Monday, 22 August 2016

Nominations for New Earth 'Hall of Shame'

by DOUG COLLIE

A couple of former Government ministers, the apparently gullible Carbon Trust, and Regen South West have been nominated by Not Just Sheep & Rugby to join Scottish Borders councillors in a special Hall of Shame for those who thought New Earth Solutions Group [NESG] was a world beating waste treatment contractor.

With the bankrupt Group now in its death throes and about to be dissolved together with its equally useless "funder" New Earth Recycling & Renewables [Infrastructure] PLC or NERR we thought it might be interesting to determine whether Scottish Borders Council had been the only party to fall for the partnership's worthless sales patter.

As most readers will know by now council taxpayers who rely on SBC for their local government services were deprived of at least £2.4 million after elected members awarded NESG a £21 million deal to deliver a 'cutting edge' facility to treat the region's annual output of 40,000 tonnes of municipal rubbish.

The troubled contract had to be completely ditched in 2015 after the Dorset-based Group's inappropriately named NEAT technology finally exhausted the council's patience. The form of incineration had been a dud from day one yet local councillors were mightily impressed by what they were shown, and sealed the deal in advance of even the research and development stage being finalised.

Meanwhile the offshore NERR fund with its links to the tax haven of British Virgin Islands repeatedly told SBC their project at Easter Langlee would be the next NESG job to receive financial backing. Unfortunately, behind the scenes, NESG was piling up more than £150 million of debt and owed NERR over £100 million, forcing the Isle of Man fund managers to suspend operations.

NERR now has liquidators from accountants Deloitte in charge with a meeting of no doubt angry investors due to be held at the end of this month. Those who placed their cash in NERR have already been told they will not get their money back.

Yet the twin paths to financial disaster are littered with tributes from politicians, millions of pounds of grants to assist the lame duck Group with technological development and even the occasional "gong" handed over at so-called glittering award ceremonies. It is doubtful whether the unsecured creditors of NESG, between them owed around £9 million, will be very impressed with any of that.

First candidate for the Hall of Shame is the Coalition Government's Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills Vince Cable who toured New Earth's Canford research and development facility in July 2012 to inspect the fledgling New Earth Advanced Thermal (NEAT) unit there.

After watching the system which was later installed in New Earth's Avonmouth treatment plant, Dr Cable declared: "It is very encouraging to see projects such as New Earth's renewable energy recovery plant being developed. The quality of innovation I have seen here -and the potential it offers UK plc - provides encouraging evidence that the entrepreneurial spirit we need to re-build our economy is thriving in this part of Dorset".

So how's that going now Dr. Cable? Well as we all know the Avonmouth power recovery business proved so troublesome and expensive it had to be "sold" to an Australian bank for nothing at all.

Another distinguished visitor to Canford a month later was Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles accompanied by officers and members of Bournemouth Council. They too were told about the development work on the NEAT process although we could not establish whether Mr Pickles and his group were moved to wax lyrical about their hosts.

Perhaps The Carbon Trust should be afforded pride of place in our Hall of Shame. In 2010 New Earth Solutions was handed £4 million by the Trust from an £18 million fund set up by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. It was the first monetary award from the new fund.

A news release at the time told readers: "The company [New Earth] is looking to use gasification and pyrolysis (chemical change brought about by the action of heat) technologies to convert waste-derived fuel into electricity".

This was precisely the system approved by Borders councilors and which was to cost their constituents millions of pounds to hire expensive consultants, lawyers and other specialists who all trousered fat fees before the Easter Langlee venture collapsed in disarray with no-one accepting responsibility for the financial disaster.

Our final nomination (for now) goes to the organisers of the 2013 Regen South West Green Energy Awards. Regen SW, the renewables not-for-profit membership organisation presented New Earth with the award for "Best Renewable Energy Scheme" at a ceremony held in Bath.

The accolade went to the afore-mentioned Avonmouth energy recovery facility "which benefits from patented NEAT advanced thermal technology developed by New Earth". It was recognised by the judging panel as 'disruptive technology'. Depends what they meant by disruptive!

