Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Topical Issue Debate
I firmly endeavour, in so far as I can, to be physically present for debates such as this.
It is understood that the facility to which the Deputy refers has submitted a proposed amendment to its licence to use certain waste materials as part of its fuel mix as raw materials in the manufacture of cement.
Industrial emissions installations are subject to a range of regulatory controls under national legislation, including the conditions attached to a licence issued by the Environmental Protection Agency on the operation and management of such sites. The Minister has no function in monitoring or enforcing the conditions attached to such licences and is precluded from exercising any power or control in respect of the performance by the Environmental Protection Agency, in particular in circumstances of a statutory function conferred on the agency. An application for a licence or an amendment to a licence must satisfy the EPA that the activity will not cause environmental pollution when carried out in accordance with the licence conditions.
The role of the Minister in respect of waste management is to provide a comprehensive legislative and policy framework through which the relevant regulatory authorities, such as local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency, operate. The Government waste policy is set out in A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland and is predicated on the waste hierarchy, whereby the prevention, preparation for reuse, recycling and recovery of waste is preferred to the disposal of waste.
Thermal recovery activities, where the use of waste is to produce energy in the form of fuel, heat and power, sit on the recovery tier of the waste hierarchy and have a role to play in reducing our dependence on the disposal of waste to landfill. The State has made real progress in this regard. Landfill of municipal solid waste has decreased from 92% in 1995 to 41% in 2012.
In terms of national policy, the production of solid recovered fuel, SRF, from municipal waste and its use in thermal recovery is a better alternative to burying it in the ground, which is not only detrimental to the environment in terms of managing the resultant leachate and greenhouse gas emissions, but also detrimental to the creation of jobs and energy through the development of recycling and recovery processes.
Regarding cement production, the recovery of SRF and other specified waste streams under strictly regulated conditions can replace our reliance on imported fossil fuels, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and help our transition to a more circular and resource-efficient economy.
As I stated earlier, the operation and monitoring of the facility is a matter for the relevant statutory authorities, including the Environmental Protection Agency, and I am satisfied the plant is subject to the proper regulatory controls.