Poolbeg again

In the Netherlands, if a government falls, it continues on as a caretaker government until the new government is formed. Any member of parliament can declare as controversial a particular piece of legislation and regulation, and the caretaker government cannot make any decisions on these subjects. If it tries nonetheless, the senate will block this — and if it doesn’t, the queen will.

Ireland is different. Just prior to electoral defeat, a number of initiatives are being rushed through. There should be checks and balances to prevent this sort of thing. I’ll return to the climate bill later this week.

Poolbeg is back in the news. Although the public consultation on waste policy is still so recent that the department has yet to publish the submissions (at least one of which raised fairly fundamental concerns), if the Irish Times is to believed, new legislation will be introduced this month that would give the Minister of the Environment the power to set punitive levies on incineration and landfill.

Instead, waste levies should reflect the externalities of waste disposal. The maximum incineration levy is much higher than the two available estimates of the external cost of incineration.

The draft waste policy was far from ready. Instead of rushing through immature legislation, the government should have the grace to pass this dossier to the next government. ATMs will continue to work.

UPDATE: The story heats up again. See Times, Independent, and Independent again (with a reference to the EER2010).

UPDATE2: The Times claims that the bill will be published today (Jan 7). At 8.44 am, the submissions to the public consultation are still not online.

97 replies on “Poolbeg again”


The government of Ireland hasn’t fallen. And what odds would you give for the next general election to held in 2013 (assuming the incumbent administration rushes through an amendment to the electoral reform legislation to make the maximum government term six years, the maximum set in our Constitution)? If the rationale for deferring an election was to provide the space for the incumbent administration to manage the crisis (legislatively, principally) then I have a feeling in my waters that the crisis may be about to deepen (continuing deposit flight meets finite central bank support) which might stiffen FF’s resolve to remain in power.

And yes an unelected Seanad and a largely token President (sorry Ma’am) and guillotined debate all foster rushed legislation and bad law. But that’s at any stage of a government’s term and should be the subject of reform.


The government of Ireland hasn’t fallen. And what odds would you give for the next general election to held in 2013 (assuming the incumbent administration rushes through an amendment to the electoral reform legislation to make the maximum government term six years, the maximum set in our Constitution)? If the rationale for deferring an election was to provide the space for the incumbent administration to manage the crisis (legislatively, principally) then I have a feeling in my waters that the crisis may be about to deepen (continuing deposit flight meets finite central bank support) which might stiffen FF’s resolve to remain in power.

And yes an unelected Seanad and a largely token President (sorry Ma’am) and guillotined debate all foster rushed legislation and bad law. But that’s at any stage of a government’s term and should be the subject of reform.


You must surely be aware that Ireland’s system of governance is so perverted that the ‘tyranny of faction’ always trumps the public and national interests. Since the Greens’ decision to pull the plug on the Government once necessary budgetary legislation was enacted, the Government is, de facto, a caretaker administration, but, de jure, it is constitutionally entitled to stay in office so long as it retains a majority in the Dail.

It appears that the Greens, on ‘mature reflection’ following their plug-pulling decision, recognise that they are unlikely to get a finger near the levers of power for a generation and wish to embellish their economically damaging legacy of legislation – legislation that will prove damnably difficult to unpick – while they can.

Although they are keen to stay in office for as long as possible, FF didn’t like the Green tail wagging their dog in this way, so the idea of abolishing An Seanad has been floated to match the Greens’ legislative ploys.

My fear is that voters will be so repulsed by these shennanigans that their fury will know no bounds and they will make voting decisions – when they eventually get the opportunity – they will live to regret,

Dick Roche’s last act was to approve the Tara Motorway, how Gormley must have laughed when he took office

This government (FF or Green) doesn’t really care what people think of it as it rushes through whatever it wants to. It knows it is toast so what the hell? Most of the key players in FF won’t face the electorate by the time we (eventually) get to an election. We’ve only seen the initial flight of top FF’ers opting for the golden goodbyes and pensions. There are more high profile names still to announce their decision to leave politics and ‘spend more time with their family.’


You could be right but I suspect they are more likely to leave that grenade in the hands of the new incoming administration (along with one or two other time bombs that they hope will cripple the new lot and bring them back to power). The deposit flights haven’t stopped yet.


Sorry for going off-topic, but I’m surprised that recent water supply issues haven’t prompted a post explaining how water meters with comms hubs (both in properties and in distribution infrastructure) would make locating leaks quick and painless.

Smart water meters could do all sorts of things, like send a txt “Turn off yr tap!”

The simple fact is that our water supply system is not designed to withstand a cold spell. Should it be? It all depends on costs, benefits, and probabilities. I did not have time to research those, so my best answer is “it depends”.

@Pat Swords,

I think I understand the basis for your apparent anger and frustration. The public consultation processes conducted by all government bodies (and this is true not only here, but throughout the EU) have no impact on the formulation or scrutiny of policy proposals or regulatory decisions. They are designed to operate in that manner. The only purpose they may serve is to allow an argument or evidence contesting a proposal or proposed decision to be put on the public record. But all the relevant officials have to do is to craft a brief spiel dismissing it – and that’ll be the end of it.

And, contrary to your assertion, governments are merely ‘economical with the actualite’ and operate within legislation that is crafted to maximise their discretion and to minimise any restraint or scrutiny. And yes, it probably is, ultimately, the fault of voters for electing public representatives that fail to hold government properly to account, but, in practice, it is the responsibility of those elected to exercise their delegated powers.

@ Paul Hunt
You may be right in general in your assessment of public consultation processess but it’s not always the case that they have on impact on the formulation of policy proposals etc. Take the consultation on VRT and road tax changes. If you look at the original proposals in the consultation, the consultation responses and what was finally implemented I think you’ll find that the outcome was influenced by the responses.

I don’t have any other examples but I’m sure it would make a good research project to measure the extent that responses to consultation processes do influence policy.


I’m not sure if it would be a good research project, but it would certainly be interesting. (I wonder are there any takers here among those who either are or will be supervising eager post-grads?)

The difficult part would be in measuring the extent to which the Minister or the regulator was determined to implement the precise proposals/enforce the proposed decision put out for consultation. On the rare occasions when a Minister/regulator does not have a clear idea about what he/she wishes to implement/enforce, your contention may be valid, but, when they have, I can think of more than enough examples in just one policy/regulatory area where it isn’t.

Check the legislation it has changed as a result of the Aarhus Convention. Also check the UNECE Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee where cases have been taken against States that have ratified it. There is now an interesting case file building-up. Note the UK has now as a result to reduce costs involved with Access to Justice – times are a changing!!!

Government for the People by the People (not by populist politicians feathering their nests). Incidently degressing to economics, Bavarian politicians are now in Court being prosecuted over failure to administer their Landesbank correctly.

Richard Tol

I welcome the information on the Netherlands system when a govt has falle. It sounds like a good safeguard. There have bee a number of green jersey comments that the Irish govt has “not fallen”. That is because the fighting Irish are too frightened to blow hard enough to topple them over.

As far as consultation is concerned, I believe that Irish industry had the wool completely pulled over its eyes by the recent electricity price increases.
I work for a company that has experienced an electricity price increase of over 15% starting October 1st. Is that possible? I am still trying to get to the bottom of this but making very poor progress. The bills are so complex that they are impossible to understand or have analysed.
To offset the electricity price increase would require a 3% labour force reduction. How can this make sense in our economy at this time?

I appreciate that the above is a little off topic. However I think it is important in the light of the cost reductions being enforced everywhere that we have an energy cost increase imposed by companies whose management and employees have experienced no cutbacks.

