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A Massive Pipe Came Loose in an Atlantic Gas Field and Irish Environmentalists Are Not Happy

Norma Costello - Vice

Police stand off with environmental protesters in Rossport (Photo by William Hedderman)

The Corib Gas pipeline project by the Western Irish fishing village of Rossport, County Mayo, has always been a source of controversy. It was established amid arrests and police batons, against the wishes of locals and environmental protesters. The project is supposed to start pumping gas this summer, and those activists remain convinced that extracting fossil fuels from an area famed for its natural beauty is a bad idea.

Just over a week ago, an 800 metre pipe that was supposed to be fixed to the sea-bed floated to the surface. Feeling that their fears may have been justified, local activists are demanding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) looks into it. I contacted the EPA who had previously said they would be investigating the issue. When I asked whether members of the EPA would visit the site, I was told they "don't consider it necessary at this time".

I spoke to Phillip Robinson from Shell about the incident and asked him what was in the dislodged pipes. "Last Friday 800 metres of plastic ducting that brings treated waste water 12 kilometres out to the Atlantic rose to the surface – previously it was on the sea bed. The 20 inch diameter offshore gas pipeline, which is made of high strength steel, has not been impacted," he said.

Despite Philip's assertions that the pipe did not carry pollutants, locals in the area are angry that the EPA has not visited the site. Local fisherman Pat "the chief" O'Donnell says the Irish authorities are ignoring problems facing the gas project. "The pipes dislodge and where's the EPA? Where are the Gardai for that matter, or the media? It's clear they're all just arms for the state and in this state, whatever Shell says is gospel," he said.

Maura Harrington who has been involved in the Shell to Sea Campaign for 15 years says the EPA's refusal to visit the site is "madness".

"The EPA are supposed to be a scientific body, but how the hell can they know what's going on if they don't send someone to check out the situation? It's absolute madness to 'investigate' without sending someone to the site that needs to be investigated," she said.

The gas project is already mired in scandal. Private security companies hired by Shell were accused of intimidating locals and activists while footage of Gardai beating protesters caused outraged throughout the country. The controversy reached its zenith when one un-vetted private security company worker, Michael Dwyer, was murdered by Bolivian special forces, after allegedly being part of a planned presidential assassination with people he met while working at Rossport.

Posted Date: 
25 March 2015