a report from a senior counsel to set out options for him – – again in his fourth year in office.

    Of course, the taxpayer has to pay for this expensive report.

    Michael Smith is apparently rich and Gormely is set for life as a senior politician.

    The victims of this appallingly run country who cannot leave, can only hope that a better system can be found with accountability at a level in some of the world’s best run countries.

    How can Vienna live with several incinerators; have a diverse national waste management policy and be the capital of a country with the Eurozone’s lowest unemployment in August at 4.3%?

    Surely after the destruction of the lives of tens of thousands of fellow citizens, isn’t it time for this paddywhackery among the protected elite to end?

  5. @MH

    John Gormley is facing unemployment or being an opposition backbencher at best. He is not facing life as a senior politician.

    I do not understand why you portray an environmentalist taking other environmentalists and industry’s concerns on board as “paddywhackery among the protected elite”?

    Also, the suggestion that the Minister can legislate to the effect of scuppering one contract (if that is what you were suggesting by “having the Government formally overturn past decisions”) is incorrect. That wouldbe unconstitutional. Maybe you could benefit from a counsel’s opinion.

    As for using the simplistic example of Austria as justification for a multibillion commintment, that is the real back of an envelope, lazy and ignorant reasoning that has prevailed in our local authorities and civil service for too long.

  6. There is huge risk and upfront cost in developing a project of this type. The attractiveness of the market is highly influenced by the underlying regulations and laws – knowing that these are consistently applied is of huge importance. Changes in regulation can have huge impact on the overall industry structure and thus attractiveness.

    We have a renewables target of 40% to meet by 2020. Those of us that are developing business plans (non-wind based) to chase the opportunities need the uncertainty created by Ministerial interference in regulation to be eliminated. This interference can so fundamentally change the structure of the industry that the economics do not stack up. In particular the availability and securiity of a feedstock to supply whatever technology is proposed can totally be impacted on (e.g. a change from people paying you to process to you paying them to source).

    There must be some consistency in order to generate projects that are bankable and both look to achieve the renewables target and generate employment.

  7. @Zhou
    The Poolbeg incinerator will compete in the market for waste disposal. Landfill is constrained, so incineration will be the cheapest option. The put-or-pay clause further implies that Poolbeg has lower financing costs than the competition. The gate price at Poolbeg will be such that they that they won’t need the preferential treatment that comes with vertical integration.

    Some of the IWMA companies, on the other hand, are vertically integrating by building disposal capacity — I guess because margins are thin in waste collection. However, these companies have opted for expensive disposal options. They can only make money if the disposal market is tight.

    With Poolbeg, the disposal market will not be tight.

  8. @Richard Tol

    Are you saying that the incinerator will be able to compete aggressively on waste disposal because, due to the put-or-pay clause, it will either be receiving a subsidy from Dublin Local authorities or will have achieved enough input to generate huge economies of scale?

    If that is the case, then why did the local authorities seek to seize control of household waste collection?

  9. @Richard Tol

    I suspect that the reason they did it was because they realised the put-or-pay clause was a noose around their necks.

    The waste operators don’t want to be banned from collecting waste or compelled to supply to the incinerator (quasi “vertically integrated”) as the local authorities tried to impose.

    Similarly and they don’t want to have to ‘compete’ with an incinerator receiving a massive subsidy from the local authority.

    The waste operators’ position seems reasonable to me. They simply want to avoid the pitfalls of a hugely distorted market.

  10. @ Zhou

    “The waste operators’ position seems reasonable to me. They simply want to avoid the pitfalls of a hugely distorted market.”

    its always ‘reasonable’ to protect your business….. that position doesn’t necessarily align with the interests of taxpayers however.

    Gormley is ‘agin’ it for purely ideological reasons and IWMA is ‘agin’ it for purely monetary reasons….. like the truth and Ryanair, they make uncomfortable bedfellows.

  11. There is a strong possiblity that the taxpayer will be bailing out Dublin Corp to cover the cost of the Coventa contract so the taxpayer’s interest should also be aligned with the Minister & IWMA regardless of how uncomfortable it is in the bed

  12. @Richard

    In listing James Nix’s credentials you omit his Masters in Transport and Planning.

    “IWMA is not against incineration.”

    It would be unusual for the IWMA to oppose incineration given that one of their members, Indaver, is an incinerator operator.

    “Nix claims (as are others) that the Poolbeg incinerator is vertically integrated with waste collection. It is not. The incinerator will burn waste from any collector.”

    I don’t see any mention of vertical integration in the article, so perhaps you could point out specifically which of his claims is incorrect. The incinerator is at least partiallly vertically integrated, in that more than 50% of its capacity is tied to the waste collections operated by the four Dublin local authorities. Of course these collections are declining in both absolute and market share terms, which explains the abortive attempt by the local authorities to secure private sector waste for the incinerator by way of a variation to their regional waste plan.

    “After inclusion of CO2 emissions, incineration externalities are still far below the Eunomia estimates.”

