One of the most beloved members of the British Parliament, current Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, has continued to show exactly why he is so beloved with his recent speedy approval of a waste-to-energy plant near Gloucester… despite, over the last 18 months, rejecting a huge number of wind energy project applications owing to “environmental concerns.”
And, for that matter, despite notable public opposition (from people in the area where the waste-to-energy plant be built), as per recent reports. These recent events led the founder of Ecotricity (based in nearby Stroud), Dale Vince, to refer to Pickles as “the biggest hypocrite in Britain,” and state that Pickles should be renamed the “minister for hypocrisy.”
Strong comments, but certainly ones that make sense when you consider that Ecotricity is based nearby, and has been affected somewhat by the policy slant of Pickles.
The history of the now-approved project is interesting, and worth recounting here — after the first proposal for the £500 million incinerator project, it was rejected by the Gloucester County Council in 2013, owing partly to concerns raised about the environmental impact. In particular, the environmental impact would be on a nearby 30-acre “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” site.
The developer, Urbaser Balfour Beatty, then appealed the project rejection, which resulted in the public inquiry that ended with Pickles’ approval/ruling. The reasons for that decision being — based on documents released by the Department for Communities and Local Government — that Pickles is confident that the “less than substantial harm” caused by the project will be “outweighed by substantial public benefits.”
This is all, it needs be re-stated, coming from a man who has “called in more than 50 wind farm applications in the past 18 months and rejected 9 out of 10 of those proposals on which he has decided” — managing to generate criticism even from other MPs by doing so.
Here are some of Dale Vince’s comments:
Eric Pickles has to be the biggest hypocrite in Britain. He’s spent most of last year telling us that localism was important when it comes to renewable energy and using this as an excuse to overturn planning decisions and stop wind energy projects going ahead — and now he does the polar opposite.
He’s overriding the very clear, very strong wishes of local people not to have this incinerator and quite incredibly he’s invoking climate change and renewable energy as a justification — to burn rubbish — which is clearly not a renewable resource. Eric Pickles should be renamed the minister for hypocrisy.
It should be noted here that part of the reason that the project was approved, reportedly, was owing to the fact that it would “aid in meeting the UK’s mandatory 15% renewables target.”
Why waste-to-energy facilities are put on the same footing with regard to goals such as these is a bit of an open question to my mind. While you could certainly argue that they have value, there really should be a stronger push towards “true” renewables — like solar, wind, hydro — should there not?
Image Credit: Public Domain
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