Long-term waste contracts are often the most expensive contracts a council ever signs, but residents are usually excluded from knowing the details of what has been agreed in their name. One route to obtain this information is through the use of Freedom of Information (FoI) and Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) requests, but in many cases the road to getting the information to which you are legally entitled is long and requires perseverance. Hats off to Derby campaigner Simon Bacon for sticking with the process, and obtaining a victory for transparency. His blog post has been reproduced below, and is used with permission. You can read the rest of his local reporting at: http://derby-waste-a-rubbish-blog.blogspot.co.uk.

Hidden contracts! the public strikes back!
http://derby-waste-a-rubbish-blog.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/hidden-contracts-public-strikes-back.html

On 22nd October 2015 I Simon Bacon the writer of this blog applied to Derby City Council in Derby UK via FOI / EIR requesting the following information relating to the controversial joint waste contract linked to the highly controversial Sinfin, Derby gasification incineration plant.

1- ALL CONTRACTS BETWEEN DERBY CITY COUNCIL AND DERBYSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL RELATING TO THE JOINT WASTE CONTRACT.
2- ALL CONTRACTS BETWEEN DERBY CITY COUNCIL AND ITS PARTNER DERBYSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL WITH RESOURCE RECOVERY SOLUTIONS (RRS) AND / OR ITS PARENT COMPANY SHANKS / INTERSERVE.
3- ALL CONTRACTS RELATING TO THE USE OF THE SINFIN TANNERY SITE – OWNED BY DERBY CITY COUNCIL BY RESOURCE RECOVERY SOLUTIONS (RRS) OR OTHER PARTIES.

Derby City Council responded on 17th December 2015 in which it disclosed some of the requested information but withheld some of the information in part 2 of the request claiming the adverse affect to the confidentiality of commercial information. What was provided was a series of documents with many redacted (blacked out pages) where the council and its supporters – Derbyshire County Council and Resource Recovery Solutions edited the documents to hide certain aspects of the documents which they did not want the public to see.


Here are a couple of examples from schedule 14 of the contract which covers the performance mechanism.

As you can see from the images when they redact information they really black it out!

I appealed this ruling and Derby City Council carried out an internal review and responded to me on December 24th 2015 that it maintained this position.

Having considered this battle of wills further I made a complaint against Derby City Council on 22nd February 2016 to the ICO – the Information Commissioner. The ICO then gave full consideration to my strongly put appeal while engaging with Derby City Council further.

The council and its fellow contract members attempted to paint a picture which included impacts on interests of Resource Recovery Solutions (RRS) siting that the withheld information included price mechanisms, volume allocations and proprietary contract tools and processes.

The council argued that RRS operated in a competitive waste market and disclosure would allow competitors to work out the deal and how it was structured resulting in a loss of its competitive edge.
The council went on to argue that the Sinfin waste site’s novel nature has the capacity to become a “BEACON OF EXCELLENCE”

ENERGOS the developer of the incineration equipment being installed into this beacon of excellence had gone into administration in mid July 2016.

It was suggested that the competitors of RRS would benefit from the unique know how contained within the information and thus undermine the ability of RRS to utilise this for its own benefit damaging its commercial interests.

Other than the Derby, Glasgow and Milton Keynes projects that have moved ahead there is little evidence of other projects moving forward using such technology and in recent weeks a proposal to install similar tech on the Isle of Wight has been dropped – so not quite the beacon being suggested.

The ICO asked the council to provide a new schedule setting out in each instance the councils rationale for withholding information so that it matched the specific parts of the documents. Having been given further time to do so the council advised it had approached RRS and Derbyshire County Council but that they had declined to provide any further arguments or clarification.

The ICO in their ruling considered that the lack of clarity in the councils submissions suggests that the council either does not properly understand what the effects of disclosure would be or has struggled to meet the evidential and explanatory burden set by the exception.

On 4th August 2016 the Information commissioner at the ICO RULED IN MY FAVOUR instructing Derby City Council to disclose the withheld information to myself as the complainant.

In early September 2016 Derby City Council was in no mood to lose their battle against a resident of Derby so instructed its legal team to appeal the ICO ruling and so work started on a legal appeal.