    But only after you allow yourself to discount all other emissions on the entirely spurious basis that EPA licences for these facilities include limits on emissions. Curiously, externalities associated with landfill are not excluded from the calculations on the same basis.

    “Smith also writes that “John Gormley is […] sitting on the foreshore licence” something that the Minister has repeatedly denied (see latest example).”

    He denied it to Michael Smith also.

  13. @Ryano
    Nix indeed does not use the word vertical integration. It is an implicit assumption.

    I’d be grateful if you could provide us with a list of landfill emissions that are both counted as externalities and regulated under IPPC.

  14. @Ronan Furlong

    I also am ‘agin’ it for monetary reasons.

    I, as a taxpayer, do not want to subsidise this put-or-pay clause when the local authorities need help.
    I, as a Dublin householder, do not want to get stung with excessive domestic rates because the local authorities signe dup to this.
    I, as somebody who makes a living in Dublin, do not want to see Dublin businesses having to spend an excessive amount of rates rather than re-investing in their businesses and safeguarding employment.
    I, as somebody who makes a living in Dublin, do not want to see people discouraged form setting up businesses because commercial rates are unduly high because of this pu-or-pay clause.

  15. @ zhou_enlai

    John Gormley is facing unemployment or being an opposition backbencher at best. He is not facing life as a senior politician.

    If he loses his seat, severance the first year and an annual pension of €70 to €80K is hardly penury.

    I guess if Dick Roche’s name was substituted for Gormley, your perspective may be different.

    The saga of course has nothing got to do with nimbyism and the usual desire to have one’s cake and eat it that afflicts so many projects in Ireland.

    So is the Dublin City Council implementing national waste policy?

    I suppose you also believe that the ESRI was corrupt and produced a report to suit Dublin City Council?

    You have no doubt worked out all the cost of your alternatives!

    As for Austria, perish the thought that we could learn anything from one of Europe’s well-run small economies?

    Wonder how long it would take to get any public project off the ground if there wasn’t the pressure of EU directives?

    Of course we all like to object as long as someone else pays.

  16. @Zhou

    So if it is proven that the Poolbeg incinerator is the most cost effective large scale solution to waste disposal for the Dublin City Region, you will support it fully?

    I would think that a centralised facility with major economies of scale will prove to be the best deal for the taxpayer…. if I am wrong then I would like to see the financial analysis that disabuses me of that notion.

    Losses to IWMA members who wont be able to compete with Poolbeg shouldnt be taken into account when assessing the project…. all discontinuous innovations inevitably leave a trail of losers behind them.

    There is no basis for assuming that a large scale centralised facility will cost the taxpayer/ratepayer anymore than the status quo…. if anything the opposite is likely to be far easier to prove.

    Vested interests and ideological opponents need to demonstrate clearly that the Poolbeg incinerator deal is bad for the pocket…. without the canard of theoretical compensation to Covanta being used to prop up the argument.

    At the end of the day I will vote for the most efficient, least expensive (in the long run) option

  17. @Richard

    “Nix indeed does not use the word vertical integration. It is an implicit assumption.”

    Well perhaps you can then point me to some of the errors in fact arising out of this implicit assumption. It’s usually more useful to discuss what’s actually written in an article rather than making assumptions about assumptions.

    “I’d be grateful if you could provide us with a list of landfill emissions that are both counted as externalities and regulated under IPPC.”

    Methane, which accounts for the bulk of the levy calculated for landfill. The ESRI report gives it a specific exemption from the logic applied to all other emissions on the basis that it’s “such an important contributor to global warming”.

  18. Interesting stuff. Over here in Ontario there has been a big uplift in composting but some plants have been forced to close due to public nuisance from odour.

    “a mix of leaves, sweet-wrappers and empty food receptacles could be easily recycled” – does Nix mean composted?

    If Indaver had spare capacity, it is near the railway line that sees up to four laden trains a day from Tara Mines to North Wall (about 500t of ore each). Assuming that using the empty returning trains to carry baled refuse from a North Wall transfer operation was allowed (including by CIE unions) and that it is significantly lighter than zinc ore by volume that could still mean hundreds of tonnes/day removed from central Dublin’s disposal needs.

    Poolbeg, by contrast, has no railhead. I suppose it could accept barges now that the Royal Canal is being reopened… not sure that’s what the folks who lobbied for that had in mind!

  19. @Zhou,

    You are rightly concerned about constitutional propriety. As I have noted previously, there is a clear conflict between the responsibilities of Deputy Gormley as a constituency TD and as a Government Minister. He should recuse himself from ministerial decision-making on this issue and transfer responsibility to An Taoiseach. If An Taoiseach is unwilling or unable to do so, the relevant Oireachtas Cttee could hold hearings and adjudicate on the matter either confirming the current policy and its implementation or requesting amendments to the policy and legislation. Such a decision would have to be confrmed by the Oireachtas.

    Without getting into the minutiae of the issues raised, it strikes me as strange that waste collectors are competing in the market, rather than for the market – and this seems to be contributing to the current problems.