If anyone would like to add to the list of entrants named above then we'll be happy to hear from you and accommodate them if they pass the shame test. We know of a considerable number of financial advisers who persuaded investors to sink substantial sums - often including their hard-earned pension pots - in NERR, never to see a return.

A sizeable collection of distressing stories can be found on the Financial Services Ombudsman's website after unsuspecting clients were charged handsomely for completely worthless advice, and later found their wealth trapped in a suspended entity. Thankfully many of the complaints to the FSA were successful and the advisers were ordered to reimburse their 'victims' in full.

At the same time, as we've also reported here, the directors of the Premier Group Isle of Man, the outfit which controlled and managed NERR and a number of other investment vehicles, were raking in millions of pounds in management fees.

Our newly built Hall of Shame - the job was completed on time and under budget - is already becoming a bit overcrowded, but there's still room for a few more of your nominations.


Monday, 15 August 2016

£5.5 million more needed for latest waste strategy

by DOUGLAS SHEPHERD

The failure by Scottish Borders Council and their bankrupt contractors  to deliver a £21 million waste treatment plant on the outskirts of Galashiels means a major new transfer station costing more than £5 million will now be built to enable the region's rubbish to be hauled out of the area by road for processing.

Community councils and a residents' association in an area close to the council's landfill site at Easter Langlee have received copies of a so-called Proposal of Application notice from the local authority.

It marks the beginning of a consultation process which will include at least one public event next month, according to paperwork published on the council's planning portal.

The documentation reveals that the building required to facilitate this latest set of waste management proposals will measure 57 metres by 34 metres (1,995 square metres) with 6,800 square metres of roads and hard-standing on the former landfill site.

Apparently this will be classed as a major application. The category of development is described in the following terms: "Waste management facilities exceeding 25,000 tonnes per annum capacity or more than 50 tonnes per day sludge treatment".

In the wake of the disastrous contract which Borders councillors signed in 2011 with New Earth Solutions Group, local taxpayers lost £2.4 million when Isle of Man-based funders (also now bankrupt and wound up) could not finance the deal while New Earth's technology proved unfit for purpose.

A conventional waste plant, capable of diverting 80% of Borders refuse from landfill should have been functioning by 2013 after planning permission and operating certificates were secured.

But then elected members sanctioned a contract variation to include the untested Advanced Thermal Technology. The entire project had to be abandoned in February 2015.

The papers lodged now for the waste transfer station plans state: "In August 2015 Scottish Borders Council approved plans to cease any further development of the Council's current landfill operations and build a new transfer station to direct waste out of the region for processing in line with legislation.

"With current inputs to the landfill site remaining as they are, it is anticipated that the current landfill void will run out in the summer/winter of 2017".

From January 2021, landfill sites in Scotland will no longer be able to accept biodegradable municipal waste that has not met "stringent pre-treatment processes".


The proposed transfer station is described as "a medium term solution to deal with central Borders waste (including growth) until the council complete the review of the current Waste Management Strategy to deliver a plan to meet current and future legislative targets and aspirations".

Yet so-called experts and specialists involved in procuring the contract with New Earth Solutions were warning the local authority in 2010 that to "do nothing" was not an option as the Scottish Government's waste disposal policies evolved. Six years down the line the situation in the Borders seems to remains unchanged.




Thursday, 4 August 2016

So who's to blame this time?

by EWAN LAMB

The deterioration in the condition of the Scottish Borders roads network has been faster over the last three years than in any of the country's other 31 local government areas, according to a devastating report from spending watchdog Audit Scotland.

It would appear the council's record on road maintenance is on a par with its recent handling of waste management and disposal which, as regular readers of these columns will know, has cost local taxpayers millions of pounds for no return.

Roads and environmental services should be treated as basic and vital services for residents of any locality. But it is clear that 'customers' of SBC are being sold short with explanations due and a clear lack of grip in evidence. Despite this dismal record now laid bare for all to see a fair smattering of those who should be accountable will soon be campaigning for re-election at next May's municipal contests. Do they deserve your vote?