I as the original applicant was also in no mood to lose the battle and so registered as a party to the appeal which WAS set to be heard later in 2017 in London UK. After a delay of a number of months as two similar cases passed through the tribunal system the Derby case began to move forward.

In recent months a similar case relating to an incineration plant in Gloucestershire and its associated contract pretty much ruled in the original applicants favour – while the council in that case attempted to put a brave face on things while putting some spin on the ruling the applicants in Gloucestershire are very happy with the result of their battle. A similar ruling regarding an incineration plant contract in Worcestershire also placed pressure on Derby City Council who were then set a date by the General Regulatory Chamber who were running the appeal by Derby City Council where the council had to acknowledge if it proposed to continue with their appeal.
So two other appeals went against the local councils which forced Derby City Council into a corner over their appeal against the ICO ruling.
Did they continue or did they rollover!

THEY ROLLED OVER AND BAILED OUT OF THEIR APPEAL ON MAY 11TH 2017

The councils legal team made the following statements when terminating the councils appeal.

“Our clients have been carrying out a fresh, detailed, careful and considered review of the disputed information with all interested parties taking into account the passage of time and developments since the initial request and the commencement of the Appeal.

Having concluded that reassessment and made recommendations accordingly, the interested parties have respectively reached agreed conclusions and advised the relevant public authority which has been able to make an updated decision on disclosure as a result.

Our clients have invested a great deal of time in reaching this decision and it is not one that has been taken lightly. Despite considering that much of the disputed information remains commercially sensitive and confidential, given the time that has now passed since the original request for information by the applicant and taking into consideration the current stage the facilities are now at, the likelihood of probable harm from disclosure of the disputed information into the public domain has reduced.

As a result our clients have asked us to confirm that the disputed information will be disclosed in its entirety.”

Derby City Council admitted at a recent full council meeting that they and their supporters – Derbyshire County Council and RRS / SHANKS had already spent £20,000 on their fight to keep aspects of the Derby and Derbyshire waste contract secret – hidden away from the public. In a strange twist they appeared to be suggesting to the local newspaper the Derby Telegraph that they had NOT paid £20,000 to stop me from gaining a copy of the contracts as reported here http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/derby-man-wins-right-to-see-controversial-sinfin-incinerator-contract-but-council-to-appeal/story-30288364-detail/story.html

The council was simply playing with words – £20,000 was spent but the city council only paid a third of the payment!

What are they trying to hide from the residents of Derby and Derbyshire ? what is so controversial that they redact whole pages of their waste contract ? In these times of austerity and government cuts surely the public have a right to know what their taxes are being spent on.

NOW WE HAVE THE CHANCE TO FIND OUT!

©SIMON BACON 2017

Tributes were paid to Mick (left) and Jeff (right), beloved members of the anti-incineration community.

On Saturday 3rd June 2017 the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) received an Earthmovers Award for Outstanding Community Campaign from Friends of the Earth (FoE) at Basecamp, which is FoE’s annual environmental festival .

Accepting the award, UKWIN National Coordinator Shlomo Dowen said: “Over the past decade UKWIN has been blessed with hundreds of dedicated, passionate and conscientious volunteers, who have made a real difference in their communities. I dedicate this award to all of UKWIN’s worthy volunteers, and pay special tribute to two of them.” Continue reading »

Press release from Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste Europe welcomes the ENVI committee’s draft report on the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive. This report represents a first important step towards the alignment of EU energy and circular economy policies, by excluding financial support for incineration of mixed municipal solid waste. Continue reading »

UKWIN has obtained the full set of Annual Incinerator Monitoring Reports for 2016 from the Environment Agency (EA). These reports are produced by the operators of these facilities and then passed on to the EA. These reports are available from UKWIN’s archive of Annual Incinerator Performance Reports and Permits

In an accompanying e-mail message to UKWIN the EA helpfully noted that:

“This contains the annual reports and annual reporting forms for all of the municipal and biomass waste incinerators which were fully operational for the whole of 2016. In many cases the annual reporting forms have been incorporated into the annual reports and in some cases they are separate, but hopefully this will contain all the information you need.

“Feel free to circulate the link as you see fit but please note that not all of the annual reports will yet have been checked by the local inspectors and so may contain errors or omissions which will be picked up once they are reviewed (and then we can update the data set later this year). In the meantime though please do let me know if there is any information that you think it missing or which may be incorrect, and I will follow it up.”

