Luke Ming Flanagan: ‘Regulation, like taxes, is only for the little people’

Corporate Ireland doesn’t need to live up to the laws that are put in place for our health and our environment, writes Luke Ming Flanagan.

AT A RECENT plenary session of the European Parliament, where all 751 MEPs vote to finalise legislation, waste was a big topic. No less than six existing directives were amended.

These directives are the basis of what is called the circular economy in political terms. The circular economy idea is focused on constantly reusing the materials we have.

An EU focus on recycling

So rather than dump or burn good materials, by 2025 we will be “reusing” and “recycling” in very big quantities. The targets that have been set via these directives are impressive.

For example, by 2025 we will have to reduce the amount of municipal waste going to landfill to 10% and the amount going to incineration to 10%. By 2030 these percentages are reduced further to 5%, and 5%. These are mandatory limits.

It seems that the European Commission is taking global warming seriously. And so they should. Winter arctic ice recorded its lowest extent ever this year.

Incinerators remain on the Irish agenda

But what amazes me are the headlines in Ireland. An Bord Pleanála are still keeping alive Indaver’s application for an incinerator in Cork. The people of Limerick are fighting not one incinerator proposal but two.

Meanwhile the communities of Millifont, Firmont and Drehid in County Kildare are doing battle with Bord na Móna, who want to create an enormous dump in the Bog of Allen.

They have just learnt this week that both municipal and hazardous waste will be landfilled in big quantities in their area. This dump will take the ash from the incinerator in Poolbeg in Dublin and perhaps the ash from all the other incinerators around the country as well.

Future incineration taxes?

So the question arises – why would big corporates, who employ lots of legal eagles to keep an eye on what’s happening in the legislative world, not react accordingly?

Why don’t they realise what’s coming down the line will make their incinerator or landfill uneconomic? After all there’s mention of incineration taxes and landfill taxes in these directives.

2025 is not that far away in terms of capital intensive investment. Why would a company like Cement Roadstone holdings or Bord na Móna or Indaver invest in these projects if their supply of raw material is going to be severely shut down in the next few years? Something just does not add up.

Friends in high places

The answer is that they have friends in the right places. They know that they will be able to call on a top civil servant or a Minister to see to it that they get the derogations, the exemptions. They know that they have the power over the system.

Lora Burke who heads up the Environment Protection Agency(EPA) was previously employed by Indaver. Richard Burton, Minister for Education and Skills, was previously employed by Cement Roadstone Holdings and PJ Carroll Tobacco.

This is future planning for a corporate in Ireland, far removed from living up to the laws that are put in place for our health and our environment. It seems that regulation, like taxes, is only for the little people.

While the citizens of Ireland fail to find support in the institutions, the careerists and the corporates will connive to promote one another.

Luke Ming Flanagan is an MEP.

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