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Dramatic new twist in Corrib saga

By: 
Áine Ryan - Mayo News

A Senior Government Minister Éamon Ó Cuív has said that An Bord Pleanála’s (ABP) decision last week about the controversial Corrib gas pipeline route was proof that the process was impartial and not ‘necessarily in favour of the developer’.
Moreover, the Fine Gael shadow spokesman on Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Michael Ring told The Mayo News he welcomed the fact that ‘the concerns of local people had been addressed’.
In a dramatic development, An Bord Pleanála revealed last Wednesday that almost half the new route for the project was ‘unacceptable’ on safety grounds.
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 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 pipeline does not pose an unacceptable risk to the public.”
Earlier this year at a 19-day ABP oral hearing in Belmullet on the Strategic Infrastructure Application, Shell consultants conceded under questioning that safe shelter had not been identified for nearby residents if there was a rupture.
They told Nigel Wright, for An Bord Pleanála, that houses within 230 metres of the pipeline could ‘burn spontaneously’ from heat radiation if there was an explosion and gas in the pipe was at full pressure.
In response to the decision, Shell stated: “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.”
When contacted by The Mayo News, a spokeswoman declined to comment any further.
In its decision, the planning board also observed that ‘Ireland has not adopted a risk-based framework for decision-making on hazard pipelines (transporting wet gas) and related infrastructure’.
It suggested the developer should adopt the UK HSE risk thresholds for the project. It also said that the developers  should explore the feasibility of another route, up the Sruwaddacon estuary. This route was already considered and ruled-out by consultants RPS on environmental and technical grounds.

Reaction

Speaking to The Mayo News at the weekend, Minister Éamon Ó Cuív said: “The government fully accepts the decision of An Bord Pleanála. We always believed that if people had valid concerns it would take a straight-down-the-line view of it.”
Ó Cuív continued: “This decision is a win-win for the process. Our contention that this wouldn’t necessarily be in favour of the developer has now been vindicated.”
Mayo Fine Gael TD, Deputy Michael Ring said: “I have always believed in the law of the land. When this project was first put before An Bord Pleanála myself and Minister Eamon Ryan were the only two politicians who made objections to it.”
Ring continued: “Now the law of the land has asked Shell to go back and look at certain aspects of the project and the route. I welcome that and I welcome that the concerns of the local communities have been addressed and were taken into account. We must remember that An Bord Pleanála is an independent body.”
When contacted by The Mayo News, Mr John Condon, County Secretary said: “We have read An Bord Pleanála’s decision and are studying its implications. Really this is a matter for the developer to address the issues raised and come back to the board. Of course, if our cooperation is necessary we will give it.”

Vindicated – protest group
IT is now time for a complete re-think of the Corrib gas project, according to protest group Pobal Chill Chomáin. Welcoming last week’s dramatic decision, Mr John Monaghan said: “This is a clear vindication of the stance that local people have taken on health and safety grounds over the last ten years, and those concerns will remain our top priority until a resolution is found.”
 “It is now time for a complete rethink on the Corrib project by the developers Shell and Statoil, and even more importantly by Minister Eamon Ryan and his department, within whose remit the safety issues central to the ongoing conflict clearly lie,” he continued.
Speaking yesterday, Maura Harrington of Shell to Sea said: “Through the efforts of Shell to Sea we have managed to hold the natural resources of this country for the people. It is now time for a proper economic debate on the huge implications of this giveaway.”