For the second time, the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications has ignored the legitimate claims of my constituency to secure a contract to generate electricity from farm waste under the AER waste to energy competition. What this means to the local economy is a restriction on the primary production of poultry and mushrooms. It also creates a serious problem for the local authority.
In 1993, Monaghan secured £100,000 from INTERREG to carry out a waste management study. The study found that in 1971, 83 per cent of Monaghan's river channel length surveyed was unpolluted which was comparable to the national average. By 1990, the unpolluted river channel length had declined to 29.5 per cent in Monaghan while the national average was 77.5 per cent. Poultry and mushroom production account for 47 per cent and 12 per cent respectively of the county's gross agricultural output compared with 4 per cent and 2 per cent of national GAO. The farming pattern in the Blackwater and Finn catchments is even more skewed in favour of poultry and mushroom production. It is projected that poultry and mushroom production will grow at 2.5 per cent and 5 per cent respectively each year over the next decade.
Monaghan's failure to secure this waste contract means it will be difficult to maintain current targets not to mention meeting the projected ones. The Minister will talk about independent assessments but it is time that the jobs and the development of the economy were considered. We need a co-ordinated examination of projects such as this by the various Departments involved — the Departments of the Environment; Agriculture, Food and Forestry and Transport, Energy and Communications. They have responsibility to ensure the environment is clean and that we get an opportunity to meet our agricultural commitments.
The contract was awarded to Foster Wheeler Power Systems Incorporated and ESB Power Generation at a cost of £113 million for a 30 megawatt project. The Monaghan proposal would cost £50 million for a 20 megawatt project. This requires an explanation. The Dublin based project will not meet the 1999 deadline. There is serious opposition to it and there are nightly meetings to ensure it will not be built, while we are clamouring to have it built in Monaghan. The Monaghan project is in order and the proposal is suitable for the disposal of large quantities of meat and bonemeal.
Following the issuing of an EU directive in 1993 requiring member states to provide alternative energy sources, in the summer of 1994, I arranged for a deputation from Monaghan County Council to meet the then Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Treacy, to discuss the proposed alternative energy requirement competition.
The Minister explained that he proposed to target 75 megawatts for alternative energy source with 10 megawatts for biomass waste. Following discussions, he agreed to increase the biomass waste to 15 megawatts as 10 megawatts would not allow any extra capacity. Concern had also been expressed by the British company, Monopower, that the 40 per cent corporation tax was too high. Following representations to the Department of Finance, I received a letter saying that generation of electricity would be regarded as coming within the definition of manufacturing and would be subject to a 10 per cent tax rate. A site was subsequently obtained at the IDA industrial estate in Knockaconny, County Monaghan.
However, with the change of Government in 1994, Minister of State, Deputy Stagg succeeded Deputy Treacy and, on 7 March, he announced the results of the competition which did not include the 15 megawatts for biomass waste. He promised another competition, which was launched last Friday, for 30 megawatts at a cost of £7.5 million under the Economic Infrastructure Operational Programme. This was meant to be done in October last year but was held over until now.
We did our homework. I travelled to England and saw a similar plant in operation. A subsidiary company of Fibrowatt in England called Monopower has been set up in Monaghan. When we recommended the benefits of such a plant to the Minister, he travelled to England to see it. He and his officials admitted it was a good venture. It is not surprising that the people of Monaghan are frustrated. Development in that area is at a standstill. We have been told there will be no more AER. The current project will not meet the 1999 deadline as there are objections to it. When Dublin people start objecting one can be sure the project will never become a reality. Will the Minister site the project in Monaghan?