Looked at in political terms, preventing the incinerator during their term in office has to be counted as one of the GP’s few successes. It won’t do them a lot of good short-term but it has prevented fatal harm in their heartland and given them something positive to talk about from their period in power. After years of being ridden over rough shod by official Ireland the boot is now on the other foot, as they get to squash objections and wield the full apparatus of the state. They have also ensured that their successors will have a tough (impossible?) time pleading inability to intervene. It was never about economics or public health. It was always about the party’s recycling/treatment principles and the fear shared with the public of a new form of pollution, however common abroad.

To reiterate the Public Participation issue. Environmental Legislation is not simply about the birds and nature protection, it concerns energy, industrial policy, agriculture, transport, land-use planning, access to justice, etc. Not only are the sums of money huge, but the impact on the citizen is massive.

The Administration is obliged to prepare clear transparent documentation and engage the public, this second step is the primary check and balance (the secondary is Access to Justice). In Ireland Public Participation has been routinely by-passed, not only in the preparation of legislation and policies, but in the processing of individual permitting arrangements. Instead we have ‘arbitary’ decisions made outside the boundaries of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ law to justify the political flavour.

This is now recognised internationally. As legally compliant firms are being frequently put out of the market place in order to open it to other ‘favoured’ enterprises, the investment community have decided that the political risks involved in new projects here are too high. Indeed Statoil, Covanta and the US Ambassador have made clear public references to this.

With regard to enforcement, the EU is the Guardian of the Treaties. To date in the history of the EEC/EU, the European Court of Justice has only nine times fined a Member State for non-compliance in all aspects of European Law. Currently Ireland has 14 cases related to Environmental Legislation in second and final phase at the ECJ leading to fines (there should be far more). Furthermore when cases of maladministration in EU Environmental Legislation occur, which is now clearly obvious, individuals and companies can apply to have damages made good. There is a clear track record of this having happened in the past and the ECJ can and does direct national courts to pay compensation.

What we currently have being played out with the Administration in Ireland, and I include the complete failure of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation to enforce the 2001 Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, is a very dangerous game with potentially huge costs and liabilities.

@Oliver Vandt

Clear and transparent documentation not only applies to a developer entering a permitting process, but also to the State Administration. If I put my professional name to a text, it is because I have carefully considered it and am stating it to be correct. Unlike the Pope I am not infallible, so in professional unemployment, which this private work and contribution is most certainly not, my work is checked by my colleagues.

If we consider the official documentation on the Department of Environment’s website related to Waste, produced by the company Eumomia and its Director Dominic Hogg, this Documentation is, as I have outlined in my Submission to the Public Participation, grossly false and inaccurate. When I went to lodge a professional case of misconduct with the relevant institutions (IEMA, CIWM), I found the Dominic Hogg is not a Chartered Member. Furthermore his work to date has been heavily involved in preparing documentation for pressure groups, which do not conform to the Principles of Articles 2 and 3 of the Lisbon Treaty.

If the Green Party have a problem with a particular technology solution, this does not entitle their representatives, who are paid as Government officials, to operate outside the law, having false information prepared for dissemination to the public and by-passing the public participation process.

Which only goes to demonstrate, what those of us who are ‘chartered environmentalists’ rather than ‘environmentalists’ have known for ages, that ‘Green’ has very little to do with any effective form of environmental protection, but rather an ignorant, intolerant and abusive dogma.

@Pat Swords,

You have presented a compelling and convincing case – which strikes a resounding chord with those of us who are developing similar cases in other areas. However, even if appropriate legal and procedural avenues exist, for an individual citizen – even one with a recognised professional credibility and capability – the costs and effort involved are prohibitive (and this includes the pillory and traducing of one’s professional integrity). Generating the interest and support among an association of citizens to mount some sort of ‘class action’ is probably even more challenging.

As you point out, those with commercial interests who, potentially, have the motivation and resources to seek redress and reform, often fold their tents and refrain from engaging. This removes another force that might compel redress and reform that would be in citizens’ interests.

A possible alternative is engagement with the political process, but this, too, is fraught with difficulty and frustration.

I wish you well. One shouldn’t presume; but neither should one despair.

@Joseph Ryan,

Re electricity prices, we are going a bit off-topic here, but I am intrigued that your company is encountering this increase. The official (Minister/Department/CER/ESB/BGE/SEAI etc.) line is that Irish prices are among the lowest in Europe – in particular for business and industry. Every effort is being made to ‘re-balance’ network charges – at the expense of small business and household consumers – to give business and industry a ‘good deal’. There may be specific circumstances (usage patterns, voltage stability requirements, location, level of connection, etc.) that are causing this.

Probably best to keep digging to see if you get to the bottom of this.


I’m totally confused now. I thought the realignment of business tariffs was to give businesses a better deal. Or is it that Joseph’s company may be on the wrong side of the annual volume threshold with users above this threshold getting a better deal and those below the threshold paying for it?


Thank you. I think I’m beginning to get the picture. A company downsizing to secure its survival could get hit with higher costs. Way to go.

I just wonder how long people will be prepared to put up with this nonsense.

@Richard Tol

If it tries nonetheless, the senate will block this — and if it doesn’t, the queen will.

JTO again:

With regard to the Constitutional procedures of the Netherlands, they do appear to be somewhat lacking in democracy, and I trust that we will never adopt their Orange Monarchial system here and will remain a Republic.

Without being in any way an expert, I assume that any legislation can only get passed if a majority of the parliament are in favour (otherwise it isn’t democracy). Even if the government has ‘fallen’, in the sense of losing its majority in parliament or losing a vote of confidence in parliament, I assume that any legislation can only get passed if parliament votes for it, even if some of those voting for it are no longer government supporters generally. That is perfectly democratic. So, let’s say that the legislation passes the parliamentary hurdle. Next stop, the senate. I assume that this is democratically elected (if not, it doubles my argument). So, let’s say that it passes that hurdle too. Next stop, the unelected Queen from the House of Orange. So, legislation having passed the democratically-elected parliament and the (I assume) democratically-elected senate, gets binned on the whim of the Orange Queen, who has never been elected to that position, and who only enjoys such power because she is some distant relative (I assume) of King William of Orange. Hardly democracy! People from countries which are still run by Queens from the House of Orange shouldn’t really be lecturing Republics on their constitutional procedures.

Parliaments are entitled to pass legislation up until the day that they are dissolved. It is perfectly democratic. The fact that opinion polls, which are often wrong, indicate that the next parliament will have a different make-up is neither here nor there. The same goes for Ministers making regulations. The Labour Government in the UK passed numerous legislation in the run-up to its defeat in the May 2010 election. In the US, the House of Representatives and Senate continue to pass legislation even AFTER the elections and it is known fact, rather than just conjecture based on opinion polls, that the make-up of the next House/Senate will be different. The Democrats lost their majority to the Republicans in the House of Representatives in the election on November 2 last. But, because the new House doesn’t sit until January, the old ‘lame-duck’ (as they call it) House with its Democrat majority still continues to pass legislation.

Having said all this, I am not a Green supporter or in favour of Gormley’s regulations. But, what he is doing is perfectly democratic. If the electorate don’t like it, they can vote for parties pledged to reverse what he is doing. The word for it is democracy. Much better than having a distant relative of King William of Orange sitting in some palace in the Phoenix Park decreeing what is and what isn’t passed. Up the Republic!

Queen Beatrix is a 1st cousin 7 times removed of William of Orange, King of England and Ireland.

You completely missed the point, though. Politics is done in the lower house. The upper house and the head of state serve to check potential abuse of power by the lower house.

Typically, a government falls if one of the coalition partners declares it has lost confidence in the government. The Green Party declared that it will lose confidence, which cannot be.

In fairness the Minister/Department/CER/ESB/BGE/SEAI etc line refers to the first half of 2010 whereas Joseph’s experience is in the second half of the year.