If there is anything you wish to draw to UKWIN’s attention regarding these reports, please e-mail: coordinator@ukwin.org.uk

UKWIN notes that in addition to greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate climate change, incinerators (including gasification and pyrolysis plants) emit many toxins and pollutants, giving rise to public health concerns. Although incinerator fumes pass through expensive filter systems, modern incinerators still emit significant levels of dioxins, NOx and ultrafine particles that can be harmful to both human health and the natural environment.

Dioxins are a group of chemicals that are carcinogenic and act as endocrine disruptors. Dioxin emission levels from incinerators are typically measured twice a year by external assessors who have to give prior notice of their visits, so operators can ensure that a plant is running under optimal conditions for that visit. Even then, where problems are detected they are often blamed on unrepresentative samples or poorly calibrated equipment and are re-run. The assumption is not typically made that non-breech readings could be untrue and need to be re-run, so there is a bias towards under-reporting emissions breaches. Where more frequent or continuous measurements are made, total dioxin emissions have been found to be very much higher than those calculated from biannual measurements [De Fre and Wevers 1998 & Reinmann et al 2006].

Congratulations are in order for UKWIN and others campaigning for Zero Waste. UKWIN’s National Coordinator, Shlomo Dowen, achieved 8th place in Resource Magazine’s annual Hot 100 poll of the industry’s biggest influencers. Continue reading »

UKWIN welcomes the Environmental Audit Committee’s call for the Treasury to set out its plans on the future of the Landfill Tax and how the Treasury intends to support further investment in recycling, and UKWIN is calling for HM Treasury to extend the Landfill Tax into a Residual Waste Tax that pushes waste from the ‘residual’ stream into reduction, re-use, recycling and composting. Continue reading »

The United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) has today published a briefing entitled “Gasification Failures in the UK: Bankruptcies and Abandonment”. This seven-page document draws upon published material to highlight how risky an investment these technologies have proved to be. Continue reading »

Joint press release by Biofuelwatch, UK Without Incineration Network and Coal Action Network

12th October 2016 – Environmental campaign groups warn that the imminent takeover of the UK’s so far publicly owned Green Investment Bank (GIB) by the Australian Macquarie Group [1] will put an end to its green credentials. Those credentials have already come under doubt as a result of investments in coal and biomass burning Drax power station [2] and in waste incineration [3].

Group, who describes itself as “a leading provider of financial, advisory, investment and funds management services” [4] is a longstanding investor in fossil fuels, including coal mining. In the UK, it has also invested in a controversial large new biomass power station [5] and in an unsuccessful waste incineration venture [6].

According to researchers for a Friends of the Earth Australia fossil fuel divestment campaign, Macquarie Group has loaned £1.61 billion (AUS$2.62 billion) for fossil fuel, including coal, extraction and burning since 2008 [7]. It has helped finance one of Australia’s largest new opencast coal mines, which has already involved cutting down one highly biodiverse forest [8]. Macquarie holds shares [9] in BHP Billiton, co-owner of the Cerrejón mine in Colombia, one of the world’s largest opencast coal mines, which sells coal to Drax power station and which has been linked to the displacement of whole villages and to indigenous peoples losing their access to sufficient clean water and food [10].

Australian campaigners further highlighted that during this year’s AGM, the Chairman of Macquarie Group appeased vociferous climate change deniers amongst shareholders by saying “There are two sides to this debate”, instead of endorsing the scientific consensus on climate change [11].

Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch [12] states: “Even under government ownership, the Green Investment Bank has made some very questionable investments, none more so than their loan for Drax, who now burn more wood every year than the UK produces annually, much of it from clearcut coastal wetland forests in the southern US, and who still burn around 6 million tonnes of coal a year, too. The sale of the GIB to a big fossil fuel investor gives us no confidence that wiser investment decisions will be made in future.”

Anne Harris from Coal Action Network [13] adds: “Even if the GIB is unlikely to directly fund further coal projects, future ownership by Macquarie takes away any hope that the loan to Drax will be rescinded. Furthermore, it raises the prospect of similar bad investments in future that benefit both forest destruction for biomass and, indirectly, coal burning”.

