Tuesday 19 May 2009

Public hearing into revised Corrib route

RTE.ie News reports: 

An Bord Pleanála is to hold a public hearing into a revised onshore pipeline route for the Corrib gas project in north Mayo.

The application is being made by Shell E&P Ireland, which is also seeking a compulsory acquisition order to gain access to private lands.

The hearing into the revised onshore pipeline route will get under way in Belmullet this morning and is expected to last for several weeks

Shell is seeking planning permission to lay 9.2km of pipeline to connect to an offshore line which will transport gas to the Corrib refinery in Bellanaboy.

The original route was exempted from planning permission nine years ago but when work began in 2005 locals objected on health and safety grounds.

The new route is a minimum of 140m from occupied housing. Up to 80 submissions are expected to be heard by An Bord Pleanála in the coming weeks.

Objections have been lodged by local residents' groups and environmentalists.

This is a much deserved ray of hope for the Corrib protesters; while the story has faded slightly from public view on May 9th 2009 80 protesters occupied the site of the Shell Glengad beach site, near Belmullet Co Mayo in order to remove perimeter fencing (Irish Times Saturday, May 9, 2009). One protester, Willie Corduff lodged himself under a truck in order to passively protest; he was later removed by force and injured by Shell security personel, according to eyewitness reports posted on various online support groups.

The fencing was erected by Shell at Glengad beach without planning permission; what muddies the water slightly is that entire Shell proposed route for the gas pipeline was originally exempted from planning permission (without reference to the public). However this exemption applied only to the route, according to protesters and not to individual erections and works.

On May 14th what has been described as a "daring protest" protesters mounted tripod structures to halt the works at Glengad, proving that the fight was far from over. The protest group Shell to Sea have repeatedly asked for the Corrib Gas to be processed at sea; this is standard practice and generally considered to have less environmental impact and fewer health and safety implications.

 For their part Shell claim that "the safety and security of our employees, our contractors and the communities in which we operate is the number one priority for the Corrib gas partners." On the subject of environmental impact the company states "As a result of the screening studies, it was concluded that the preferred development scenario for the Corrib field was a subsea system tied back to a processing terminal onshore" (shell.com)

Whatever the right of it, the fact remains that a handful of community activists have suceeded in sending the matter back to An Bord Pleanala (the board in Ireland that deals with development and planning.) This is no mean feat in itself.

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