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Shell denies suggestions of lay-offs at Bellanaboy site

By: 
Lorna Siggins - Irish Times

SHELL EP Ireland has denied rumours this week of lay-offs and said it had suspended construction on the Corrib gas terminal in north Mayo only because of the cold weather.

The company said the decision was taken two days ago due to concerns about the safety of workers travelling to and from the site at Bellanaboy.

It is expected that construction will resume on Monday but this may be reviewed if weather deteriorates, according to a company spokeswoman. The terminal or refinery for the gas project is almost 85 per cent complete, and about 800 staff are employed there, the company says.

It says there has been a gradual reduction in numbers since last summer, but has denied local reports of lay-offs.

The developers are working on a response to An Bord Pleanála following last November’s ruling by the appeals board that up to half of the proposed new route for the Corrib gas onshore pipeline was “unacceptable” on safety grounds, due to proximity to housing in Rossport and Glengad.

The board suggested that Shell EP Ireland and its Corrib gas partners explore another route, up the Sruwaddacon estuary, and gave the developers three months to come back with detailed information on the route, design and safety of the high pressure pipe.

The appeals board also noted that part of the pipeline route onshore was omitted from the application. Shell EP Ireland has until February 5th to respond to a series of points raised by the board.

The firm expressed confidence late last year that this deadline would be met. Significantly, the developers say they are committed to applying for a review of the project’s emissions licence granted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) two years ago. This follows a commitment given to the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association (EIFA) in relation to the discharge pipe.

A company spokeswoman told The Irish Times that the review would require a comprehensive application to the EPA, and that “significant progress” had been made on preparing this. “It is our intention to honour our agreement with the EIFA,” she said.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries confirmed yesterday that a foreshore licence application relating to the modified route was still before it. The application “covers the whole route as it affects the State foreshore including the proposed Sruwaddacon Bay crossings,” it said.

“On November 2nd, 2009, An Bord Pleanála requested Shell to provide further information to the board in respect of the above route,” the department said.

“The department has noted the position of An Bord Pleanála and awaits the response from Shell,” it said.