It seems clear that given the track record of councillors who signed up for the New Earth Solutions Easter Langlee waste treatment fiasco, then spent five years being led up the garden path by contractors with neither the cash nor the technology to deliver, no-one will step from the shadows and admit responsibility for our Borders roads hell either!

According to Maintaining Scotland's Roads - the report looked at trends between 2011/12 and 2014/15 - there is a significant variation among councils in how the condition of local roads has changed over time with SBC at the very bottom of the pile.

Survey results have shown that for 18 councils the proportion of their local roads in acceptable condition increased, while for 14 councils the service levels deteriorated.

And here's the key message for Borders road users: "The extent of variation ranged from an improvement in acceptable conditions of 11% in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar [Western Isles] to a deterioration of 9% in Scottish Borders Council". It represents a full 20% differential between the councils at each end of the road maintenance spectrum.

Across Scotland the condition of council maintained roads has remained stable at around 63% in acceptable condition over three years with significant variations between authorities.

Audit Scotland reports that SBC committed funding from 2015 to slow down the rate of decline in road conditions. The option chosen, on the face of it, will have little impact in achieving future improvements.

"The council selected to invest an additional £67.3 million in roads maintenance over 20 years", adds the report. "This is projected to slow down the rate of decline and achieve a target of 55% of roads in acceptable condition. Current condition is 54.5% of roads in acceptable condition". 

The impression left with Borders council taxpayers is of a council administration with its eyes firmly off the ball and glued instead to financially wasteful vanity projects which should not even be on the radar while the services on which every household depends are being delivered so haphazardly.

Hard working families who hand over their ten instalments of council tax each financial year deserve better than this. But a bumpy road ahead may be all that's on offer from Scottish Borders Council.


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A desperate throw of the dice

by DOUG COLLIE

Details of a desperate ploy by contractors commissioned to build a £21 million waste management centre for Scottish Borders Council which would have involved transporting all of the region's household refuse to facilities in North-east England for treatment are outlined in documents newly released under Freedom of Information.

It has also been disclosed that because so-called gas-to-engine technology, which councillors sanctioned for the plant in 2012 before it had even proved itself commercially, was proving so risky to potential project funders in 2014 that a switch to a steam-based system for converting garbage to energy was suggested as a last-ditch way of salvaging the crumbling venture.

In this chapter of the unmitigated tragedy for Borders taxpayers we deal with the remaining months of a contract moratorium, waved through by elected members so that their useless contractors New Earth Solutions Group [NESG] could continue to address long-term technological and financial issues which had dogged the Easter Langlee scheme from the outset.

Exchanges of emails between NESG, now being dissolved with debts estimated at £159 million, the council, and its legal advisers Brodies WS reveal the strained nature of the relationship between the parties during July and August 2014. Yet it would be another six months before the catastrophic contract was ripped up and the entire idea of building the treatment centre abandoned. SBC's recklessness and poor decision making cost millions of pounds.

A censored email from SBC Major Projects to NESG dated July 24 2014 warns: "The lack of information that is being provided by NES in relation to progress with the future funding of the Easter Langlee project and the role that NERR (Isle of Man-based New Earth Recycling & Renewables Fund) will play within the future project is concerning.

"We are five months into the moratorium process and no demonstrable progress has been made with this fundamental part of the moratorium".

However, it has since transpired that NERR was incapable of funding the job by that stage as the Fund's directors had suspended its activities months earlier with NESG owing NERR £102 million.

The council's strident message to New Earth management continues: "Without an evidence trail to support the work you are undertaking it is putting the project team in a very difficult position when briefing senior officers and members. It is essential that you are able to demonstrate work undertaken and a clear set of proposals for next steps at the meeting on August 22.

"It was extremely disappointing and a surprise to learn today that despite confirmation by NES on 23/5/2014 that the gasifier order would be committed to by NES (to allow the gasifier to be built by mid-August 2014) the order has not been placed and you are unable to confirm when the order will be placed.

