We are told that waste strategy has evolved government policies that seek to reduce the impact of waste on our environment. If that were demonstrated not to be the case, any reasonable person would have to limit the weight given to such policies in favour of incineration by reference to information on how the waste strategy evolved.
In the early Noughties, US-based incinerator companies are on record as having recognised that their business was coming to an end in the USA. Indeed, when US taxation policy, that effectively subsidised incineration, was reversed in 2004, the US incinerator industry became largely unviable. They set about investigating a move into Europe as a strategic move to protect their commercial interests. The UK was identified as the outstanding ‘soft target’ for the incinerator industry. Pan-European alliances were formed and lobby groups were pressed into action. In response, UK government seized upon clauses within the European Waste Directive and translated them into a waste strategy and policy in a way that made incinerators appear economically viable in the UK. In short, UK government’s policy is driven by the lobbied commercial interests of the ‘waste industry’.
I have attended the inquiry at the Derby Conference Centre as and when I have been able but have been disturbed at some of the thinly-disguised innuendo hidden within the questions from the applicant. Mr Martin Kingston QC, on behalf of the applicant RRS, has made a number of references to statements made by SSAIN and Friends of the Earth relating to health matters ‘put out as fact’.
To add balance, I wanted to spend a little time looking at what the incinerator industry has ‘put out as fact’:
The Contract – The councils’ waste contract with RRS, signed immediately BEFORE the planning application was presented, is manifestly NOT in the public interest. In fact, for a public servant to sign such a contract on the basis solely of it being a nationally agreed contract procedure is in itself a malfeasant act but we are assured that a nationally agreed contract cannot be legally challenged. This is incorrect, yet the incinerator lobby continue to ‘put out as fact’ that framework contracts are unchallengeable.
‘Waste to Energy’ – At the last inquiry, I made reference to the fact that not a single kilowatt of electricity has been delivered to the National Grid from a UK-based incinerator. Having had plenty of time to disprove my claim, the applicant has arrived at the inquiry yet again with no corroborating evidence whatever to substantiate their claim of ‘waste to energy’. Indeed, there is no contractual obligation to generate electricity and the Environment Agency (EA) has no plans to monitor or enforce any production of electricity but yet ‘waste to energy’ is ‘put out as fact’.
No danger to health – How many times have we heard the bureaucrats get-out clause: “There is no evidence to suggest…”? In this case, that’s because the EA and the HPA haven’t looked for any evidence, preferring instead to ignore known science that would facilitate proper, rigourous investigation of the health impact of nano-particle emissions from incinerators. In this case, there is even reference to the lack of objections from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust whilst omitting to mention that that group has received financial sponsorship from the incinerator industry.
The track record of government agencies on matters relating to public health versus the commercial interests of those lobbying government demonstrates them to be little more than ‘yes men’ bureaucracies brought into being to add the appearance of legitimacy to the government’s processes.
Although I was born in Derby, I spent a large part of my childhood in Thurso, Caithness, my father working at the nearby Dounreay nuclear reactor. We had all of the same assurances from ‘experts’ about safety and yet, here we are some fifty years after the build still picking up the tab for site decommissioning, waste treatment, and an identified leukaemia hot-spot. The rosy picture painted by any industry is ALWAYS different from the reality. I remember my father joking about leaks in cooling pipes that dripped radioactivity in areas where he was working. He was bound by the Official Secrets Act whilst the industry worked assiduously to conceal the reality of their toxic enterprise. The local beaches will have radioactivity warning signs on them for the next 250,000 years. Despite there being no family history, family members contracted cancer and one died of it.
In this case, despite the EA confessing that they don’t themselves have enough information to make any conclusions about nano-particle emissions, the statement that “incineration is safe and there are no known health implications” is ‘put out as fact’.
Government Policy – In his questioning, Mr Kingston made a number of attempts to ‘put out as fact’ the collusion between the supplier and the councils as being a wild conspiracy theory.
The reality, and I can speak with some authority on this matter having held a senior position within the council, is that Derby City Council has a long history of collusion with suppliers on planning and other matters. Indeed, this collusion goes as far as evidenced malfeasance and corruption. I would be happy to present to the inquiry on my detailed investigations into council malfeasance, including a now documented libellous smear campaign levelled at me by senior council directors and politicians as I sought to bring their malfeasance to light. I have already published a written apology from the council to me, after evidencing my claims via a Subject Access Request. The inconvenient truth is that conspiracy, collusion and malfeasance is business as usual for Derby City Council.
It is now a matter of public record that former Labour chief whip, Hilary Armstrong, whilst a serving local government minister with responsibility for waste strategy, was paid £30,000 as a ‘consultant’ to the incinerator industry. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1045130/Ex-minister-bins-accused-selling-getting-job-waste-firm.html ) As an MP, Hilary Armstrong received fees from the incinerator industry at a time when that same industry was seeking to build incinerators in her parliamentary constituency. What’s perhaps not quite so well known is that her husband was also PPS to the Health Minister. So, in all respects, the incinerator industry’s choice of ‘consultant’ was a judicious move that covered both the waste and health implications of their commercial prerogative. It’s noteworthy that in 2010, Hillary Armstrong did not stand for re-election to parliament, instead receiving a life peerage, moving to the Lords as Baroness Armstrong… and a salaried position as chair of incinerator group SITA’s advisory committee. The incinerator industry has sponsored both Labour and Conservative party conferences. We now know that the packaging industry’s lobby group has also been hard at work convincing government not to introduce legislation that would prevent waste at source. Yet, we are assured by the applicant that government has at its heart the best interests of the public… ‘put out as fact’.
Economic viability – The Applicant ‘puts out as fact’ that the current proposal is economically viable. Only taxation makes incinerators economically viable and we have already seen that such taxation policies are not in themselves economically sustainable. Indeed, one of the reasons for the US incinerator industry picking on the UK as a soft target is that their business had become largely unsustainable in the US when taxation policy was reversed.
The reality is that the incinerator industry is in a race against time. The flimsy foundation of its commercial viability is rapidly shifting beneath its feet. Whilst incineration industry employees might find gainful employment elsewhere, where incinerators are built, communities will continue to pay the cost of expensive, restrictive contracts and the associated airborne effluent for decades to come.
Conclusion – The skew of many government processes, including this one, favours a tick-box approach that mitigates individual responsibility and displaces indeterminate blame between numerous faceless quangos. The ruling elite arrogantly discount the interests of the general public, protected by an army of expensive legal advocates that protect the domain of big business and their policy-aligned bureaucrats. However, public servants have an overarching duty of care that supercedes the bureaucratic get-out clauses used by those ‘safe pairs of hands’ who appease their conscience by pointing the finger of blame elsewhere. I urge you, sir, as a public servant who has a duty of care beyond the componentised tick-boxes of a skewed process, to reject the applicant’s appeal.
20th June 2012