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Press Release: Campaigners call for outright refusal of permission for Shell pipeline

Following An Bord Pleanala’s November 2nd ruling on Shell’s controversial Corrib gas pipeline, campaigners have written to the Board (lfull text of the letter below) calling unequivocally for refusal of permission on the basis of fundamental rejections contain in this ruling.  Additionally the “statutory objective to make decisions within 18 weeks”1 has been greatly exceeded by ABP; to “serve notice in writing on the applicant,” ... “and give a reason why it will not decide the case within that period”2. Consequently appellants and campaigners have called for ‘Refusal’ due to the fundamental flaws identified by ABP in the current submission. 

This would leave open the way for a new, ab initio, application to be submitted, and would give appellants access to the ABP Inspector’s report as well as to the comprehensive records of the Oral Hearing on which the Board has made its ruling.  Appellants are entitled to this information especially in view of the extent to which their objections have been vindicated by ABP’s recent ruling.

The Decision on this pipeline was targeted statutorily for August 10 last.  Yet only now has the Board highlighted gravely significant safety concerns.  These same concerns have been at the heart of the community's objections to the Corrib Gas Project being imposed on their area [*] Shell’s repeated assurances, echoed persistently by government Ministers, that the pipeline is safe, have now been revealed by An Bord Pleanala to be false in several fundamental respects.  This vindicates claims made by numerous campaigners during the 19-day Oral Hearing last May regarding these serious defects.

Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway said: “The ruling in An Bord Pleanala’s letter revealed a number of crucial flaws in Shell’s proposed design.  This should lead to an outright refusal, and not a fudge of the issue in the form of a deferral – it is not the Board’s role to aid Shell in finding a way to push this project through.  But this is exactly what they have tried to do in suggesting Sruwaddacon Bay as an alternative route for the pipeline – a route that has already been found to be unviable on both technical and environmental grounds by Shell’s own documentation!”[**] 

He added: “An Bord Pleanala risk losing credibility if it is not seen to be neutral in adjudicating this matter.  Fast-tracking should not mean side-tracking: the Board does not have jurisdiction to introduce an entirely different route into this application, a route which in any case has been totally rejected already by the applicant on both environmental and technical grounds”

 

1       http://www.pleanala.ie/sid/sidapp.htm Sect. 5.10.1

2       ibid

Notes for Editors

[*] ‘The Corrib Gas ruling’ http://www.mayonews.ie/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8095&Itemid=135

[**] ‘Board may reopen Corrib Gas hearing’ http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1105/1224258099100.html

 

For verification or further comment, please contact:
Maura Harrington   
Terence Conway    

*************************************

Copy of letter sent to An Bord Pleanala
c/o Inver Community Hall,
Inver,  Ballina,
Co Mayo.

Your Ref: 16.GA0004 and 16.DA0004
30 November, 2009

Secretary,
An Bord Pleanala, Dublin, 1

Dear Sirs,
We the undersigned hold that the report of the Board’s letter (dated
2nd November 2009) issued to SEPIL consultants, RPS Planning and
Environment, is fundamentally misleading in that it fails to indicate
the Decision of the Board, as required under the Act.

All the various stages of the process, as required and permitted by
the Act, have now been exhausted.  This is evidenced by the fact that
the target Decision date was formally deferred, and the new Decision
date has now expired.

We contend that An Bord Pleanala’s letter to the Applicant can only be
construed as a fundamental rejection of the Corrib Pipeline application
but explicit refusal is avoided.  This is clearly ultra vires since the
application process has been exhausted and a Decision is mandatory.
Juxtaposing “strategic national importance” with “it is provisionally
the view of the Board that it would be appropriate to approve the
onshore pipeline development.” is not a Decision in terms of the Act.
It does not fit any of the four clear options as laid down.

By failing to make a Decision the Board is relieving the applicant of
the need to make a new, ab initio, application and is depriving
appellants access to the Inspector’s report and records of the Oral
Hearing proceedings. This is inequitable and obstructive of both the
letter and spirit of the Act.

When the ‘Strategic Infrastructure’ bill was introduced as a ‘fast-
tracking’ process, assurances were given, especially to civil liberties
groups, that it would be objective, transparent and equitable.  It was
claimed that the Pre-planning and Scoping stages, would ensure that
high levels of preparedness were achieved before the actual planning
application stage commenced so that ‘fast-tracking’ would not infringe
the publics rights.

The findings of the Board demonstrate fundamental failures by both the
Applicant and ABP at the Pre-planning and Scoping stages, as for
instance:
•       the “design documentation” and “risk assessment” fail to “present a
complete, transparent and adequate demonstration that the pipeline does
not pose an unacceptable risk to the public.”  .
•       the crucial and controversial 5 km Rossport section has “a proximity
distance from dwellings which is within the hazard range of the
pipeline should a failure occur.”
•       a key section “of the route of the pipeline … has been omitted from
the application.”

We hold consequently that the ABP letter to the Applicant, as adverted
to above, represents a profound distortion of the SID process and call
for the urgent issuance of a full and final Decision.

Yours faithfully.
Signatures hand-written