Councillor McCann provided Members with a detailed account including statistical data on the role and function of Anaerobic Digesters and the subsidies in respect thereof. He suggested that those benefitting most financially from the current arrangement was venture capitalists based in London. He expressed concern that whilst Northern Ireland had only 3% of the UK population it had 12% of the UK’s ammonia submissions and questioned the fact that Anaerobic Digester subsidies were four times higher here than in the rest of the UK.
He then referred to the need to establish the relationship between this industry and the Civil Service. He referred to the recommendation on the above matter made at the previous meeting of Committee that he would prepare a list of questions on the Anaerobic Digesters for submission to NIEA.
Councillor McCann Proposed
That representatives from the Department of Agriculture and NIEA be requested to answer the following questions:
(i) What is the average number of Anaerobic Digesters which exist across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and provide confirmation in regards to population size in each area.
Whilst not suggesting any possibility of misconduct, Councillor McCann further suggested that Council requested that a Public Inquiry be carried out into Anaerobic Digester industry.
Councillor McCann Proposed, Councillor Durkan Seconded
That that a letter be sent to NIEA, a copy of which is forwarded to the Department of Agriculture, stating that this Council requests a Public Inquiry into the operation of Anaerobic Digesters in Northern Ireland.
Alderman Hussey suggested that initially Council proceed with the earlier recommendation made at the previous Meeting of Committee.
Councillor McCann stated that this issue required a much more fundamental Inquiry and approach than that proposed earlier. It was o such a scale to warrant a Public Inquiry.
The Chairperson stated that the latter Proposal was outside the remit of the earlier recommendation.
Whilst acknowledging the comments made by Councillor McCann and the issues involved, Councillor Duffy suggested that it was somewhat hasty to request a Public Inquiry at this stage, indicating other avenues yet to be pursued.
A number of Members concurred with the sentiments expressed by the previous speaker.
Councillor Jackson suggested inviting representatives from NIEA to address a future Meeting of Committee on this subject. He pointed out that the issue of subsidies had not been raised previously with NIEA.
Councillor Durkan Proposed the following Amendment
That whilst acknowledging the merits of a Public Inquiry into the operation of Anaerobic Digesters in Northern Ireland, however, in the meantime Council write to NIEA submitting a list of questions from Councillor McCann and expressing concern at the responses provided at the March Meeting of Committee and seeking clarification on a number of issues.
The Chairperson advised Members of the need to agree on a definitive course of action.
Subsequently the Committee
Recommended that whilst acknowledging the merits of a Public Inquiry into the operation of Anaerobic Digesters in Northern Ireland, however, in the meantime representatives from NIEA be invited to attend a future Meeting of Committee to discuss the issue of Anaerobic Digesters and the list of questions from Councillor McCann be submitted and clarification sought on the issues raised.