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'Fundamental flaws' in Corrib application

Áine Ryan - Mayo News

Mayo News - Tuesday, December 8, 2009

FUNDAMENTAL flaws in Shell's application for the Corrib gas route should have led to an outright refusal by An Bord Pleanála (ABP), according to Shell to Sea. That's what the protest group argues in a letter, seen by The Mayo News, and sent recently to the board.

The letter cites the fact that under the fast-tracking Strategic Infrastructure Act (2206), it is an objective that decisions are effected within an 18-week period. It points out that this had not been achieved during this process, which initially had set August 11 last as the date for a decision. This was subsequently deferred on two occasions, with the developer now expected to provide key amendments to the application by February next.

In the letter, which was sent on November 30, Shell to Sea proposes that the 'fundamental flaws' highlighted in ABP's ruling leave the way open for a new, ab initio (invalid from the outset) application.

However, when contacted yesterday by The Mayo News, an ABP spokesman referred to Section 4 (182a) of the 2006 act, which makes provision for a preliminary view to be taken by the board. In this section, it is stated that if the board is of the provisional view that 'it would be appropriate to approve the proposed development were certain alterations made' it may notify the developer of such a view and allow such alterations.

However, the Shell to Sea signatories argue that the board acted ultra vires (beyond its powers) and the decision process has now been exhausted: “We contend that An Bord Pleanála'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.”

The letter continues: “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.”

On November 3 last, ABP revealed that almost half the new route for the controversial project was 'unacceptable' on safety grounds. It proposed that Shell examine an alternative partial route up Sruwaddacon Bay.

In a four-page letter to Shell, it stated that the proposed high-pressure pipeline would run too close to housing at Rossport and between Glengad and Aughoose. It stated that it was 'unacceptable' that these houses were within 'the hazard range of the pipeline if a failure should occur'.

The ABP letter stated: “The design documentation for the pipeline and the quantified risk analysis (QRA) provided with the application does not present a complete, transparent and adequate demonstration that the pipieline does not pose an unacceptabe risk to the public.”

In response to the decision Shell stated at the time: “In relation to the issue of safety the Corrib Gas Partners remain firmly of the view that the pipeline, as designed is safe and meets all international standards and industry best practice.”