I have also heard of a case where a new electricity contract being negotiated for this year was 24% above what they were paying. If this is widespread then we are going to be back at the top of the league again for prices.


Wow! You have an amazing ability, similar to Johnson’s futile attempt to refute Bishop Berkeley’s contention, of kicking the stone (or the Queen in this case) and missing the point. The point is not that the Minister is constitutionally prevented from acting the way he is. It is that he is attempting to rush through legislation without sufficient scrutiny and, even more, that he is advancing legislation in addition to the budgetary legislation which he previously declared, as Green Party leader, would set the limit to his party’s involvement in government. And An Taoiseach accepted the import of his declaration.

The Eunomia report recommending a method for calculating waste levies was published 15 months ago. Since then, there has been a report from the ESRI recommending far lower incineration levies. (I am not making a connection between this recommendation and the fact that the levies will be paid by those who paid the ESRI to write their report.)

Eunomia’s review of the ESRI report is here: http://www.eunomia.co.uk/shopimages/Letter%20to%20Professor%20Ruane%20ESRI.pdf

The ESRI made a partial retraction of some sections of its report but stood by its conclusions.

So we’ve had more than a year of public debate and two opposing consultants’ reports to consider. There has been extensive coverage on the media of every development in this story. We’ve had a public consultation process and now we’re going to get a public policy.


I agree, but the fact that such announcements are made towards the end of the semester following the semester for which the data have been assembled and presented conveys the impression (is intended to convey the impression?) that the information is current.

I think we might also agree that Ireland’s relatively low tax-take has helped to keep Ireland below the top-end of the league tables – though recoverability of a lower VAT imposition doesn’t help the competitive position of business. And the international gas glut communicated via lower prices in the UK spot market (relative to higher oil-linked prices in continental Europe) has also helped. However, this benign effect is diminishing as LNG exporters try to tighten supply.

The high priced contract you cite may be a one-off, but we’re looking at increasing prices everywhere in the EU as governments, in their usual ham-fisted and cost-burdening way, struggle to discharge their climate change commitments. But what we don’t want is Irish costs and prices zooming ahead of the rest. And this, I fear, will be the Green legacy – and which they’re determined to embellish.

@Richard Tol, Paul Hunt

Has the Dail passed a Vote of No Confidence in The Government? I must have missed that one. I can’t find any reference to it on Google either. All very strange!

The most that I can find on Google is that the Green Party have expressed a wish for an election in January/Februay/March (take your pick) AFTER certain legislation is passed. They might even row back on that, and opt for a later date, like June. If the economic figures in early 2011 are good, they might even row back further. All that they have done so far is express a wish for an election in the reasonably near future, without being precise about exactly when.

Until the Dail is dissolved or a Vote of No Confidence is passed, it is perfectly in accordance with Ireland’s Republican Constitution for the current Governent/Ministers to pass legislation/regulations, as long as it gets a majority in favour in the Dail. The fact that I don’t agree with any of the Green’s policies or legislation doesn’t make it undemocratic. If the electorate had followed my advice in 2007, FF would have had a majority. They didn’t, so I have to live with that fact. It will be the same for FG if they depend for Labour on a majority in the next Dail.

Actually, it is the same for the Conservatives in the UK right now, having to depend on the Lib Dems. If the Lib Dems announced today that they were pulling out of the coalition in six months, it would still be constitutionally proper for the present UK Government to pass legislation and its Ministers to pass regulations. The idea that the Queen of England should intervene in those circumstances and say “I am binning what the Government has got passed through the House of Commons on the grounds that the Lib Dems say they are pulling out in six months” would not be tolerated there.

Ireland is a Republican Democracy, where the democratically-elected parliament (Dail) has primacy, but with plenty of checks and balances in the shape of its democratically-elected Head of State, its democratically-voted-on written Constitution, its semi-democratically-elected Second House (Seanad), and its Judiciary. An unelected Head of State, always from the same family, binning whatever legislation parliament passes that she takes exception to, which some posters appear to be recommending, is surplus to our requirements.

@Richard Tol

Queen Beatrix is a 1st cousin 7 times removed of William of Orange, King of England and Ireland.

JTO again:

William of Orange may have been invited over to take on the job of King of England, but he was never King of Ireland. The last King of Ireland was Brian Boru. The fact that William of Orange may have laboured under the delusion that he was King of Ireland, and even called himself King of Ireland, is neither here nor there. I can call myself Emperor of France, but it doesn’t mean that I actually am.

@Ossian Smyth,

I think there is a bit more to it than you are outlining, but, quite apart from that, all that is needed is for the Minister to announce that his declaration, as Green Party leader, that, following the enactment of the necessary budget legislation, the Green Party would withdraw from government no longer applies and that he and his party are now committed to implement the revised programme of government agreed with FF towards the end of 2009.

Must be a first that we are agreeing on prices. I would say however, that the announcements were referencing just a couple of months previous and this is normal given the lag in data collection and publishing. This is somewhat more preferrable than other commentators still referencing the position back in 2007.

I’m inclined to agree with the general thrust of your point about pushing through initiatives while the government is in limbo. Would you also put the finance bill in the same category as something that the government hasn’t got a mandate to push through or does that get special exemption?

I’ve been trying to maintain a studious silence on that matter. Is it better to have a timely-but-later-amended budget than a postponed budget?


We can hardly claim to be a Republic with a Govt seemily permanently in genuflection to Bishop, Banker or EU wan….

The point being made here, I think, is that such acts are not within the spirit of constitutionalism whether we choose to make the practises constitutional or not, or conventions or not.


Your foot must be sore from kicking the stone 🙂

Perhaps you might consider my 12:13pm response to Ossian Smyth.


Let’s value the benefits of engagement – but not get carried away. EU price comparisons are necessary, but not sufficient as they often conceal more than they reveal. Objective analysis of the economic costs and benefits in a sector tends to be more revealing and useful.

And, for what it’s worth, I think the Green Party’s commitment to stay in government to ensure only the enactment of the relevant budgetary provisions was quite legitimate; it brings the conduct of democratic politics into further disrepute (if that were possible) to ignore this specific commitment made to citizens and carry on as if the commitment weren’t made.

I hope nobody takes anything you write about incineration seriously. You are an industry lackey.
Hopefully Covanta will do the decent thing and walk away from the contract (which they can now do) and leave us all in peace – and not eternally enslaved to their oversized and uneconomic incinerator.
As for the Netherlands, if its so great, why don’t you just go back to the land of Geert Wilders?

@Paul Hunt

Perhaps you might consider my 12:13pm response to Ossian Smyth.

@JTO again:

I will make a decision on what advice to give to John Gormley on what the Green Party should do within the next few days. There is always a lot of economic data published at the start of the month. It will be pouring out over the next few days: tax revenues, spening, budget deficit, live register, redundancies, PPSNs, industrial production. I will await all these figures before deciding.

In the last few months before Christmas, all of these figures were good, showing an improving economy. Tax revenues up, live register down, redundancies down, industrial production soaring. If this continues in the figures to be published over the next few days, my advice to John Gormley will be to revoke his earlier request for an early election, stay in government, and hold the election, as originally planned, in June 2012. If the economy is improving, that makes both economic and political sense. However, it is possible that the Great Panic of November last, with its detrimental effect on consumer confidence, will cause the improving trend of the past few months to be reversed, if only temporarily. That, after all, was why the Great Panic was caused. If that happens, my advice to John Gormley will be that it would be better to get the election over and done with by the end of March. As of now, I have no idea which of these scenarios will come to pass, but I will know by the weekend.

That’s indeed consistent with the noises that Dan Boyle is making. Gormley said “we believe it is time to fix a date for a general election in the second half of January 2011”. This is being reinterpreted: January 2011 is the time to fix the date, not the date of the election.