    And, perhaps, the ‘put-or-pay’ – more like a ‘put and pay or don’t put and still pay’ could have been avoided if DCC/Covanta had had an ‘open season’ to assess the commitment to reserve capacity and pay and had an auction of long-term tradable property rights to deliver waste.

  20. @Paul Hunt

    What are the “current problems”? Is it that the local authorities cannot treat waste collection like a cash cow? Most people I know find the private companies cheaper and providing a better service.

    I do not understand the bias in favour of competing for the market. It strikes me as another way for the local authorities to impose extra costs and conditions. That is why they have commissioned a report to promote it.

    The conflict of interest point is spurious nonsense as far as I am concerned. apart from the fact that the Minister’s opposition is based on a political principle and not local politics (as acknowledged ny Ronan Furlong above). In any event there is zero precedent for Ministers avoiding issues which touch on their constituencies (quite the opposite in fact). I look forward to Phil Hogan getting this thrown back in his face if Enda does survive and the Dark One is made a Minister.

    I don’t understand the auction point.

    @Ronan Furlong / Michael Hennigan

    One cannot assess all the costs and implications without access to the contract and without any proper independent assessment of same. You conclude it is cheaper without having the facts. Fair play.

    Also, I am not motivated by purely commercial concerns. The environmental well being or the planet and the future of the human race aslo concerns me.

  21. @Zhou
    Competition for the market is appropriate in case of economies in density, as there are in waste collection.

    Note that Minister Gormley only opposes incineration in his own constituency.

  22. @Richard

    “Methane from landfill is doubly regulated and should therefore by doubly counted.”

    The mind boggles. If the above makes any kind of sense it’s entirely lost on me. I would just note that this is not the same rationale for counting methane as is offered in the ESRI report.

    “Note that Minister Gormley only opposes incineration in his own constituency.”

    That is a false statement. Minister Gormley has been entirely consistent on incineration since well before it was ever planned to locate an incinerator in his constituency.

  23. @Zhou

    I hadn’t realised that the Poolbeg controversy was central to the future of the human race…. in my naivety I was labouring under the misapprehension that it was a grubby face saving exercise in political expediency….

    like I said earlier… I’m open to persuasion….show me that there is 1) a more efficient, 2) cost effective and 3) environmentally friendly way of dealing with our waste and I will happily consider it.

    The problem that I see on the anti-incineration side of the argument is that while you have made some ground on number 3 you are patently losing the argument on numbers 1 and 2.

    You are trying to keep incineration off the agenda for the (tenuous) benefit of your kids and future generations… I am trying to keep ‘clientilist’ politicians off the agenda for the (obvious) benefit of my kids and future generations

  24. I don’t do tutoring service but if I did I would charge by the hour and I worry that it would cost you more than the billions of euros liability which the secret Covanta contract may impose on Dublin taxpayers.

    If you think that DCC and Covanta are winning the argument on costs then so be it. I cannot see what you base that on.

  25. I’m not sure that economies of density are a sufficient condition for competition for a market being appropriate. It’s a condition that I believe is satisfied by retail.

  26. @Richard ”Competition for the market is appropriate in case of economies in density, as there are in waste collection”.

    Your client lost that argument in the high court

    Local Authorities do not have the power to dictate who collects the waste or where they send it.

    If they can compete in the waste market by offering a cost effective collection and disposal service then they could bring this waste to the Covanta incinerator. But they can’t they are hopeless at waste mgt. which is why they are withdrawing services all over the country.

    You must have great faith to beleive that of your client can run the only profitable LA waste operation in the country.

    As I’ve shown before the Dublin Local Authorities are losing control of waste every day. Below are figures from their annual reports showing they are rapidly going out of business.

    Below is the quantity of waste sent to landfill from the 4 Dublin local authorities since 2006 and my estimate for 2010 and 2011 The trend is clear.
    (Figures from annual reports)

    DCC FCC SDCC DLRCC
    2006 148,317 64,252 59,438 Couldn’t find
    2007 138,861 61,216 63,133 Couldn’t find
    2008 121,017 54,458 59,452 29,490
    2009 104,694 37,789 43,471* Couldn’t find
    2010 85,000** 25,000** 30,000** Not sure Total 2010: 140,000**
    2011 70,000 20,000 22,000 0*** Total 2011: 112,000**

    * up to end of october 2009
    **my best estimate
    *** DLRCC have pulled out of waste business because of losses and competition.

    The Dublin LA’s are therefore in the process crashing out of the waste business dramatically becuase of competition and housholders becoming more price aware.

    The are also making a profit of -60million in the process.

    At least DLRCC will no longer be burdening its ratepayers will an annual loss of 3.5m a year.

    If this rate of decline continues the Dublin LA’s will only control 50,000 tonnes or so by 2014 (Although I’d say the decline could be terminal). they will have to then pay the gate fee * 320,000 tonnes, to dispose of 50,000 tonnes. You can expect that 60million loss to increase dramatically.

    When the Dublin Local Authorities examine the waste they collected and the customers they lost in 2010 they will pull the plug on this project.

  27. @Richard

    I’m still trying to grasp what you’re getting at with your vertical integration comments. Are you denying that the Dublin local authorities have guaranteed to supply more than half the waste to this facility?