According to Shlomo Dowen, National Coordinator for the United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) [14]: “So long as the GIB invests in projects such as waste incineration and biomass incineration that result in the release of thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases a year they should not be allowed to describe themselves as ‘green’. We had hoped that anybody looking to take on the ‘green’ moniker would commit to a complete moratorium on investments that involve the burning or gasification of waste and biomass. However, Macquarie’s past record leaves us with deep concerns.”

___________________________________ENDS________________________

 

Notes:

[1] As reported in the Financial Times on 9th October (ft.com/content/d92a915e-8e2c-11e6-8df8-d3778b55a923), Macquarie has put in the higher of two offers for the Green Investment Bank (GIB), thus making their takeover of the GIB all but certain.

[2] The Green Investment Bank’s first substantial loan went to Drax plc, for the partial conversion of their coal power station to biomass. According to then Secretary of State Vince Cable, without this loan, Drax power station “would have closed down because it has to meet European rules on coal use and it wouldn’t have been able to survive” (ft.com/content/d46bfe86-b7e9-11e2-bd62-00144feabdc0). Drax now burns around 6 million tonnes of coal a year, as well as burning more wood annually than the UK produces in one year, much of it sourced from clearcut coastal wetland forests in the southern US. See biofuelwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/axedrax-briefing-v2.pdf for a fully referenced background briefing.

[3] Between 2012 and March 2015 alone, GIB helped finance seven waste incinerators: http://www.eunomia.co.uk/raising-concerns-about-the-green-investment-banks-waste-projects/.

[4] macquarie.com/uk/corporate

[5] Macquarie has acquired a 50% stake in Tees Renweable Energy Plant, which will burn pellets made from up to 3 million tonnes of wood every year. Under a supply contract, most of the wood will be sourced from Enviva (biomassmagazine.com/articles/13549/enviva-q2-results-highlight-long-term-offtake-pellet-contracts), who are also Drax’s single biggest supplier and who have been shown to source wood from clearcut wetland forests.

[6] Note that the term incineration is used to include waste gasification and pyrolysis technologies. Macquarie acquired the energy business of New Earth Ventures in October 2015. New Earth had at that stage ceased trying to operate an unsuccessful waste gasification plant in Avonmouth, Bristol and abandoned plans for another one in Galashields, Scotland. See: letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/is-large-scale-gasification-viable/. Since then, Macquarie has resumed operations of the Avonmouth gasifier, but has no succeeded in running it at more than 11% of its capacity (tinyurl.com/hrxbbm3).

[7] Figures confirmed to Biofuelwatch by Market Forces, a project set up by and affiliated to Friends of the Earth Australia (marketforces.org.au) by email on 11th October 2016.

[8] See greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/climate/stop-the-maules-creek-mine/ about the Maules Creek Coal mine, for which Macquarie lent £255 million.

[9] nasdaq.com/quotes/institutional-portfolio/macquarie-group-ltd-762271

[10] See for example londonminingnetwork.org/2016/07/colombia-a-choice-between-mining-and-food/

[11] https://www.marketforces.org.au/climate-change-denial-goes-mainstream-at-macquarie-agm/

[12] Biofuelwatch is a UK/US campaigning organisation which provides research, advocacy and information about the impacts of large-scale industrial bioenergy: biofuelwatch.org.uk

[13] The Coal Action Network support communities in the UK and beyond campaigning against the coal mines which supply the UK’s remaining 8 coal fired power stations: coalaction.org.uk

[14] The United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) is a network of around 100 campaign groups opposing waste incineration, including gasification and pyrolysis: http://ukwin.org.uk/

The United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) is proud to announce that copies of an illustrated Zero Waste pamphlet are now available for purchase. Continue reading »

UKWIN’s Emissions Dispersion Modelling Appraisal focuses on modelling emissions from point sources and on emissions from incinerators in particular including the relative performance of competing modelling systems ADMS and AERMOD, and it has been updated.

Continue reading »

Air Products has opted to face a $1bn write-off in preference to carrying on with their doomed gasification projects in Tees Valley, and have belatedly decided to get out of the so-called ‘Advanced Thermal Treatment’ business “blaming technical problems and rising costs” (Source). Continue reading »

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