The Netherlands was just an illustration. I could have used Italy too, where the otherwise ceremonial president repeatedly stood up to inappropriate behaviour by the government.

@Richard Tol

I am no supporter of the Green Party, but it makes perfect sense for the Green Party to wait and see. They were panicked into a rash announcement by the media hysteria of last November, when the economy was portrayed as in meltdown. They should wait for further economic data to see if the trend of an improving economy evident in the autumn is continuing, or whether the November panic has caused it to slip. Their vote in the next election will be determined by the state of the economy on election day, not whether they changed their minds about its date. I have no idea which will be the case. Do ESRI? Do ESRI get to see the economic data before everyone else?


I’m sure the leader of the Green Party will await your advice with bated breath 🙂

I think I see where the confusion is arising. You view the public commitment of the Green Party to stay in government only until the necessary budgetary legaislation was enacted as simply a ‘request for an early general election’. Most people viewed this as signalling the end of the government’s life (and the dissolution of the Dail) at that point – and An Taoiseach certainly acknowledged it as that.

It is perfectly possible for the Green Party to renege on this public commitment – as it seems to be doing, but there are consequences. The principal one is that public trust in the political process is eroded even more. And it demonstrates that the ‘tyranny of faction’ will always trump the public interest.

You may be content with this outcome. I, for one, am not. And I suspect I am not alone.

@ JTO and Richard

I’m not sure why im even bothering to point this out but if the greens come out now and announce an election should be fixed for 2012….the following events will occur…lots of laughter, (the weary, oh for the love of god kind, that is)… followed by michael lowry and jackie healy rae withdrawing their support for the govt.. followed by the realization that 3 byelections have to be held this spring anyway… followed by the further realization that a general election might as well be held rather than go through the pointless process of holding these when their outcome means an immediate election would be guaranteed.

And i’m not sure how any of that can be argued with.

@ Richard

Well im going on the assurances given by Fianna Fail that those byelections would be held in the spring. Lets be realistic here, if they start going back on promises like that, they might as well fold up and decamp to Russia. I think they’d go down well in Russia.

I am glad that many of the previous contributions have pointed out the error of Richard assuming a fallen government and the refrence to the good Queen of the Netherlands.

We have had several years of discussion on Irish Waste Strategy it is now right and proper that Minister Gormley should publish a new Waste Policy before he leaves office. Why shouldn’t he? if the next Minister wants to change it let them. The same should apply to the potentail regulations on levies – If you don’t like it when you arrive in office reverse it!

‘We’ voted in this man to represent us and to fulfil a function to govern us (he’s not in my constituency) and he got appointed to this position to do a job. He’s just doing what ‘we’ asked him to do. Stop moaning cos you don’t like the way he does it. Run for election the next time and see if you carry a mandate!

It is evident to anyone of common sense that if we have cheap anything we will use it before we take tougher routes and the same applies to waste. Cheap landfill or cheap incineration – guess what – we will use it before we recycle because of cost and ease of choice. So to persuade us to recycle we must put in place levies that deter us from relying totally on these technologies. The trick is to find the balance of what works and that will take trial and error. There is absolutely no indication that landfill levies will be lower than incineration ones. But if we burn 600,000t of Dublin’s waste in Poolbeg we will not meet our recycling targets FACT. So we have to ensure that levies are applied in such a way that this does not happen. Recycling and waste prevention are always more expensive than landfill and incineration so we need to collect funds from less preferred options and help fund these preferred options while at the same time trying to ensure that industry is not totally hobbled by more cost. You can quote science all you like in terms of internalities and externalities but the truth is found in the compromise of common sense. I perceive that Landfill will be taxed at €75 / t and incineration will be somewhere less then that – informed guess work would pitch it between €35 and €55 /t.

These numbers are not out of sync with other countries and we must remember that our market dynamics are differnt to other countries so variation is to be expected.

Based on these concepts should Covanta build or not build a 600,000t plant? Thats a decision for them but considering that FG (ref the first contributor) may take the same line as the Greens I wouldn’t spend €350 million and hope to recover my investment by suing my partner for non-performnce on tonnage.

I welcome the Minister’s change of tack. During most of his term in office, he undermined policy. Now he seeks to change it. That is progress. However, there are certain procedures to be followed when proposing new policies, and we would want good policies rather than new policies. I am afraid that the Minister is making a number of procedural errors while the proposed waste policy leaves much to be desired.


Irregardless of ‘who’ elected him, the Minister and his officials have no manadate or authority to operate outside the law. Professionally qualified people do not do things by ‘trial and error’. To do so with public funds is criminally irresponsible, hence the German courts who are bringing the BayernLB supervisory board, including prominent politicians, to Court for negligence in Public Administration.

‘Farmer’s lung’ may be caused by naturally occurring fungal spores and endo-toxins. However, it’s results are not pretty. Not only was the Strategic Environmental Assessment completed by Eunomia technically false and incompliant with the requirements of the legislation (Directive 2001/42/EC) on impacts on human health, but the implementation of this policy proposed by this Green agenda, would present a significant health risk to the population and the workers in the resulting treatment centres.

To reiterate, this once again proves that the Green agenda has little if anything to do with environmental protection, but is a dogma, which is ignorant, intolerant and abusive.

Hurrah! JtO is back 🙂

On the Dan Boyle interpretation of the “setting a date for an election in the second half of January”. OMG. Do they really really really expect us to swallow that?

I checked the news reports on the 22nd November – they were quite clear that it meant a January election.

I am glad that many of the previous contributions have pointed out the error of Richard assuming a fallen government and the refrence to the good Queen of the Netherlands.

I fully expect reference to the outstanding architectural merits of the incinerator to make an appearance, once we get that far down the list.


The project was subject to detailed public participation and the building was approved as it satisified the benchmarks established by the competent authority.

Public participation (Directive 2003/35/EC: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2003:156:0017:0024:EN:PDF ) requires that not only does the developer present his detailed documentation, but that the competent authority present the main reports and advice on which it is going to make its decision in advance of the public participation. Furthermore the competent authority shall inform the public of the main reasons and considerations on which the decision has been made.

May I suggest that if you have an issue with the architectural benchmarks used for development consent within the region, you direct a request for information to the regional planning authorities and planning appeals board. This is free and relatively easy (in theory anyway, note An Bord Pleanal is now starting to be a bit more receptive to such requests). See for more details: http://www.environ.ie/en/AboutUs/AccesstoInformationontheEnvironment/

@ Richard

The health issue is more complex that just sewerage sludge, see for instance: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/research/library/position/41211.aspx

Incidentally the Netherlands is leading research in this area, being the first country to adopt (mid-2010) a mandatory occupational health exposure limit for endotoxins: http://gezondheidsraad.nl/en/publications/endotoxins-health-based-recommended-occupational-exposure-limit

This health issue was dealt with in my Submission to the waste consultation, in theory under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations, as I have pointed out in a previous post, you should have access to it and the other Submissions on the consultation website. If you can’t find it, the means to request it are above.

Composting facilities generate endotoxin levels which are well above, often several orders of magnitudes, above the limit now set in Holland. I would not expect people to work or live in proximity to such facilities when clearly there are alternatives available, whcih are more effective and without the same health impacts.

It is immaterial what Dan Boyle meant on November 22. He can change his mind.

Gordon Brown, who was Prime Minister at the time and not a backbencher in the second chamber, had decided on an election in October 2007. He told all his Ministers it was on. The manifesto was printed. Then, at the last minute he changed his mind when a bad opinion poll came out. The election was held 31 months later.