    “At the moment, competition for the market may be illegal, but that situation cannot last.”

    Interesting comment. And what is the implication of this for Poolbeg, given that it’s apparently not vertically integrated?

  28. My reading of the literature is that it mostly favours competition for the market in solid waste collection, but that the case for this preference is not completely clear cut. The case rests on two related propositions – that a single provider will be more efficient, and that solid waste collection is a natural monopoly.

    The first of these is somewhat strange by itself. There are any number of markets that could be served with more efficient operations by a single provider, but in almost all cases we accept a small loss of efficiency because it is more than compensated by the benefits of competition in the market. A US study that I referenced here many months ago found that competing waste collectors could be almost as efficient as a single collector in modestly densely built up areas.

    As for the proposition that solid waste collection is a natural monopoly, there is simply no consensus in the literature.

    Competition for the market may well be the best solution, but it is not clear that its inherent advantages over other solutions are so great as to compel policymakers to choose it.

  29. @Richard,
    Why do you say I assume vertical intergration?

    I would not impose any model. If a waste collector wants to build a disposal faclity and compete, then good luck to them. If there plans don’t work out they may lose a lot of money.

    If DCC want to sign a 25 year contract to gaurantee a supply of 320,000 tonnes (which is essential vertical integration, as they are making the financial comitment to the disposal outlet) then good luck to them.
    My fear is they will need a hell of a lot of luck, and indeed may need to change the law and waste policy to make there plan pay off, given the fact that they control a dwindling quantity of waste.

    I don’t really care if Indavers venture fails, but the cost to Dublin society if DCC fail is significant.
    Worse still if they succeed in altering waste policy and competition in the sector for good to facilitate this project.

    ”At the moment, competition for the market may be illegal, but that situation cannot last”
    You can compete for the market all you like at present, but you cannot be guaranteed a monopoly.
    The present situation cannot last…..for the CONTRACT to be viable.

    ”The Poolbeg incinerator will compete in the market for waste disposal. Landfill is constrained, so incineration will be the cheapest option. The put-or-pay clause further implies that Poolbeg has lower financing costs than the competition. The gate price at Poolbeg will be such that they that they won’t need the preferential treatment that comes with vertical integration”

    Why does the Poolbeg incinerator need a guaranteed contract then?
    If its gate fees will be so low then it will be fine. Why do Covanta need a minor and declining player in the waste market to sign a contract for way more waste than it can realistically expect to control.
    How does put-or-pay clause imply lower financial costs, what it tells me is that they are not confident that they can fill the place competing in the open market.
    Don’t see why you are banging on about vertical integration again, currently waste companies are investing greatly in waste infrastructure because traditionally they were relying on highly expensive LA run landfills. So they decided to invest in their own disposal facilities, so what? Some do, some don’t, whatever works for their particular business given their resources both financial and technical.

    What model would you impose Richard?

  30. “My fear is they will need a hell of a lot of luck, and indeed may need to change the law and waste policy to make there plan pay off, given the fact that they control a dwindling quantity of waste.”

    They certainly need to avoid any change to waste policy that would result in further erosion in this quantity of waste, through prevention or diversion up the hierarchy. This is where the ESRI came in.

  31. @Richard Tol

    At the moment, competition for the market may be illegal, but that situation cannot last.

    When the ESRI report first came out you said you were not wholly convinvced that competition for the market was appropriate. What has changed your mind?

  32. Covanta was fined last year for exceeding the allowed dioxin limit for its Connecticut plant. Only this August it was discovered they were yet again exceeding the threshold by 100%.

    A journalist covering this story would balance his coverage, yet Prof. Tol simply ignored this development in spite of posting literally dozens of times on the incinerator issue.

    Regarding the “insidious campaign” against Gormley, more than 25 million has already been spent by Dublin Corporation — not an institution associated with probity in the public mind — on lobbying on Covanta’s behalf. Among the lobbyists is Stephen O’Byrnes of MKC who blogged in June of this year that “Ireland’s objector culture, and the seemingly endless regulatory review process, is costing the country very dearly in terms of lost investment and jobs. (…) Our objector culture comes in many hues, but invariably it is dressed up as fear mongering about dioxins and cancers; dirty industries; degradation of our air, water and soil quality.” O’Byrnes sits on the RTE authority, btw, but doesn’t see fit to mention on MKC’s website that it represents Covanta — that makes him a fully paid up member of ‘the powers that be’ in my book.

    Does Prof Tol consider concern about dioxins — just about the deadliest poison known to man and the cause of a disaster for Irish agriculture just a couple of years ago — “fear mongering”?

  33. @Adrian
    The Poolbeg incinerator has all the necessary licenses from the EPA. There is no reason to assume that substantial amounts of dioxins will be omitted but if they would, the plant should be shut down.

  34. @Richard

    Covanta has repeatedly and over protracted periods breached its license terms by excessive dioxin emissions and you conclude “there is no reason to believe substantial amounts of dioxins will be emitted”?