"This decision by NES puts at risk the current operating permit process, as it has been indicated previously by SEPA that they will no longer elongate permit application processes, and it means that NES will almost certainly not be able to meet the outputs of the moratorium programme".

There had been ample evidence in other private correspondence between the parties that NES and its "funder" NERR were stringing SBC along even though the gasifier and pyrolysis technology planned for use at Galashiels remained unfit for purpose. With every day the contract remained in place the directors of NERR were able to continue collecting fees for promoting and administering the suspended Fund.

NES would spin another book of fables in a response to the council marked CONFIDENTIAL & COMMERCIALLY SENSITIVE on August 6 2014.

According to the near insolvent contractors: "The senior debt provider wants to invest directly at the start of our next projects. Scottish Borders has featured prominently in this conversation. However the existing funder would probably expect that the solution is a steam-based energy project as they have now got themselves comfortable with the proven nature of this technology.

"We now consider a steam-based project to be financially viable. The NES Group team are doing a review of the viability of delivering a steam solution to Scottish Borders".

Up to that point the gas-to-engine technology was preferred for the project although it had been continually misfiring and under-performing at a research and development site in the south of England.

A switch to steam at this late state in the day would have involved a further contract variation. But councillors had already shown their willingness to change horses in midstream in October 2012, abandoning a highly efficient conventional facility capable of diverting 80% of waste from landfill in favour of a total gamble with a form of treatment which did not work. It proved to be a fatal error of judgement.

This latest wheeze from NES even came with a sweetener in a bid to persuade the local authority to plump for the steam option.

NES wrote: "In recognition that the project has been delayed, NESG is currently reviewing the availability of emerging treatment capacity in North-east England. This could result in NES offering the council an interim treatment solution for all or part of its residual waste which could be transferred from the council's transfer stations to a third party treatment facility".

This latest special offer drew the following response on August 13 2014 from Edinburgh law firm Brodies - paid more than £670,000 by SBC for advice during the lifetime of the contract: "It is another matter, of course, whether whatever might be offered would save costs to the council in the interim compared to continuing disposal to landfill.

"We should be mindful that the purpose of the moratorium is to see if a clear way forward can be found for the final waste treatment solution. So we might not wish to pursue any interim solution unless and until satisfied following the moratorium that the final residual waste treatment solution is judged to be technically viable, fundable and likely to be implemented within a satisfactory timescale".

Two months after that was written a delegation from SBC returned from a two-day jaunt to the NES plant near Bristol convinced they were still on the right track after a "valuable and illuminating trip".



Sunday, 24 July 2016

Councillors failed to spot £159 million debt

EXCLUSIVE by EWAN LAMB

The members of a 16-strong delegation from Scottish Borders Council who took part in a 'valuable and illuminating' fact finding mission to Bristol in October 2014 returned completely unaware the contractors they had selected for a £21 million public sector project in Galashiels were already £159 million in debt to banks, and the main source of further funding had already been cut off and suspended.

Last month's complete financial collapse of the New Earth Solutions Group (NESG) along with the allied New Earth Recycling & Renewables [Infrastructure] Fund (NERR) has been followed by devastating evidence from the Group's joint administrators in a damning report to creditors.

The company which was to have delivered a waste treatment solution for the Borders is to be dissolved while the linked Isle of Man-based NERR Fund is being liquidated.

It has also emerged that Duff & Phelps, NESG's administrators, are conducting statutory investigations into the role of NES's directors in the three years leading up to the Group's spectacular demise with checks also to be made for money laundering activities.

Borders council taxpayers have had to shell out at least £2.4 million as a direct result of the council's involvement with NES on a four-year venture which was finally abandoned last year. At the same time company shareholders and investors are understood to have lost millions more while at least one payment of £4 million from public funds to NES has also been written off.

The October 2014 trip was, according to SBC, vital to allow the delegation to conduct 'due diligence' and familiarise themselves with the technical detail of the contract. But the 75-page report from Duff & Phelps suggests the mission failed to uncover the catastrophic and near insolvent state of NES. By this time the Borders project was years behind schedule.