FF and the Greens were panicked last November by media hysteria-mongering, whereby the economy was presented as being in total meltdown. They should now look at the matter more calmly, analyse the economic data coming out in early 2011 and make a decision then. If the economic data coming out points to economic stagnation or worse, then an early election is indeed desirable in the national interest. If it shows the economy improving, then it makes perfect sense, both in the national interest and in their own political interest to stay on for as long as they can. Obviously, if they lose their majority in the Dail, they have no choice. But, until that happens, and it might not happen at all, they are perfectly within their Constitutional rights to stay on. Democracy does not mean surrendering to the media/internet mob to call an election when it suits the mob, even when the governing parties retain a majority in the Dail.

There are plenty of very good reasons for not calling an early election. I read in today’s Irish Times that, if there is an early election, the legislation to set up a property register and other property-related refors will fall through. In addition, an early election, because it would be conducted in a panic atmosphere, is likely to produce a higher vote for various extremist parties than one held when/if it is clear that the economy is recovering.

As I said, it all depends on the economic data coming out in early 2011. If it is bad, call an early election. If it is good, allow the recovery to become well-established before calling the election. That makes perfect sense, bolth from the point of view of national interest and political interest.

The first of the economic figures I mentioned above was published yesterday. Tax revenues were 11.5 per cent ahead of target in December, so reasonably good, but without being brilliant. Let’s see what the others bring.


What Gordon Brown told his cabinet in private is irrelevent. The people of Ireland were told at the end of last year that an election would be held in the spring, as early as was possible. They were told this by the green party, by the independents supporting the government and subsequently by Fianna Fail.

You’re clearly an intelligent man, but if you think the government can row back on these promises because the corporate tax rate happened to go up a few percentage points…you’re deluding yourself.


Yes, they can change their mind. But they have to say “we changed our mind” (so we can all have a good laugh then). They can’t say “oh no, that’s not what we meant – you heard wrong”.

But of course, when Trevor Sargeant said he’d rather resign than go into coalition with FF , we thought that meant he was against it.

And if they do they change their mind, it shows that the press conference and announcement was poorly thought out (like most of what they do).

And no one should forget the crisis that announcement created. We’d just had the IMF come in – the OB units of the world’s media were lined up on Merrion Sq and the dramatic announcement made it look like the government was about to collapse thus deepening the crisis. I spent that week doing interviews with international media organisations and trust me, the Greens made things a lot worse. No clue whatsoever and now they “change their minds” cos actually they hadn’t thought through the consequences.

Political children. At least FF are grown ups.

@Sarah Carey,

Thank you. That’s the most cogent and succinct summing up of the situation I’ve encountered. As for JtO’s suggestion that they were panicked by the so-called ‘media/internet mob’, credible governments, confident of popular support and convinced that they are doing the right thing, stay the course and deflate the pressure.

In one sense, it doesn’t matter who’s in government, as they will have to submit their quarterly reports to the Troika for marking, but a new broom might sweep clean and there is a fair bit of stable-hosing to be done.

@Jarlath, Sarah Carey

I am simply giving my advice to the Green Party, as invited to by Paul Hunt, when he wrote:

“Perhaps you (JTO) might consider my 12:13pm response to Ossian Smyth?”

which, in turn, was:

“I think there is a bit more to it than you are outlining, but, quite apart from that, all that is needed is for the Minister to announce that his declaration, as Green Party leader, that, following the enactment of the necessary budget legislation, the Green Party would withdraw from government no longer applies and that he and his party are now committed to implement the revised programme of government agreed with FF towards the end of 2009.”

I don’t expect for a moment that they will take my advice, any more than Sir Alex takes my advice on where to play Rooney.

My advice is quite simple. If the economy is improving (which may or may not be the case – as I said, we need to await the figures that come out in 2011), then it is both in the national interest, and in their political interest to stay on as long as possible. It is as simple as that. In the incredibly unlikely event of the Green Party reading my posts and taking my advice, their opponents would naturally say they were acting out of political expediency. Which would indeed be true. But, their opponents are equally acting acting out of political expediency in wanting an election before any improvement in the economy (should one be occurring which, as I said, is not certain yet) becomes apparent to the electorate. The moral high ground doesn’t come into it on either side. It is political expediency all round.


Fair enough if that is simply your advice to the greens and you dont believe they will take it. In that case i disagree with your advice.
If the economy is improving then an election and a new government with a fresh mandate would only be a fillip to this. We would be getting rid of the old government who have already declared they have no confidence in each other, who have overseen the arrival of the IMF, who have handed over our sovereignty, who have saddled the country with colossal private and public debts that may never be fully repaid, who have allowed the developers and banking heads to retire to their golf courses or estates abroad or even just to their loving wives arms, who embarrassed the country internationally and made us the butt of jokes worldwide, who have given us a health service to be ashamed of and who, finally, have given themselves the kind of pensions where retiring is more financially rewarding than continuing to work.

So, I believe, getting rid of this government and starting afresh with something new, will at least be a source of hope and optimism for people. You’re the optimism specialist, you should be able to see that.

I note with considerable interest the slap down given to RPS and the Irish Times in todays Letter to the editor in said publication from the learned Dr Weltzin, Advisor for Climate Policy to the EU.

Very interesting in terms of Poolbeg as it would lend credence to the argument by Irish industry which has indicated Poolbeg is too big and that it will degrade recyling rates.

I also note that the ESRI has yet again reviewed your waste arisng numbers downwards from your recently published report. Do you think credibility for these particular statistics might be coming under serious question at this stage?

@ Reuse

Dr Weltzin is an advisor to the German Greens: http://www.eswet.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/Documents/Presentations/2010.10.11_Workshop/ESWET_Workshop_Weltzin_11.10.2010.pdf

I can see no reference to the fact that his documentation is published by the EU.

Does anybody actually read the legislation? http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/framework_directive.htm

It is clear that not only do Green Party members in Ireland ignore it, but that their Minister and his officials have also with regard to the documentation on the website as part of the public participation process on the waste policy. This illegal presentation in the Strategic Environmental Assessment is highlighted in my Submission, which by violation of environmental legislation, access is being denied to.

To reiterate ‘Green’ has little if anything to do with environmental protection, it is a dogma which is ignorant, intolerant and abusive.

Weltzin’s letter is revealing. Why would a German respond to an article in the Irish Times? Could it be that a friend asked him to? Note that he does not contradict what was written, and he certainly does not argue in favour of MBT.

We revised our waste numbers downwards in line with the downwards revision of the size of the economy. In the new and lower projections, there is still excess landfill.

Dr Weltzin’s nationality and motivations are irrelevant to the accuracy of his argument. In the same way, Richard Tol’s arguments do not depend on his nationality or whether the incinerator promoter is paying his employer.

Ignoratio elenchi.

So long as debate revolves around the presumed motivations and nationalities of the participants, there really is no debate.

Madam, – I was quoted in the article (“New levies may scupper plans to restart Poolbeg incinerator work”, January 4th) in the context of waste incineration. This citation out of context accrues the wrong impression, that the German Greens are promoting incineration. The correct position is: “waste to energy” has to be the last step in a hierarchy after avoidance, reuse and recycling, to deal with the leftovers. Therefore, the capacity of an incinerator has to match the local demand, otherwise there will be no incentive for avoidance and recycling.

The presentation referred to was specific to the situation and waste infrastructure in Germany, especially in the context of mechanical and biological treatment (MBT). The paper is not intended as a prescription for everywhere in Europe. – Yours, etc,



I agree with your take on ‘wall-to-wall’ political expediency, but we are going way off-piste here. (You have previously expressed your preference for a FF-only government and, though it is now formed in coalition with the Green Party, for it to continue for the maximum constitutionally allowed term while it retains sufficient support in Dail. That’s fine, but not at issue here.)

The issue here is that the Green Party is seeking to create parliamentary time that it had previously forsworn to rush through a raft of contentious legislation.