  35. @Zhou
    I don’t think I’ve changed my mind. If the economies of density are high enough, there should be competition for the market (rather than in the market).

  36. @Richard

    Michael Smith pointed out an error in the original ESRI report, describing it as “a significant underestimate of the costs of the facility”. By the ESRI’s own admission, the error was €4.73 – €6.43 per tonne, enough to more than double the levy for urban waste and increase it by more than 1000% for rural waste.

    I think it’s fair to say any reasonable person might describe the discrepancy as “significant”, yet for this you labelled Smith “disingenuous”. I was baffled by this remark until I read your comment about dioxins above; I suggest you consult a dictionary regarding the meaning of “disingenuous”.

  37. @Adrian
    Valuation is used to set appropriate levies. The levies proposed by Minister Gormly are too high. They were too high before correction, and they are too high after correction.

    It is therefore disingenuous to suggest that the error in the ESRI report had any bearing on the policy implications.

    It is also disingenuous to refer to errors that were admitted and corrected, but not to errors that are known but ignored.

  38. @Richard

    Smith’s exact words were “the most blatantly inaccurate presumption was that emissions from the Poolbeg incinerator would be included under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. This resulted in a significant underestimate of the costs of the facility”. These are matters of fact, not of opinion, and are disputed by no one.

    He made no reference to “any bearing on the policy implications”; these are your words. Your allegation of disingenuousness is without foundation as anyone with 5 mins to spare can confirm.

  39. @Richard: The situation in Moneypoint (where ESB breached limits multiple times but did not report same until local residents had already made complaints to EPA) does not make one reassured about EPA’s future supervision of Covanta. Hopefully Covanta management will commit to living within the onshore plume zone to demonstrate faith in their scrubbers…

  40. @Richard

    I would have though that low densities would be used to justify competition for the market, i.e. we need to guarantee an operator the whole of an area so we can require them to service people in rural parts of the area.

  41. @Zhou,

    I will pass on having to spend hours in your company but will settle instead for 60 seconds from you where you categorically point out to the readers that the Poolbeg incinerator is not the most cost effective solution.

    I’m not interested in what a breach of contract “may” cost the taxpayer if the feedstock doesnt materialise…. in the same way as I’m not interested in the compensation that “may” arise to householders living near MBT facilities if they experience odour problems or rodent infestation. I just want you – on a like for like basis to show the readers that incineration is not the most cost effective option.

    Are you arguing against the Covanta contract as currently written or are you arguing against incineration… make up your mind.

  42. @Ronan,
    Incineration can be cost effective as the Indaver facility may prove.

    The issue most opponents to the Poolbeg incinerator (on financial grounds) is that DCC simply do not control enough waste, without a change in the law.

    ”I’m not interested in what a breach of contract “may” cost the taxpayer if the feedstock doesnt materialise….”

    It is not breaching the contract that will cost the taxpayer, it is sticking to it. if it is built the Dublin LA’s will have to pay for 320,000 per annum tonnes of waste they do not have.
    If you support the Dublin LA’s committing to this expenditure, the onus is on you to show that they have the waste they will be paying for. I have shown above that they do not have this waste and will have even less.

    ”in the same way as I’m not interested in the compensation that “may” arise to householders living near MBT facilities if they experience odour problems or rodent infestation”

    Why are you resorting to sluring the alternatives in this way? All waste facilities are operated under EPA licence. Rodent and Odour issues usually result from poor intake and air control infrasturcture that arise with incineration and MBT facilities alike.
    Is this a naked slur?

    ”I just want you – on a like for like basis to show the readers that incineration is not the most cost effective option”

    In order to answer this question you will need to know;
    1) As a waste collector deciding whether to enter a long term contract with an incinerator
    How much waste do you have?
    How much waste are you likely to have in the future?
    What alternatives are available locally at present?
    Are cost related to alternatives likely to change in the future or are they fixed? (E.g changes in commodity, technology, and labour costs).
    What is the cost for the incinerator proposed? (we don’t know remember, there is no universal cost internationally, every project is unique).
    What duration of contact does the incinerator operator require?

    In the case of the Dublin LA’s, the answers to these questions would be very different now to what they were back in 2007 when they thought they had a monopoly on waste mgt.

    I can’t emphasis the point that every poject is unique strongly enough. The Dublin LA’s abandoned the building of a biological treatment plant with a capacity to treat approx. 20,000 tonnes per annum because it was too expensive. For what they wanted, where they wanted it, it would have cost over 20million. A facility for treating 45,000 tonnes (admittedly down the country a bit) was recently completed for less than half the cost.

  43. @Ronan

    The best thing about blogs is that everything is done in writing. If you are not certain what point a person is making then you can re-read what they have said.

    I appreciate that you would like me to give a comprehensive analysis of the economics of ‘incineration’ in 60 seconds. I am, in fact, flattered. Nice as that is, I think you heading for an endless-loop and I don’t want to accompany you.

    If one’s interest is in the economics of ‘incineration’ then one can always go to amazon to research titles that might help. It is not something I have expressed a view on, so either you have misunderstood me or you are trying to side-track me.