A report published by the Border Telegraph on October 13 2014 - after the Bristol trip - included the following contribution from a council spokesman: "A new delivery timetable is being agreed. When the modified operating permit [from SEPA] has been secured, further work on the integrated facility can be progressed and a revised construction date will be communicated to the community and stakeholders."

Council leader David Parker was quoted as saying the trip had been “valuable and illuminating”. He added: “The integrated WTF (waste treatment facility) is a really big deal for our council as it will transform the way we deal with our waste and help us comply with our zero waste obligations.

“It also involves a major investment, in partnership with NES, which requires councillors to carry out due diligence and, in that respect, the trip was necessary. I am satisfied after our visit that we are on the right track and confident that the WTF will be up and running before the 2019 contract deadline, hopefully by mid-2017.”
However, the report to creditors outlines a somewhat different scenario.
It confirms conclusively that In October 2014 NESG was carrying approximately £159 million of debt with £37 million due to the Banking Group (Co-op) and a staggering £102 million to the NERR Fund which was subordinated to the Co-op debt.
A further £20 million was owed to Australia's Macquarie Bank with a request for further funding. The report explains that funding from NERR had been suspended in 2014 and Co-op Bank had been requested to step in to provide financing.
The assets of the Group have been sold by Duff & Phelps in a deal with DM Opco Ltd for just £5.903 million. The sale included New Earth Solutions’ business intellectual property (the New Earth name) for £1, the customer list (£1), information technology (£1), stock (£1) and work in progress (£1).
Other significant bullet points from the report include:
*There are insufficient realisations to repay Co-op Bank in full under its security.
*As NERR’s security is subordinated to the Co-op’s debt there is no prospect of any distribution being made to NERR under its security.
*It is not anticipated that there will be any return to the non-preferential creditors of NES. A total of 266 businesses and individuals owed £9.169 million including: Trade & Expense creditors £4.202 million; inter-company loans £3.954 million; HM Revenue & Customs £1 million.
*The joint administrators recommend New Earth Solutions Group be dissolved.
The report goes on to state: "It is a statutory requirement that the joint administrators provide a report to the Secretary of State on the conduct of the directors in their management of the Group to determine their unfitness to act in such a role. If the Secretary of State then instigates directors’ disqualification proceedings, further time may be expended in providing supporting documents, witness statements etc.
"Full details of the investigations to be conducted cannot be disclosed at this stage in order to avoid prejudicing any potential recovery or action in this regard. Given the size of the Group’s operations, number of bank accounts and number of directors involved in the Group in the three years prior to the joint administrators’ appointment, time costs are estimated at £41,860 in both NESG and New Earth Solutions Facilities Management (NESFM). Activities will also include anti-money laundering and ethical checks costing £96,200 and £95,000."
Publication of the joint administrators' report and its direct reference to October 2014 re-shines the spotlight on SBC's cross-party visit to the New Earth Solutions untried and untested technical and financial arrangements which were supposed to make SBC the leading waste disposal authority in Scotland.
A detailed account of the trip and all paperwork associated with it should be made public immediately to allow council taxpayers to judge the standard of 'due diligence' achieved on a visit which also cost thousands of pounds to carry out. If elected members were unaware of the alarmingly negative facts and figures set out above then they patently failed in their duty.







Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Council should have axed Borders waste contract 15 months sooner

EXCLUSIVE by DOUGLAS SHEPHERD

Members of Scottish Borders Council should be made to explain in full why they granted a cash-strapped firm of waste treatment contractors a 15-month stay of execution to work on a worthless public sector project, allowing expenditure to escalate while funding and technological issues could not be solved, according to an industry insider.

Another collection of confidential correspondence between the council, New Earth Solutions Group [NES] and various consultants commissioned by the local authority spanning the period December 2013 to August 2014 provides yet more damning evidence that the entire £21 million Easter Langlee waste treatment contract was in complete disarray with no sign of any worthwhile progress.

The email trail also suggests SBC was fobbed off with excuses and offers of temporary solutions as the technology tests continued to disappoint and malfunction.

