Green TD calls on EPA to abandon plans for virtual oral hearing into plans by Irish Cement to burn waste at Limerick cement factory

Green Party candidate Brian Leddin at the count centre in Limerick Racecourse. Photo: Cian Reinhardt
Green Party TD Brian Leddin. Photo: Cian Reinhardt
A Limerick Green Party TD has called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revise its plans to hold an online oral hearing into its recent decision to grant Irish Cement a licence to burn alternative fuels, including used tyres and animal waste, at its cement factory in Mungret, Co Limerick.
Deputy Brian Leddin has called for the proposed virtual hearing, scheduled to take place on December 2nd, to be postponed until Covid 19 restrictions are lifted, to allow for a full public hearing.
Deputy Leddin said in his opinion, the proposed online hearing “risks excluding some individuals”.
The proposed online forum will be a final hearing from which the EPA chairperson will prepare a report for the Board for a final decision.
Over 4,000 people have lodged objections to the proposed development, citing concerns about the potential impact on public health and the environment, a charge Irish Cement has refuted.
“The impact of Covid 19 has impacted the way many of us do business but I believe the Irish Cement decision is too critical an issue to debate in an online forum, and we risk excluding people who do not have good access to broadband,” Deputy Leddin said.
“Holding this hearing online will negate consultation and discussion on the margins between residents, their public representatives and other interested parties such as environmental groups,” he added.
Deputy Leddin also criticised the EPA decision to grant the licence subject to conditions and the oral hearing, saying that it was “not in the common interest and cannot be stated with conviction that there is no risk to the environment and particularly to public health”.
“This project would improve the viability of the Irish Cement plant but that is not sufficient justification for the risk posed to people and the environment,” he said.
“It is feared that emissions from the burning of this waste could adversely affect human health. Public concerns are heightened by the poor environmental record of Irish Cement which has been prosecuted several times in the court by the EPA for breaches of its emissions license,” Deputy Leddin went on.
He said “a further risk factor is the proximity of the plant to a densely populated suburb of the city which includes several schools and a hospital”.
A “more substantial and important ask is for the EPA to refuse the licence to Irish Cement to burn waste in the kiln at Mungret,” Deputy Leddin said.
Limerick Against Pollution (LAP) said it was “anticipating public outrage” over the EPA’s decision to hold the hearing remotely.
Last year, thousands marched in Limerick in opposition to Irish Cement’s €10million plan, including billionaire horse racing owner and philanthropist JP McManus, rugby legend Paul O’Connell, and television personality Greg O’Shea.
Marchers took the streets, after the EPA upheld a decision by An Bord Pleanala allowing Irish Cement an application to annually burn up to 90,000 tonnes of waste, including used tyres and animal faeces.
Irish Cement has stated that “using alternative fuels is safe” and the proposed development would “directly reduce carbon emissions by up to 40,000 tonnes per year”; and “directly support 105 full-time positions” at the firm’s Mungret plant.
LAP spokeswoman, Claire Keating, claimed the EPA “ignored” its appeals to hold off on scheduling the oral hearing “until it was safe to do so”.
In response, an EPA spokeswoman said the oral hearing would “examine objections and concerns” to the proposed plans.
The virtual four-day hearing “is open to members of the public”, and, “members of the public who have not submitted an objection to date, but wish to participate in the proceedings, can do so with the approval of the Chairperson, during the oral hearing,” they said.
“The Board of the EPA must consider the report and the recommendations before making its final decision.”
The spokeswoman said all parties, including objectors, were notified of the date and format of the oral hearing on November 5th.
She added the agency “has given the relevant parties four weeks advance notice of the rescheduled hearing” and that “further guidance on how to participate in and/or observe the Oral Hearing will be issued to all objection parties and will also be published by the EPA on their website well in advance of the hearing”.