What we really need, and what should be possible, but is unlikely to be facilitated, is a hearing by the relevant Oireachtas Cttee on waste policy and Poolbeg (and, subsequently, on the climate change bill proposals) where the Government advances its proposal and presents its supporting evidence, where those who contest these proposals and advance alternatives present this case and the supporting evidence, where there is opportunity for rebuttal and counter-rebuttal and where, after the arguments for and against both positions are fully thrashed out, the Cttee makes its decision and communicates this to the Dail.

Yes, there has been no shortage of ‘debate’, but it’s the usual ‘dialogue of the deaf’. It’s time to resolve it in the only forum that should count – an Oireachtas Cttee charged to make a decision and inform the Dail.

Incineration policy and specifically the proposed Poolbeg facility has been discussed at Oireachtas Committees a year ago.

The ‘roadmap’ to new waste policy was published a month later.

Climate change policy has its own committee which has been discussing the best approach for the last three years.

@ Richard

“In the new and lower projections, there is still excess landfill.”

There is excess landfill in your new projections because your projections assume 34.4% recycling every year from 2008 to 2025. That’s a nonsense assumption and you know it is. Why are you skewing the figures? I thought the ESRI was an Independent Institute conducting research for the good of the country.

If you use a recycling rate of 50% by 2020, your model shows that we only require 350,000 t/a incineration in Ireland to meet the landfill directive targets. Indaver are currently constructing 200,000 t/a capacity in Meath. 150,000 t/a at Poolbeg would then suffice. The only way that recycling will stagnate at 34% is if we build an over-sized incinerator that stifles recycling.

For those who are interested Poolbeg’s sister city, Harrisburg Pennsylvania USA, has because of its inability to pay debts incurred on it’s successfully rebuilt Covanta incinerator been entered Pennsylvania’s program for distressed cities (Penn. Act 47). This is amusing as Harrisburg is the state capital and Act 47 permits taxation of income of commuters who are almost all in this case state employees and legislators.

@ Conor Walsh

“The Devil is in the Detail”. What exactly is recycling? In many countries composting sytems are included as re-use / recycling and distort the figures. In a Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) for every 1,000 kg (tonne) of municipal waste which comes into the black box, then about 250 kg simply disappears as water vapour during the composting process (a nice trick of accountancy which is very profitable).

About 35 to 250 kg are considered as recyclable fractions, depending on their quality and if they are of high enough market value to be worth anything.

About 500 kg is low class compost / residue, which is of too poor a quality to be used for anything but landfill cover or sent to incineration systems and about 100 to 200 kg is separated fractions which will need to go direct to landfill.

If you go back to my previous post with Dr Weltzin’s presentation (long link – apologise), you see the Greens are now saying clearly in this presentation that this MBT technology is not suitable. However, for years they promoted it. It is like a previous, previous post; i.e. they have a Right to ignore scientific and technical facts and be abusive to those who present them, as they do things instead by ‘trial and error’. When something on which the public has then to spend millions and millions on turns out not to be the proper solution (surprise, surprise) they do not have to apologise. Not to mention that peoples’ health has been compromised by working in and living in proximity to such MBT plants that they insisted be built.

The Swiss do not allow MBT, they consider it unhealthy and unethical as well as a waste of time, effort and money. If you want to see what proper recycling rates are without distortion by ‘tricks’ of water vapour, etc, you should look at Switzerland. Furthermore at what point do you stop putting public money into recycling and instead into schools, hospitals, etc this is the Principle of Proportionality. I personally would consider it far better that a person was subsidised to help the aged rather than recycle material of very limited use, not to mention there is an inherent health impact in coming into proximity with municipal waste.

The reality of Poolbeg is that the Irish Administration is engaged in a cynical and illegal campaign, by refusal of permits and preparation of policies / legislation in a manner which is outside our Legal Framework (Environmental Acquis), to force legally compliant companies out of business and hand over the market place to friends of the Administration. Thereby defrauding the population of their Right to benefit from a proper form of Administration and a proper infrastructure. This is why over a year ago I went to the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. However, as we clearly know from previous issues with clerical child abuse, the police force in this country does not operate in either an impartial nor effective manner, in particular when political considerations apply.

@ Pat

In SLR, we have carried out a lot of comparisons between MBT, incineration and other waste treatment technologies such as gasification, pyrolysis, autoclaving, anaerobic digestion, composting, etc. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and there is a place for each of them, depending on local circumstances. I am not arguing in favour of any one technology over another. I am arguing that the ESRI are providing misleading data in blind support of the Poolbeg project and this should not be their role.

The ESRI are concerned about the Landfill Directive targets, whilst ignoring the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) targets (recycling 50% of MSW paper, plastic, metals and glass by 2020). If Dublin City Council pay €80 per tonne for 320,000 t/a into Poolbeg, two things will happen. Firstly, the ratepayers in Dublin will be required to cover local authority losses of between €1bn and €2bn over the life of the project. Secondly, the remaining 280,000 t/a capacity at Poolbeg will be dumped on the market at a gate fee (0 to €40/t) that will undermine recycling. Hence, we will be in danger of missing the WFD target and job creation in recycling will be stifled.

Your personal views on recycling are irrelevant if they are inconsistent with EU legislation. Composting does contribute to recycling figures and I see no problem with that. Ultimately, it’s all about less waste to landfill and an important side-effect is that recycling creates many jobs in comparison to landfill or incineration.

@ Richard

You have taken no account of the 2009 regulations on separate collection of commercial food waste and no account of the roll-out of the household brown bin, which is ongoing and required by waste collection permits issued to waste management companies. These initiatives are post 2008 and will increase the recycling rate in Ireland by between 10% and 20% by 2013. This is not aspirational, it is required by existing legislation. You should adjust your data.

I am confident that your partners in ISus, the EPA, do not agree that a recycling rate of 34.4% for the next 14 years is realistic. You should consult with them on this point. I’d like to see the Agency comment publicly on such an assumption.

@Conor Walsh

Recycling is a dogma for many and a profitable business for some, but when it is being subsidised it can be a financial burden for many, for which they are entitled to know if it is really bringing benefits for what they must pay.

Europe is diverse, waste collection figures in many areas are inaccurate as waste is by-passing official collection and control – tips / dumps / backyard (farmyard) burning. Recycling rates are also distorted. If you compost this is ‘reuse’; but the water vapour is simply ‘disappearing’. However, the composting of municipal waste fractions is causing health impacts (not to mention odours) on those around it and those who work in it. If one is into ‘funny money’, i.e. carbon counting, then composting has a net use of energy, i.e. a negative balance: http://www.umweltbundesamt.de/uba-info-medien/3888.html.

Should we compost just to drive up our ‘recycling’ figures? Some parts of Europe have poor soil, it might make sense there, but we have lots of muck. So it depends on local conditions and this is why the documentation prepared for the public participation process should be clear, accurate and transparent.

Recycling of other components – for instance glass is sand (silica) with lots and lots of energy. If glass is recycled back into the furnace, then the energy is nearly the same and all one has done is saved sand; lots of sand around. Aluminium is also lots and lots of energy. Recycle aluminum and the amount of energy is about 5% of that in converting bauxite to aluminium metal. Makes sense with regard to aluminium but less so with regard to glass.

The Principle of Proportionality is clear in that the financial and administrative burden on the citizen must be minimised and commensurate with the aims to be achieved. “Creates many jobs”; that’s easy, but I want to see public money subsidising care for the elderly and not for recycling which is based on dogma instead of demonstrated effective benefits for the costs incurred (not to mentioned legally prescribed targets that are simply the outcome of political lobbying).

All of these issues and those that I have touched on in the previous posts should have been clearly outlined in the documentation prepared for the public participation. It wasn’t. Instead there is a cynical and illegal approach being implemented by the Irish Administration to put legimate operations out of business, leave the market place for the friends and defraud the citizen of proper services. The Dublin City manager is to be appplauded for his stance. Yet he is only of 600,000 public servants in this country, a significant percentage of which do not show the same level of respect for the law or their responsibilities to the citizens. I am especially critical of those senior officials in blue uniforms, who are duty bound to enforce the minimum legal standards, but clearly do not.