The files released under Freedom of Information show that in late 2013 NES had indicated in a letter to SBC a potential two year delay to the project while a demonstrator facility was built at the company's Canford site in the south of England. This would have entailed a revised construction programme at the Galashiels site with a new start-up date given as July 2017.

A redacted email from Nevin Associates, the council's financial advisers, dated December 3rd 2013 states: "To some extent the information in the November report has been overtaken by events, and in particular NES's advice that they will not now be in a position to commence the construction of the advanced thermal treatment [ATT] facility until June 2016, i.e. more than two years later than the originally scheduled date."

The censored report had revealed that the technology trial starting on November 17 stopped after - hours when 'the fuel that forms the - and in order to prevent significant damage to the plant, the plant was shut down'.

According to Nevin: "This may have been the final incident that convinced NES to come clean and admit that there was no chance of implementing NEAT [the brand name for their unproven technology] on a commercial scale in 2014."

The council is then told: "The revised programme indicates that the detailed design of the Canford project will be completed by April 2014, and construction of the Canford demonstration facility will commence in July 2014. The facility itself will, on this programme, only become operational in July 2015, and revised schedule for the Easter Langlee facility - i.e. start on site in June 2016 - implicitly assumes that there will be no significant problems at Canford. If there are, then one could anticipate further delays, or even cancellations, of the Easter Langlee ATT facility".

But it seems that despite even that stark warning flagging up further costly delays, councillors were able to sanction a six-month contract moratorium in February 2014 to give NES even more time to tackle the long standing issues. And the contract was not finally abandoned until February 2015 by which time council taxpayers were at least £2.4 million worse off.

Followers of the fiasco will recall that the council signed up for the useless form of ATT in October 2012 thinking they would become leaders in the field of waste disposal in Scotland, so perhaps a decision to withdraw from the contract barelya year later might have damaged them politically.

So what did in fact happen while the moratorium was in place? Virtually nothing, it would appear.

SLR Consulting, SBC's technology consultants, reported on April 22 2014: "We are struggling a little to understand the explanation from NES regarding the difficulties with testing. Once again our feeling is that NES continues to fire fight, dealing with each individual issue in isolation rather than considering the overall impact on plant operation."

In a further message dated May 30 2014 SLR wrote: "CANFORD GASIFIER AND R&D PROGRESS - We would anticipate seeing a thorough and continuous programme of trial and test with a series of upgrades and modifications engineered into the schedule, and then a break to accommodate a redesign for installation of the new facility.

"Instead NES appear to be pushing on without any clear plan and without really being certain of what they need to have in place and without making much concession to the fact they are unsure of what they will need".

When Not Just Sheep & Rugby showed the latest releases to one expert observer his response was strongly critical of the way the council had dealt with New Earth Solutions Group.

He told us: "The technical problems have not been resolved to this day, and were not going to be resolved in six months! Councillors should have known the highly experimental nature of the technology they were being asked to back.

"They should have been informed by independent experts that they were deciding to gamble with public money - and that the odds were against them (and the pay off if they won was not all that great). SBC should have been well ware that the technology in which they were investing public money had never been used for a mixed waste feedstock as was proposed. Why were they even considering a technology that had not been demonstrated to work?

"Led up the garden path? Sounds more like they were shuffled into a fancy limousine by a bunch of thugs who work for the big boss".

The notion that they were told that "NES appear to be pushing on without any clear plan and without really being certain of what they need to have in place and without making much concession to the fact they are unsure of what they will need" and yet SBC did not abandon the project then and there is rather damning."

Further evidence from the moratorium to follow......







Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Council contractors wanted independent regulator pressurised

EXCLUSIVE by DOUG COLLIE

A firm of waste treatment contractors working for Scottish Borders Council wanted Government agencies in Scotland to browbeat the national environmental regulator in a bid to nullify serious issues over the granting of an operating certificate.

Details of the 'outrageous' strategy, which was hatched in 2013, together with the subsequent strongly worded slap-downs from the local authority and its advisors have been disclosed in documentation released under Freedom of Information.

