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EPA defers Corrib licence ruling

The Irish Times
Friday, September 28, 2007
Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
The Environmental Protection Agency has deferred its decision on an emissions licence for the Corrib gas refinery in north Mayo.
The agency says it is extending the time-frame for a final ruling on the application by Shell E&P Ireland for an integrated pollution prevention control (IPPC) licence until November 28th.
A decision on the licence had been expected this week, following an oral hearing on the issue that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) convened in Belmullet, Co Mayo, last April.
A preliminary decision in favour of the IPPC licence had been issued by the agency last January, and there were 13 appellants to this, including Shell E&P Ireland for the Corrib gas developers. Other appellants included An Taisce, the Erris Inshore Fishermen's Association, parish priest Fr Michael Nallen and members of the Shell to Sea campaign.
The EPA says it is allowing for extra time because of the "complexities of the issues involved". It is empowered to do this under article 40 (1) of the EPA (Licensing) Regulations, it says, and will issue a decision as "expeditiously as possible".
The IPPC licence relates to atmospheric and marine emissions from the terminal, and Shell E&P Ireland argues the processes and equipment it proposes to use at the Bellanaboy refinery, currently under construction, represent technologies the company uses in many parts of the world.
An Taisce has argued that the location of the refinery within a major water catchment precludes the EPA from issuing an IPPC licence. At a meeting in Erris in late August, An Taisce said that if a licence was granted, it would seek an interim order from the European Commission on grounds that it would be in breach of EU directives.
The commission's powers - through the European Court of Justice - to issue interim orders or injunctions have not been exercised in Ireland to date, but have been in other EU member states. Earlier this year, the Polish government changed its plans for a motorway after a warning from the EU that such measures - equivalent to an injunction - were being pursued.
Were such measures to be secured against the Corrib gas project after the issuing of key consents, the State could be liable to legal action by the developers.
A spokesman for the Corrib gas partners said last night that it had been informed of the deferral, and said that the IPPC licensing system was both "thorough and transparent", with a "high level of public consultation and participation", including a 12-day oral hearing.
© 2007 The Irish Times

Posted Date: 
13 October 2007 - 7:42pm