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Lobby group optimistic over possible oral hearing on Corrib gas plant licence

Current Publication Date: 02/02/2007
Lobby group optimistic over possible oral hearing on Corrib gas plant licence
by Fiona McGarry
Shell to Sea has said it is optimistic over the chances of an oral hearing before a final decision on an operating licence for the Corrib gas terminal.
The lobby group has said that while it is unlikely the Environmental Protection Agency will overturn its interim decision to grant the licence, an oral hearing would be “useful” in airing a number of public concerns.
Last week the EPA indicated that it was willing to grant an integrated pollution prevention and control licence to Shell for the operation of the terminal. The agency said it believed that emissions from the terminal “would not adversely affect human health or the environment”, and it proposed granting an IPPC licence subject to 85 conditions. On foot of the announcement, there is public consultation period until February 21, during which objections can be made to the EPA. Requests for an oral hearing can also be made by any party or individual, including Shell itself.
Spokesperson for Shell to Sea Dr Mark Garavan told the Mayo Advertiser the group is in the process of applying for an oral hearing, and said it would be “a real travesty” if one is not held. He said that “with a project of this complexity, if there ever was a rational for an oral hearing, this is it.” Acknowledging that any change to the interim decision is unlikely, Dr Garavan said a hearing would be a forum for raising local concerns.
Dr Garavan also noted the limitations of the EPA licensing processing, saying the agency has only investigated one phase in the controversial process. Examining the pipeline issue and the construction phase of the project is beyond the scope of the EPA. Dr Garavan said this “truncated process, whereby different aspects of the project are given the go-ahead at different stages, is unsatisfactory”. He said that there was no one body looking at the entirety of the terminal project, and that for this reason Shell to Sea was continuing to pursue its call for a full public enquiry on the issue.
The issue of the protection of the Erris drinking water supply, Carrowmore Lake, Dr Garavan predicted, would become increasingly more central in Shell to Seas’ campaign and might be raised at an oral hearing.
If a hearing is allowed by the EPA, anyone who has made an objection would be eligible to address the chairperson appointed by the EPA. After the hearing a report would be drawn up by the hearing’s chairperson or technical committee. This, in addition to all of the submissions received, would then be considered by the EPA before its final licensing decision.
The EPA has told the Mayo Advertiser that, to date, no valid submissions on its interim report or requests for an oral hearing have been received.
During the initial IPPC application process, 35 submissions were received by the EPA. Among the general submissions was one from Mayo Fianna Fáil Deputy John Carty, who raised concerns about the safety of the high pressure upstream pipeline. In response to this, the EPA said “the off-site upstream pipeline is a matter for the Department of Communications, Marine, and Natural Resources”.

Posted Date: 
5 February 2007 - 12:23pm