    I assume the former and I apologise for being smart with you before. At the same time, what I have said is in writing and you may take it as you will.

  44. The bigger picture that I find crazy is that waste streams are assets that shouldn’t be going up in smoke through incineration.

    Edmonton in Canada will have the world’s first waste to biofuel plant that will also generate other valuable materials.

    At Poolbeg, a green minister should be embracing this type of new cutting edge technology rather than old incinerator technology.

    Even more disturbing is the fact that no-one in a position of authority ruled out the risk that taxpayers will shoulder undue risk if there is not enough waste to feed the incinerator.

  45. @ zhou_enlai

    So while all the contributors here and the Village people wouldn’t be expected to have sufficient information to consider the economics of the issue, why is the assessment of the ESRI, a reputable European economic
    institute, with local knowledge, not accepted?

    To claim that its report is compromised because it was commissioned by one public body which supports the project, would be stupid.

    Those who would believe that the ESRI would have produced a different report if Gormley had commissioned it, are blinded by ideology and religion.

    The Irish love to talk and argue until the cows come home, often at the level of a lot of shite; it’s surely a pity the we are so poor at project management.

    It would certainly be a good thing if that aspect of our deficiencies was addressed; there is of course fat chance of that happening.

  46. @Michael

    Well two reasons to exercise due caution with regard to the ESRI’s report are firstly the competing views of Eunomia’s Dominic Hogg and secondly the forthcoming Hennessy report.

    Given differing expert opinions, why should the ESRI be favoured over Eunomia on grounds of eminence? In a society founded on reason, it makes sense to

    Covanta have some choice people fighting their corner. Stephen O’Byrnes, for example, argued on Mariane Finucane’s radio show in Dec 2006 that “the sworn testimony of a senior garda officer” should be enough to “sufficient to put somebody away for a very long time”. Note that he wasn’t talking about evidence — senior Gardai have as much right to give evidence as anybody else. He was referring to a Garda’s *opinion of intelligence available to him*, intelligence to which courts have no direct access. He was speaking in defense of Michael McDowell who was alleged to have abused Garda intelligence in support of restricting the right to bail.

    O’Byrnes sits on the board of the ISPCC btw, a charity with a history of chronic fraud, waste and mismanagement. Former ISPCC Chief Exec Cian O’Tighiarnigh escaped narrowly prosecution for fraud and Roisin Burke reported in the Sunday Independent of May 02, 2010 that “An incredible one-third of the income of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) — €2.13m, is spent on “fundraising and promotion” according to its accounts. The figure went up despite the economic turmoil, from €1.66m in 2007 to €2.13m in 2008″.

    Now high powered people like the ISPCC couldn’t get by without PR representation, so thankfully providence has provided them with MKC communications… employer of no other than Stephen O’Byrnes! Serendipity be praised!

  47. edit: “In a society founded on reason, it makes sense to favour one point of view over another without considering the arguments.”

  48. @Michael,
    ”why is the assessment of the ESRI, a reputable European economic
    institute, with local knowledge, not accepted?”

    Richard was one of the main authors of the report, and he has demonstrated very poor ‘local knowledge’ of the current was industry in Ireland.
    He described the development of biological treatment as ‘largely policy aspirations’, when I have pointed out over and over again on this blog that huge capacity has come on line in the last couple of years or so, and there is loads more progressing.
    They are relying on data released from the EPA which only comes out after a year or so (2009 waste report has not yet been published) do not seem to have any knowledge of the dramatic changes happening now.

    Should I have taken the ERSI’s word that economic growth would continue back in 2006/2007.

  49. >>>
    # Richard Tol Says:
    October 7th, 2010 at 4:09 pm
    @Ryano
    Methane is not doubly-counted, as methane emissions in excess of IPPC regulations are regulated under Kyoto.
    <<>>
    # Richard Tol Says:
    October 7th, 2010 at 4:38 pm
    @Ryano
    Methane from landfill is doubly regulated and should therefore by doubly counted.
    <<<

    An abrupt volte-face in 30 minutes. Your flexibility would be admirable if it wasn’t accompanied by such declamatory certainty.

  50. @ sam

    Richard was one of the main authors of the report, and he has demonstrated very poor ‘local knowledge’ of the current was industry in Ireland.

    Not according to the ESRI:

    http://www.esri.ie/publications/search_for_a_publication/search_results/view/index.xml?id=2972

    I’m sure that won’t change your view anyway.

    Maybe we should have an Irish solution to an Irish problem, which would formalise the gombeenism: A Dublin pub competition! Let’s engage the locals including the nimbies, rather than the likes of the ESRI.

    Prof. Paul Gorecki said last May:

    Our Report includes baseline municipal waste projections that draw upon extensive research previously undertaken in the ESRI into likely future developments in the Irish economy and in the related production of waste. The IWMA’s criticisms of the Report’s projections of waste, both at the national and Dublin levels, are unfounded.  For example, the IWMA states that the Report used a recycling rate of 39% rather that the 41% recorded in 2008.  This is incorrect.  The Report did not specify what rate was used, but did use 41%.  The IWMA also states that no account was taken of the incinerator at Carranstown in Meath.  This is incorrect as reference to the Report (p. 30) makes clear.

