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Correspondence between campaigner and Minister Dempsey

Ministers Dail Speech (PDF)

Kerry Shell to Sea Solidarity Group, C/O 30 Cathair Danann,North Circular Road, Tralee,County Kerry.

October 22nd., 2005.

Minister Noel Dempsey T.D.,Department of Communications,Marine and Natural Recources.

Dear Minister Dempsey,
Kerry Shell to Sea Solidarity Group is part of the national campaign aimed at stopping Shell and it's partners, Statoil and Marathon processing gas on land in Mayo instead of at Sea and was also part of the successful campaign for the release of the Rossport Five, Michael O'Sheighin, Willie Corduff, Philip McGrath, Vincint McGrath and Brendan Philbin. The men were jailed at the end of June after attempting to prevent construction of the gas pipeline on their lands. One of the men was sixty five years of age and has a heart condition. The Kerry group was set up following a public meeting at the begining of August and it has since been involved in a series of local protests. The Shell to Sea campaign is supported by a broad cross section of society including religious people, trade unionists, invironmentalists and political parties (Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party, Sinn Fein and the Green Party). If the multinationals are allowed free reign in Mayo they may well try the same methods in Kerry and elsewhere in Ireland.
Support for the campaign continues to grow and as one of it's leading spokespersons, Mark Garavan argued recently at the above mentioned public meeting in Tralee, the Corrib gas issue ''truely has the potential to rock the state to it's foundations''. It took the imprisonment of the five men to lift the lid off the situation. Through their injunction against the men , Shell were given the power to keep the men in prison indefinitely. Andy Pile, head of Shell in Ireland, wanted all the local landowners imprisoned but was advised by public relations experts to just make an example of the five. Legal precedent was set when the government allowed a private company, Shell, to impose compulsary purchase orders against private landowners.
The health and safty risks concerned with this project are at the heart of the dispute. The pipeline has never been evaluated by any competent authority. Mayo County Council bowed to the developers' wish that it be exempt from planning obligations. An Bord Pleanala, after two refusals, finally overruled its own senior inspector and allowed the gas refinery to go ahead at Ballanaboy. Nowhere in the world is such a pipeline in operation with such high levels of pressurised gas passing as close as seventy metres from people's homes and lying in over a metre of bogland, which is on average 70% water as is the case in Rossport. In the last twenty years the U.S. has experienced over four thousand pipeline accidents resulting in almost four hundred deaths. Significant amounts of pollution will also occur from the pipeline in Mayo, including discharges of Chlorides, Sulphates and air pollutants from the refinery such as Oxides of Nitrogen, Carbon and Methane.
The Corrib natural gas field is owned completely by a consortium of private companies, Shell (45%), Statoil (36%) and Marathon (18.5%). Ray Burke was the minister primarily responsible for this sell off. On top of this, Ireland has by far one of the lowest corporation tax regimes in Europe which in any case can be written off against capital costs. The gas will be the same cost to us as if we were importing it from Russia and the only return the people of Mayo can expect is 35 temporary jobs. The Shell consortium will pay no royalties to the state for being allowed to process the gas. Meanwhile Bord Gais is extending the national grid to facilitate this project at a cost of E200 million to the Irish people and the Government has never made public the details of Coilte's sale of 400 acres of state land to Shell in 1999. Last year Shell made $17.5 billion profits after tax!
The Norwegian company Statoil is also heavily involved in the Corrib project, yet ironically, it would not be allowed to carry out such work in Norway. This is because over 70% of the Statoil is owned by the state and subject to strigent health and safty regulations. Norway also charges 78% tax on the company's profits which means that the Norweagen public services will gain significantly from the exploitation of the Corrib gas field where as those in Ireland will gain nothing!
Only a nationalised gas industry can ensure health and safty issues are taken seriously and that the profits of these resources are shared equally amongst the Irish people. According to Mark Garavan, what is happening in Mayo is a ''people's revolution''. Since the days of Michael Davitt and the Land League, land is imbedded into the historical memory of the Mayo people. Growing numbers of people in Mayo and Ireland generally are following the example of the Bolivian people in South America and the Ogoni people in Nigeria and demanding control over our gas and oil reserves.
Kieran McNulty,Kerry Shell to Sea Solidarity Group.

