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Concerns voiced on Corrib project

Áine Ryan - Irish Times

AN ENVIRONMENTAL consultant has told a hearing into the controversial Corrib gas project in Belmullet, Co Mayo, that objectors to the project had no faith in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

During questions to department expert witnesses, Peter Sweetman said the department had initially allowed a pipeline pressure which had to be significantly reduced in 2006 after a Government-commissioned report on the matter.

The report by risk analysis consultants Advantica made a number of recommendations including limiting gas pressure in the onshore pipeline.

Mr Sweetman also addressed concerns about the stability of Dooncarton mountain, the site of a landslide which in September 2003 left some householders homeless.

Dooncarton mountain is close to Sruwaddacon Bay where Shell proposes to build the longest subsea tunnel in western Europe, as part of the revised pipeline route, presently under consideration.

In an earlier submission, Peter Waite, an expert witness for the department, said while the “current proposal to place a pipeline in a tunnel beneath Sruwaddacon Bay satisfies distance separation criteria”, it raised other issues.

He said he had sought further information from Shell about a number of issues including “[clear] demonstration that continuous vibration from tunnelling will not induce instability on the face of Dooncarton mountain”.

Responding to a question by John Monaghan, of community group Pobal Chill Chomáin, Mr Waite confirmed the department was relying on the quantified risk assessment provided by the applicant and had not undertaken its own. However, he observed that while he had not conducted his own, he was “critically assessing” the one submitted by Shell.

In a statement on behalf of the Commission for Energy Regulation, Garrett Blaney said its forthcoming petroleum safety framework would outline the safety regulation “for each stage of the lifecycle of petroleum infrastructure” including design, construction, operation, maintenance, modifications and decommissioning.

The hearing continues today.