Joseph Watts, Political editor
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Battle lines will be drawn in Parliament today as an MP launches an attack against a controversial incinerator proposal.
In a debate Henry Bellingham MP will set out the case against the incinerator which Norfolk County Council wants to build at Saddlebow, near King’s Lynn.
Citing figures gained under Freedom of Information law the North West Norfolk MP will say the proposal, now subject to a planning inquiry, would cost taxpayers £46m more than a rejected option.
Meanwhile the MP will highlight environmental violations allegedly committed by Wheelabrator, one half of the consortium behind the planned facility.
He said: “I’m going to be setting the scene for the evidence that I will give when I go to the inquiry.
“I’m going to be very concise, I’m going to be giving specific examples of the behaviour of the parties involved in this; it is going to be a gallop round the course.”
The incinerator was approved by the county council in June. But some 65,000 people voted against it in a poll organised by King’s Lynn and West Norfolk District Council, which also opposes the plans.
In today’s debate Mr Bellingham will say figures he has suggest the cost to the taxpayer of the 25-year private finance contract underpinning the incinerator will be £597m, adding that this is £46m more expensive than a competing bid the county rejected.
But Norfolk’s cabinet member for environment and waste Bill Borrett said: “Henry Bellingham well knows that value for money is about far more than price.
“It takes account of many factors, including quality of service, performance, guarantees and, with this project, recycling levels. And when all of these were taken account of, Cory Wheelabrator’s bid came out on top.”
He said Mr Bellingham’s figures were out of date and did not represent the final contract cost, something he could not reveal due to “commercial confidentiality” only indicating that it was “lower” than the MP’s figures.
Mr Borrett argued the incinerator would actually save the council £8m a year compared with using landfill to dispose of waste.
However, Mr Bellingham will also highlight specific incidents in which Wheelabrator allegedly breached environmental regulation in America.
In 2011 the firm made a $7.5m payment to resolve allegations it emitted ash through from facilities in Massachusetts.
The payment also related to allegations the firm failed to properly treat and dispose of ash and repeatedly dumped waste water into a surrounding wetland.
In the same year Wheelabrator agreed to pay $77,500 after one of its US facilities in Maryland allegedly emitted above the legal limit of mercury into the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, in December 2007 Wheelabrator received two notices of “past violation” from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services , before getting a third in 2010.
The final one related to carbon monoxide emissions that allegedly broke legal limits, on four occasions by more than 25pc.
Wheelabrator UK’s Director, Business Developer, Paul Green, argued that Wheelabrator had maintained a proven track record of “operating excellence”.
He said: “Our facilities have maintained their permits in good standing since the inception of operation and no Wheelabrator facility has ever had its operating permit retracted or suspended due to an environmental breach.”
He added: “On the rare occasion when an environmental compliance instance could occur, we self-report this to the appropriate regulatory organisation and work closely with them to resolve immediately.
“The proposed [facility] has been exhaustively evaluated by the Environment Agency, other independent experts and has been granted an environment permit.”