No inquiry into waste burning at cement works

A call for a public inquiry into plans by Lafarge Cement to carry out trial burns with waste-based liquid fuel at its Westbury works in Wiltshire was rejected by Environment Minister Elliot Morley during an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on 27 November.

The call for an inquiry was made by Dr Andrew Murrison, Conservative MP for Westbury. The Lafarge works already burns waste tyres, and Dr Murrison said there were "serious questions about the way in which the Environment Agency has managed permissions to burn tyres."

According to Dr Murrison, there was no like-for-like comparison of emissions before and after tyre burning began. Recent data, he said, show that particulate emissions have increased since tyre burning began, and other key pollutants have either increased or not been monitored at all. The Agency appeared not to know whether the plant's electrostatic precipitators remove fine PM2.5 particles, which may pose the greatest hazard to respiratory health.

His claims were countered by Mr Morley, who said that the plant's emission limits for particulates and nitrogen oxides have been halved since 2000.

The Minister said he could see no justification for calling in Lafarge's application to burn recycled liquid fuel and holding an inquiry. Such inquiries are reserved for issues of national importance, but the application was of only local importance, and the risks associated with the technology were "well known and understood".

"These days it seems to be the fashion immediately to demand a public inquiry, whatever the issue," Mr Morley observed. We have confidence in the Environment Agency to carry out its duties and to follow its procedures. We cannot hold a public inquiry whenever there could be a controversial decision; otherwise we would be bogged down with endless inquiries."

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