@ Richard
Are you suggesting that source segregated food waste should be incinerated?

@ Pat

The water vapour from composting does not ‘disappear’. It evaporates to the atmosphere from where it originated before it rained on the crops that absorbed it and the animals that drank it. It is very clearly recycled.

Your comments on potential health impacts from composting are relevant for outdoor green (garden) waste composting, where aspergillis fumigatus spores are projected into the atmospere during turning and screening of windrows. However, all food waste composting (or AD) in Ireland is conducted indoors with appropriate air collection and treatment. A walk in the woods offers a greater risk of exposure to aspergillis than living close to a food waste composting or AD plant.

The volume of ‘muck’ in Ireland is immaterial. It is not compost (a soil improver) and we have a demand for compost in Ireland that is currently filled primarily by peat products. We all know that this is ultimately unsustainable, so if we don’t produce compost, we’ll import it. Hardly a sensible environmental or economic policy.

In most circumstances I would advise development of anaerobic digestion rather than composting as you recover energy in addition to producing a soil improver.

You comment on the costs of subsidising recycling and you praise Mr. Tierney for pushing ahead with Poolbeg, yet you ignore my earlier comment on costs to ratepayers if DCC proceed with the project. The four Dublin authorities are currently losing €60m per year in waste collection and treatment. They only remain in the business because of the Poolbeg project. If they withdrew from collection and treatment, the City would have a lot more money to spend on care for the elderly. Or more realistically, commercial premises would pay 10% less rates and surely the ESRI should see this as a good thing.

@ Richard

Also, incineration of source segregated food waste makes no sense. Why segregate in the first place if it’s to be incinerated? You’re just creating a burden on business and additional collection costs. Food waste is very wet and would make a poor fuel, so the energy balance couldn’t be very favourable.

Anaerobic Digestion is the best option for the material both environmentally and economically. Capture the energy in the form of biogas and produce a soil improver to replace peat. This creates both direct jobs and spin-off jobs as well as repacing fossil fuels. Producing a product from waste has significant spin-off benefits to the exchequer.

@ Conor Walsh

I would be interested in how the lay man was to react, if he discovered that of the tonnage he was being forced to pay to recycle, it turned out that a significant fraction, potentially 20%, was just water vapour going to the atmosphere.

The Biotonne used in Germany for collection of biowaste (food, etc) is clearly associated with health risks associated with aspergillus and other spores. German municipalities clearly outline the hazards associated with the Biotonne for immune supressed citizens, not to mention that the other citizens have to keep it regularly cleaned as insects, odours, etc, all build up in a short period:


“A walk in the woods ..” I do not see that in the scientific papers.

It is accepted in many analysis that anaerobic digestion of biowaste is a better solution than composting. Furthermore I already pointed out that parts of Europe have soil problems. My experience in Ireland is that there is more than enough material being landspread already (sewerage sludge, etc). I have not seen a report from Teagasc indicating that the Dublin region needs compost. As for the ‘muck’ in the Dublin region, given that most citizens are fed up having to cut their grass regularly for eight months of the year, which grows so fast without any compost, I would not classify Dublin as a compost deficient location.

All of this goes to show yet again that we have a totally deficient set of documentation for the public participation process. In which the whole focus of the administration was to put incineration out of business and hand over the market place to composting based Mechanical Biological Treatment. All of the above issues should have been dealt with, including your preference for source segregated food waste and anaerobic digestion.

If this had not been dealt with adequately to your satisfaction the public participation process would allow you to comment. The legal procedures are such that this input would have to be considered in the finalisation of the plan or programme.

However, the law and the Rights of the Citizen have been clearly violated.

As for your final comment re Mr Tierney, a region of over 1 million people is not going to produce less than 320,000 t/a. If measures are implemented to force that level it is because commercial operations have been put out of business and citizens are engaged in stupid practices, like fly tipping or wasting their time doing unnecessary measures related to avoidance / re-use.

@ Pat

You are arguing against the Waste Hierarchy as described in Article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive. This has been established since 1975 and was slightly altered in 2006 afters years of public and political consultation. I personally read hundreds of political submissions on this Directive and I can honestly say that your opinion is not a common one. Our policy and legislation is obliged to put prevention ahead of reuse ahead of recycling ahead of energy recovery ahead of disposal. Your opinion on this matter is entirely academic at this stage.

Regarding the 320,000 t/a residual waste in Dublin, it is there and will continue to be there, but the Dublin Authorities don’t control enough of it. They will have to try to sell their surplus capacity at Poolbeg in competition to Covanta who can sell it for less. DCC may take waste at a gate fee of €30 per tonne and pay Covanta their agreed price of c.€80 per tonne. The €50 difference will be covered by the business community through their rates.

DCC can continue to collect waste below cost price and continue to lose €60m per year or they can increase their prices to householders and gradually lose all their business to the private sector. In either scenario, they will lose lots of our money.

Our company pays €24,000 per year in commercial rates, so I calculate that €2,400 per annum of our money is being wasted in this manner. We only pay €750 per annum to a private company for our waste service, so waste management costs are much less of a burden on our business than these other unnecessary losses. The ESRI need to take a closer look at these impacts.

@ Pat
Personally, I think cherries are over-rated. As Eamon Dunphy would say, ‘cherries are not a great fruit’. I agree with of lot of what you say and there are many inconsistencies with the consent procedures. However, I see the EPA as an impartial referee and referees make good decisions and bad decisions, but never change their decisions.

Some local authorities on the other hand, clearly have commercial interests that conflict with their planning role. I expect this to become more evident now that they have less money from central funding and the landfills that laid the golden eggs are on death’s door. I sat in on some of the N7 Resource Recovery oral hearing and I accept your point on that one.

I am also acutely aware of a local authority (without naming them) that have a clear commercial interest in stifling a waste to energy project to protect their investment in a new landfill. This clearly conflicts with the WFD. The problem is that An Bord Pleanala tends to ignore that conflict of interest and accepts that the local authority submissions are grounded purely on planning and environmental concerns. The only way to overcome this problem is to take away the conflict by removing local authorities from the business of managing waste.

There are many ways to ensure that the private sector companies collect from all households and provide adequate treatment capacity, so I don’t accept that they need to stay in the business to ensure full provision of waste services. Look at the North East Region, where there is very little local authority involvement in waste collection. The private sector is developing one incinerator and 3 MBT plants. In contrast, in places like Dublin, Waterford and Cork where the local authorities continue to collect, developments by private waste companies have been successfully opposed by the local authorities.

@ Pat
I disagree with you about the EPA. They were supportive of 3 or 4 waste to energy projects, all of which attracted political populist opposition. They have their problems, such as taking too long to grant licences, but they refuse very few. I recently counted 8 refusals out of c.300 waste licence applications. Also, you couldn’t accuse the EPA of lacking transparency. They publish details of everything on their website or make it available in their offices. Many local authorities, on the other hand, keep their files on waste permits and waste data secret, which is certainly against the spirit of the Aarhus Convention.

The problem with local authority waste management operations is that their losses are covered by others, so they have no real incentive to operate profitably or efficiently. When household customers don’t pay their bills, the local authorities don’t take action or cut them off. It’s easier to increase commercial rates than it is to chase bad debts or to deal with the political fall-out of terminating someone’s waste collection service. If workers refuse to alter their work schedule to meet changing demands, the local authorities pay them large sums of money because they can just add that cost to commercial rates.

Private sector companies could not survive if they were to operate in such a manner. The private company will take on the challenges required to protect their business so they don’t tolerate customers that don’t pay their bills and employees that won’t do their jobs.