Department of Communication and Natural Recources,Office of the Minister, Dublin 2.
November 17th., 2005.
Mr. Kieran McNulty,Kerry Shell to Sea Solidarity Group,C/o 30 Cathair Danann,NCR,Tralee.
Dear Mr. McNulty,
thankyou for your recent letter concerning the Corrib Gas Field. You will be interested to know that I have recently appointed Mr. Peter Cassels in the dispute. I hope that this mediation process will help to reach a solution that will be acceptable to all.
I have also commisioned a complete review of the safty of the upstream pipeline by an independent assessor. This review will critically examin all relevant documentation relating to the design, construction and operation of the unshore upstream section of the Corrib Gas pipeline and associated facilities ie from the landfall to the gas terminal. It will also, inter allia, identify any deficiencies in any respect relating to these matters and make recommendations reguarding them. Pending the outcome of this review Shell E&P Ireland Ltd.have, at my request, ceased all works on the offshore pipeline to allow for a period of public discussion and dialogue. The company will use this time to address the remaining public concerns.
The safty review is being carried out by Advantica Consultants, who are world leaders in this area with the knowledge and skills to conduct the review to the highest possible standards.
I have also established a new Technical Advisory Group which is responsible for montering and inspection of works carried out by the Corrib Developers in respect of this project and which will report directly to me on their findings.
I should point out that developments such as Corrib are regulated by my department under variuous Acts such as the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act, 1960 as amended and the Gas Act 1976 as amended. The Corrib project had to go through an extensive procedure of conswents and permissions in accordance with law. The developers only got their approvals for the development of the Corrib Gas Field after they had fullfiled all the conditions and met the requirments necessary to do so. In doing so they were fully intitled to go ahead with the development based on their approvals and consents given to them.
While the proposed Corrib Gas pipeline has no precedent in Ireland as it will be the first on-shore development in the country - pipelines such as the one proposed have precedents in Norway, Egypt and the UK. It is becoming the norm due to technological advances and invironmental safty reasons , to go onshore for such development in recent years. No part of the pipeline will be within 70 metres of any house.
There is also the precedent for an onshore terminal, for example, there is a gas termininal in Theddlethorpe in Lincolnshire, England whichis situated in a populated area. Theddlethorpe recieves processed gas from the Pickerhill Field in the North Sea.
The development of the gas will play a significant role in the economic and social regeneration of Mayo and the North West region and will make a real contributionto the sustainable development in the area in that it will:

  • act as catalyst for the extension of the Bord Gais gas distribution systemin towns in the region;
  • facilitate the improvement of the region's infastructure, particularly its electricity supply and distribution network, thereby removing a major barrier in inward investment; and
  • increase local employment, in both the short and long term;

The national benefit can be summarised as follows in that the development will;

  • increase Ireland's security of supplyby providing a reliable, secure and indigenous source of gas:
  • with the current increases in oil prices and strategic value of indigenous gas increases;
  • provide significant tax revenues;
  • improve Ireland's industrial competiteness;
  • encourage continued investment in oil and gas invastment in oil and gas exploration in Ireland; and
  • and help ireland achieve its Kyoto objectives.

The benefits of the Corrib development as claimed comprise a mix of quantative and qualative factors. The number of construction jobs starts at 100, rises to 500 before falling back to 200 over the time frame of the project. There will be a substantial number of indirect jobs in such areas as catering, accommodation, transport , port services, plant hire and other miscellaneous services. The number of jobs to operate the terminal is put at 60 permanent staff over a three-shift cycle. Again there will be a number of indirect jobs in supply services. Shell E&P Ireland has stated on numerious public occasions its policy to recruit and train locals to meet its terminal employment requirements. Construction on the onshore terminalwill create up to 500 jobs, while the pipeline construction, including the pipeline to connect Corrib gas into the national ring main, will generate aproximately 1000 jobs. Additionally, the continuous employment of some 60 persons in Ireland by Shell E&P Ireland ltd. is dependent on the development of this gas field.
It is government policy to support the exploration and development of petroleum projects both offshore and onshore in Ireland. It is for this reason that projects such as Corrib are encouraged by my Department. Exploration and drilling are too costly and spectulative for the State to undertake. A 60 day exploration well in the Atlantic margin costs E25 million to undertake. Therefore countries offer terms to the industry to undertake exploration and development.
I spoke in the Dail on these matters a few weeks back and I am enclosing a copy of that speach for your information.
Yours sincerely,
Noel Dempsey T.D.
Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Recources.

Ministers Dail Speech (PDF)

Posted Date: 
28 November 2005 - 2:02pm