    The IWMA argues that the Report appears to be abandoning recycling in order to justify building the Poolbeg incinerator.  This is incorrect.  Our projections of waste sent for recycling represent a baseline prior to the imposition of any new policies, construction of new recycling facilities or adoption of extra collection arrangements (also discussed on p.30).  If efficient policies are put in place, this will provide incentives for efficient levels of recycling activity. 

  51. @ Adrian Kelleher

    Given differing expert opinions, why should the ESRI be favoured over Eunomia on grounds of eminence? In a society founded on reason..

    Yes indeed.

    The demonisation of Stephen O’Byrnes shows that this issue is more akin to a political argument than one about competing facts.

    A minister in his fourth year in office awaiting a report from a wealthy lawyer…it’s just business as usual in this banjaxed country.

    The failed politicians and greedy bankers didn’t operate in a vacuum.

    The terms of reference for the Eunomia report were slanted to favour of biological treatment over incineration.

    So if the incineration project is destroyed, the new front in the war of ignorance will be opposition to mechanical biological treatment plants (MBT) and new landfills.

    People in Mayo want oil from Nigeria to fuel their modern lifestyles (and CAP payments from Brussels) but not local gas; in Cork it’s OK to ship hazardous waste to India but what would the place be without US chemical plants?; in Dublin, NIMBY rules.

    Again, perish the thought that we with our common use of the term ‘world class’ without any sense of irony, could learn from the experience of well-run comparable countries.

    A European Environment Agency Report published in 2002 recorded that less than 20% of Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW) was landfilled in Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark compared to more than 80% in Ireland, Catalonia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

  52. @Michael

    I think it is unfair to level the Nimbyism term too much at the people of Ringsend and Sandymount that are opposed to the incinerator. For a long time they have put up with sub-standard sewage treatment in their area which caused foul smells. I don’t know where you live, but if you lived in an area that already had a sewage treatment plant that in the past sometimes created bad odours maybe you would be concerned about the thoughts of what sounds to be quite a large incinerator facility. And that is apart from genuine concerns about the put-or-pay contract, the perception of DCC’s high handedness in the matter, the perception of indigenous business being crowded out by a contract with a multinational, concerns about increased traffic, disappointment that a less controversial plan for the area, that is so central in Dublin Bay and beside a nature reserve, could not be found. Genuine concerns that the incinerator is too large for the area, and for the country and will dominate waste policy for years. Concern that the taxpayer will end up on the hook if things don’t work out. In my view these are genuine concerns that I don’t think can be dismissed by a simplistic branding of Nimbyism.

    Having said that, I think the concerns you have are also valid.

  53. @Michael

    Eunomia’s position holds up excellently against the ESRI, IMO, but this way is just simpler for now. MKC is simply a miasma at the core of the body politic of this country.

    I don’t oppose the incinerator per se, but the handling of this deal reeks. There are both sound and unsound arguments against the project; claims of NIMBYism don’t justify it on their own.

    Dublin Corporation, MKC and Covanta have all displayed extreme opacity about Poolbeg; vital information about the contract (e.g. details of the contract such as the supposed ‘walk-away’ clause) has not been publicly known until recently the planning process was complete. What else lies hidden?

    O’Byrnes certainly is an easy target to hit; he’s the sort of low hanging fruit any up and coming journalist should have a nibble on.

    From the Independent again, 30/3/’07: “The new State body which will take over inspection of nursing homes has employed the same public relations company as the industry’s representative body”. Speaking on behalf of MKC (then known as MRPA Kinman), Laurie Mannix said she saw no conflict of interest in representing both the INHO and the newly established HIQA.

    Now this was certainly true, but for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. As the ISPCC example above demonstrates, O’Byrnes has a knack for disentangling conflicts of interest that might baffle lesser men. Was MKC playing poacher and gamekeeper at once? No — rather, the INHO, HIQA and MKC are all poachers, care home residents play the startled pheasants and there isn’t a gamekeeper in sight.

    MRPA Kinman was headed by Brian Geoghegan at the time — husband to Health minister Mary Harney. Only a cynic would suggest either this connection or O’Byrnes’ former position as a PD staffer influenced the lucrative stream of business sent Geoghegan’s way by Harney’s department, of course.

    The establishment of the HIQA resulted in the imposition of a €190 p/a levy on care home positions. Some of this money makes its way into MKC coffers as it plays both sides of the game. Apparently writing even the most mundane of press releases requires that MKC magic. The name-change will help it escape any bad publicity.

    Incidentally, this early-90s election poster of O’Byrnes’ displays youthful naivety in opposing “abuse of public office by appointing family and friends to government posts”:

    http://irishelectionliterature.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/ob2.jpg

    One hopes the cognitive dissonance engendered by Harney’s department sending business her husband’s way isn’t too tough for O’Byrnes to bear.