New Earth Solutions (Scottish Borders) [NES], the company specifically set up to deliver the £21 million Advanced Thermal Technology [ATT] plant at Easter Langlee, Galashiels, applied to the fiercely independent Scottish Environment Protection Agency [SEPA] in May 2013 for a variation to the so-called Pollution Prevention and Control [PPC] permit required to operate the plant.

It was originally hoped to have the PPC signed off by October 2013. But in fact there were so many unresolved issues with the technology to be installed in the Borders treatment centre that SEPA had still not issued the necessary paperwork by February 2015 when council and contractor abandoned the project with a combined financial loss of at least £4 million.

In what appears to be a shockingly frank email to the council in September 2013, NES wrote: "As SBC is aware, we disagree with SEPA in a number of areas relating to their need for certain data in order to process the PPC.

"Now we are through the 'difficult' part of the project (i.e. the planning application), as discussed at the previous meeting, we may need SBC's assistance with lobbying through Scottish Government to bring pressure to bear on SEPA. We met with Zero Waste Scotland [ZWS] at the RWM event [an annual resource efficiency and waste management exhibition held in Birmingham] and expressed frustration with SEPA's approach and we will be following up on this initial contact".

NES also told the council: "We believe that SEPA's likely requirements on data may exceed what the regulations require", going on to suggest that "if SEPA is not satisfied with the data we do provide, then we will have to argue the point with them and it is on this point that the wider assistance of SBC may be required".

At that time the Easter Langlee technical systems being 'road tested' by NES at their sister plants in Canford and Avonmouth were frequently misfiring. On occasions the machinery had to be shut down to avoid serious damage to the various parts while mention is also made of equipment breakages and the need for adjustments by skilled engineers.

Despite all of that NES managers clearly thought the Borders permit should be nodded through by SEPA.

Commenting on the proposed challenge to SEPA's authority, consultants Nevin Associates told SBC: "I'm not sure whether such a confrontational approach is well advised. An alternative is for the three parties - the regulator, the contractor and ourselves as client - to participate in a round table meeting to agree a pragmatic route forward to meeting SEPA's concerns regarding emissions and the air quality impact of the technology."

The Nevin Associates message adds: "My suspicion is that NES's reluctance [to meet SEPA's demands] is because their thermal treatment technology is not yet sufficiently developed.

"The ability of the plant to run continuously is now only due to be tested during the week commencing October 21st 2013, which is well behind schedule. NES seek to lay the blame for this on SEPA, commenting that offices have been unavailable to discuss the application.

"I suspect this is somewhat disingenuous, and that the real reason is that NES's own technology trials are progressing more slowly than anticipated".

The same consultant goes on to say that NES must 'come clean' regarding the exact nature of the technological issues that they are seeking to overcome.

He added: "I just feel at the moment that we are suffering a little from the 'mushroom syndrome', with NES being somewhat disingenuous in seeking to apportion blame for the delay to SEPA. This may be a defensive mechanism on their part, to avoid the risk that we can refer to the legal provisions of the contract to claim damages from them in the event of a significant delay".

In a thinly veiled rebuke to NES over its strident posturing against SEPA, SBC's Department of Environment & Infrastructure warned: "In relation to your soundings to ZWS regarding SEPA's performance, can you please reframe for further discussion until the situation has been discussed with the council.

"We do not believe that representations to another government body [Quango] on the performance of a regulatory body reflects well on us - NES are effectively representing the council to deliver the project - and could cause the council future wider issues with SEPA if they take exception to the complaint route that has been taken.

"As discussed at the last contracts meeting, if NES feel that SEPA's performance needs to be challenged then a meeting is to be convened with the council to discuss the issue, the risks, the approach and who is best placed to take it forward".

After studying the newly released paperwork, a waste industry expert told us: "Quite outrageous and totally unprofessional on New Earth's part. To even contemplate asking any government department to heap pressure on an agency like SEPA beggars belief. I sincerely hope ZWS also told the company to get lost".

To be continued...

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