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Shell oils the way to new planning application

The Irish Times
Monday 12th Feb. 2007
Shell seeks talks on new gas route
Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Shell E&P Ireland has sought preliminary discussions with An Bord Pleanála on its modified route for the Corrib gas onshore pipeline.
The request has been made on behalf of the Corrib gas partners under the new Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act - legislation which came into force at the end of January to speed up planning approval for major projects.
If the partners subsequently submit an application to the appeals board, it will be the first time that the controversial onshore pipeline has been submitted to any planning authority - as distinct from the Bellanaboy terminal, which was approved by An Bord Pleanála on a revised application.
The existing 9km route for the high pressure pipeline was approved and the company was granted compulsory acquisition orders to private lands by former marine minister Frank Fahey before the 2002 general election under amended Gas Acts.
The Corrib gas partners agreed last year to modify the pipeline route to take it away from houses in the Rossport area, following a recommendation by Government mediator Peter Cassells.
Last September, Shell outlined a seven-stage procedure, extending over 18 months, and predicted that it would be seeking consent from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources in the latter half of this year.
However, Shell says it will be seeking "consent" under the Strategic Infrastructure Act option and with the department. The request for "pre-application discussions" was submitted to the appeals board on February 8th. It is one of eight applications received to date by the board since the legislation came into force almost a fortnight ago.
Under the "discussions", the board may be asked to identify what is required in terms of a planning application, environmental impact statements and public consultation. It does not oblige the board to approve a subsequent application.
As yet no modified route has been identified, and a possible alternative via Sruwaddaccon Bay is through a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Shell to Sea spokesman Dr Mark Garavan said he welcomed "in principle" the prospect that the pipeline route might be submitted to An Bord Pleanála, but said that the project should be examined in its "totality", rather than in a piecemeal fashion.
"It underlines once again the incredibly truncated nature of project splitting - something which should not be happening with a project of this size and nature," Dr Garavan said.
In a related development, the Erris Inshore Fisherman's Association has said that it decided to abandon further dialogue with Shell E&P Ireland on its concerns relating to the Corrib gas project. This is the second time that the association has withdrawn from negotiations, the first being after the jailing of the Rossport Five in June 2005.
The association held two recent meetings with the company over the outfall pipe from the gas terminal and the impact on marine life in Broadhaven Bay.
Eddie Diver, the association's chair, said that while the first meeting was "constructive", the second was of "no value" and it would be seeking an urgent meeting with the Department of the Marine.
The fisherman's association will also be requesting that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hold an oral hearing over its preliminary decision to award an integrated pollution prevention and control licence to the gas terminal.
Early morning protests are continuing at the terminal and the cost of Garda security for Shell workers and contractors was €3.14 million for the four months up to the end of January. A "day of solidarity" in support of the campaign is planned for Bellanaboy this Friday, and the local campaign has appealed for it to be peaceful.
© 2007 The Irish Times

Posted Date: 
12 February 2007 - 11:13pm