    Still to come: Brian Geoghegan’s in-depth and tax-funded cultural studies of the USA and MKC’s public-spirited contribution to drafting health department legislation on drinks advertising.

    There’s plenty of time to argue Eunomia’s position after that; the ESRI’s ‘Response to Comments’ is full of bullish language but the long list of errata at the bottom sing a different song.

  54. @Richard
    Its interesting to note that you essentially sought to tackle the person rather than the substantive points raised in the article! In terms of the person you also failed to point out that he is an ex member of Trinity College Dublin Young Fine Gael, where he was the Policy Officer alongside a number of other well known FG members (Leo Varadkar, Chairman and Lucinda Creighton, Secretary).

    Having said that, the fact remains that yet again a public sector body (like the NRA and the toll roads) is prepared to enter into a contract where the terms cannot be met and we the taxpayer will be left paying. This is simply unsatisfactory and we must question what the Public Accounts Committe actually do!

  55. @Charlie

    FG are enthusiastic proponents of the incinerator if Phil Hogan is any guide.

    FG Communications director Ciaran Conlon is ex-MRPA, btw, a lineal antecedent of the ever-shifting MKC Communications.

    Hogan, in a wild deviation from all political norms, went as far as lodging an official complaint with the Standards in Public Office Commission (the unfortunately-titled SIPO. Have these people no knowledge of history or, more to the point, can’t they use google?). It’s Hogan who deserves censure for his ludicrous complaint, not Gormley.

    Neary, Ahern etc all escaped Hogan’s notice, not to mention Conlon’s old buddy O’Byrnes, and the fearless FG crusader picks John Gormley of all people as the exemplar of corruption in the country.

  56. @richard

    “Richard Tol Says: October 8th, 2010 at 12:56 pm
    The Poolbeg incinerator has all the necessary licenses from the EPA. There is no reason to assume that substantial amounts of dioxins will be omitted but if they would, the plant should be shut down. ”

    What credibility does ESRI have with such goedkoop nonsense? Have you gone native after arriving from relatively honest Holland?

    EPA Rubber Stamp Licences: Does EPA have credibility? Directors who rotate to/from the incineration industry – appointed by Bertie’s Drumcondra Mafia & bankrupters of Ireland? EX: Pollution of Cork harbour with chromium during EPA Directors watch.

    Your absurd Dioxins comment Basically this is a Big Lie, the propaganda technique Herr Goebells refined after learning from Churchill. You insert “substantial” as a cynical get-out-of-jail clause. You state “should be” as in pigs will fly over taxpayer owned Battersea power station.

    You omit Covanta/Ogdens 20 years record of lawbreaking in the USA; you omit Rutgers Law Center on Covanta violating dioxions limits at all incinerators in its home state of New Jersey.

    You cynically dodge stating the cost to society of pollution from micro- and nano-particles; neither of which are effectively regulated. You claim Dutch authorities have ruled out incineration as a possible or probable cause for one thousand extra deaths in Amsterdam – and you dont provide references (you do give the cynical appearance of a reference by providing a vague url).

    The Dutch welcomed the transfer of a thuggish & ruthless soccer player to Munich as in their opinion that location was a more natural fit to his talents. What drew you to Ireland and the esteemed ESRI funded by the cabal destroying Ireland?

    Some modicum of honesty and professionalism from ESRI would be appreciated.

  57. @Richard

    Not to mention that you employ this site on a regular basis for launching personal attacks, the latest on Village editor Michael Smith who — by way of saying hello it seems — is described as “disingenuous”. Mr Smith deserves an apology.

  58. @ Michael
    Apologies for late response, but I was on annual leave.
    Repeating what Paul Gorecki said last year doesn’t make it true. He put a spin on each of the IWMA criticisms. The criticism regarding recycling was not the difference between 39% and 41%, it was the fact that his projections for the next 15 years were stuck at that level (c.40%), when the Dublin Waste Plan, prepared by his client DCC has a target of 60% recycling for 2013. The 39% was measured off a graph as he neglected to include the data upon which he built his arguments.
    The reference to Carranstown was equally spun as the criticism related to specific data that should have included Carranstown, rather than a suggestion that Carranstown was not mentioned in the report.
    If you allow me to use a simple analogy, it was as if we said his apples were rotten and he answered that there was nothing wrong with his oranges.

  59. 1. He’s been the Minister for over a year and a half and in that time he has done nothing on this issue.2. He is the Minister for the Environment, he sets gmnorneevt policy. If he changed the gmnorneevt’s policy on incineration then there would be no problem but instead see above.3. He could have intervened anytime up until the granting of planning permission but instead he did nothing see above4. Councillors used to have the power to overturn planning for waste incinerators but FF took this power away. Gormley has neither returned this power (which was green party policy) or intervened as the responsible Minister.5. All contracts can be broken but I admit there are consequences but if he had intervened before planning was granted or given councillors back the power to stop this then there would be no such issue and no such consequences that would be the end of the issus.6. Instead in a year and half in power he had done nothing but wring his hands and say how little he can do.7. Surely you know better now that I have enlightened you?

Comments are closed.