It may surprise many people that the local authorities in Dublin do not collect enough money from customers to cover the costs of their collection services, never mind the cost of their waste treatment operations. I have trawled through the budgets of the four local authorities and this is fact. In other words, they don’t collect any money to put towards waste treatment. So even if they maintain their existing customer base at existing prices, they will have collected no money to pay Covanta €80 per tonne. That payment will come from businesses in Dublin through the system of rates. You and I will pay for it, yet we will receive no service in return. Does that not concern you?

@ Pat

What’s your point in relation to the 2 reports? I don’t have the time to compare and contrast.

I am criticising the ESRI for providing an in-depth model of waste projections (designed to inform policy) that is clearly erroneous in relation to projected recycling rates and Professor Tol has not provided a satisfactory response to my criticism. The ESRI are financed by public money to provide information to assist in the formation of National Policy. From Professor Tol’s response to my criticism, I cannot decide if the misinforation on recycling rates is provided erroneously or deliberately.

Don’t expect an apology from me until Professor Tol proves that I am wrong.

As I explained before, we do not equate separation at source with recycling. This is a deliberate decision. There are active policies to increasingly separate waste streams, and there is an active policy to discourage investment in waste disposal. Disposal matters more.

All model results are in the public domain, so you can easily compute the absolute increase in recycling capacity assumed in our model, the absolute increase required to meet the landfill targets with incineration, and the absolute increase required to meet those targets without incineration.

Since your previous comment on separation at source, I checked the licences for Poolbeg and Carranstown incinerators. Neither of them are allowed to accept source-segregated waste. As previously mentioned, it is illegal to landfill source separated food waste. Waste that is separated at source must be recycled and your model should reflect that. Did you discuss this issue with the EPA? I think that they would be horrified by your view in this regard. Is the Agency not your partner on the ISus project?

I have a database of additional composting and anaerobic digestion capacity that is due to come on stream in the next 3 or 4 years. This includes 16 facilities and accounts for more than 500,000 t/a capacity to add to the existing 375,000 t/a available capacity (including green waste). They won’t all be built and some of this capacity will be used for MBT, but you can’t ignore these developments. This is where the source seperated food waste will be recycled.

The capacity will meet the demand for recycling. There is currently excess recycling capacity available due to the reduction in quantities of construction and demolition waste. The lead-in time for additional recycling capacity is relatively short (1 to 3 years), so over the time period of your model this is not a limiting factor. If recycling is viable with existing quantities, viability will be enhanced as greater volumes of material become available. You’re dodging the issue.

@ Richard
Do you honestly believe that there will be no increase in the recycling rates in Ireland over the next 15 years? I find this incredible. In the 10 years from 1998 to 2008 we have increased recycling rates from 8.6% to 37.5% (ref: EPA National Waste Reports). It is clearly a work in progress with the focus now on food and organic wastes. If we don’t hit 50% by 2020, I’ll be amazed and I’m pretty sure that the EPA will be very disappointed.

Over the past few days you have attacked waste prevention, recycling and composting. You clearly have a preference for incineration over everything else and I wonder about your interests in this regard. It’s hard to take your environmental observations seriously when you show such a bias.

Personally, I support the Waste Framework Directive hierarchy for a number of environmental an economic reasons. After prevention, recycling, composting/AD, I support both incineration and MBT equally. Horses for courses on that one. I see landfill as a last resort, but I believe that all waste should be treated prior to deposition.

My problem with Poolbeg relates to its size and the nature of the contract with DCC. Ratepayers money will be used by DCC to support distortion of the waste treatment market to the detriment of recycling and jobs in the waste industry. Also, the ratepayers will get no return for their money and have no say in this investment. The contract will cause problems for everyone except Covanta and their contractors/suppliers.

@ Pat
I would like to add a number of comments to the current debate.
(1) As the majority of waste being collected in Dublin is under the control of the private waste management sector, the capacity of Poolbeg is under serious question. In this regard, the private collectors have made their own commercial decision to go with MBT, e.g. Greenstar and Panda. In addition, there is no doubt the moderate scale thermal treatment capacity that will be provided by Indavar in Meath will also be utilised.
(2) Oversized residual waste treatment capacity will therefore eat into recycling targets as the shortfall will need to be met. The point made by Dr Weltzin in the Irish Times concurs with this. Ireland needs to sort out our recycling and biological treatment targets as a priority before we implement over-sized residual waste systems. It would seem that some contributors would prefer that everything is incinerated. This is not only a poor use of resources but illegal.
(3) Assuming that MBT is all about mixed waste composting is also misleading. Most of the MBT configurations currently being considered in Ireland combine anaerobic digestion with the production of refuse derived fuels (RDF). This allows for energy production directly from the waste while generating a manufactured product that can displace coal. This has clear cut environmental advantages and cannot be dismissed as inferior to mass burn.
(4) The dismissal of composting of source separated bio-waste is also extremely misguided as while AD certainly is the preferred route for many bio-wastes, the generation of compost from clean bio-waste will certainly have a key role in any integrated waste management policy. Specifically, fossil peat is currently being banned from all horticultural compost/soil improvement products. Therefore, what is going to replace it at our garden centres? Compost produced from bio-waste, manure and biomass will be critical in this regard and this will have substantial benefits in the avoidance of peat oxidation that contributes substantially to anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
(5) The arguments about bio-aerosols is overdone. Bio-aerosols are a risk for all industries where dry biological material is handled, e.g. grain stores, straw harvesting, composting and mushroom production. This is easily managed within a modern in-vessel composting or AD facility. Moreover, incidences of farmer’s lung in the composting industry are rare.
(6) Returning to the key issue, the current contractual set up is a mess. The Dublin authorities can’t guarantee the waste and as a result the tax-payer will have to foot the put or pay bill. Moreover, the excess capacity will be dumped on the market. As a result, valid alternative infrastructure will not be built and as we speak needed infrastructure throughout the Country is being delayed to see if Poolbeg will proceed. Specifically, I am aware of residual waste capacity in west Munster that is being delayed to see if low tip fees will be available at Poolbeg. This makes a mockery of waste, energy and environmental policy.
(7) Finally, waste contracts for >20 years are ludicrous. Technology developments are moving too fast. Typically, many MBT configurations have expected pay-backs of <7 years thus allowing the flexibility for commercially sensible upgrades as time moves on. Put it this way, can we image being tied to a technology decision in the 1980s that we would still apply today?

Reading down through the comments in this thread has been very informative and congrats to the contributors. I am wary of capacity projections for projects that were based on CSO/ESRI publications in the last ten years or so which have now fed into Regional Planning Guidelines. The 2006 Census is still a key reference point but it is unlikely that the forthcoming Census will show similar growth rates. The relationship between net migration and population change has been very close in Ireland since the 1950’s and this trend has turned negative, causing a divergence with the existing CSO projections.

This view, in combination with the fact that advances are constantly being made in alternative treatment facilities, suggest to me that Poolbeg is likely to be too large at a capacity of 600,000 tons per annum and I would share the concern of those that argue that it will be a distorting influence in its current form.

@ Pat
I agree that it is not a case of incineration bad, recycling good. Nor is it a case of incineration good, MBT bad. Specifically, MBT is not just about biological treatment. It is more often about material and energy recovery through biogas and RDF/SRF production. Therefore, where MBT applications result in the manufacture of fuels that displace coal, there are clear and obvious carbon advantages over straight incineration as identified in the Eunomia report. Also, the H&S issues with biological treatment is overplayed. This is a modern and mature industry that supports significant employment throughout the world and is no more dangerous than farming. We need the correct balance and it is therefore reasonable to question the scale of Poolbeg for all the reasons that I have previously mentioned.

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