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EPA turns down oral hearing request on Corrib gas project licence

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EPA turns down oral hearing request on Corrib gas project licence

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Lorna Siggins: Friday, 3 July 2015

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has turned down requests for an oral hearing into a revised licence sought by Shell E&P Ireland for the Corrib gas project in north Mayo.

The revised licence covering atmospheric and marine emissions from the Corrib gas refinery is one of the last State authorisations required before the project becomes fully operational.

Shell had received its original EPA licence in 2007, but sought a review after it agreed to a demand by Erris fishermen that “treated produced water” from the refinery be discharged out at the well head, rather than some 12 km offshore.

The EPA recommended a revised licence in April of this year in a preliminary decision which attracted eight objections – including one from Shell. The multinational was not happy with aspects of nine conditions.

An oral hearing was requested by local residents and others in two separate objections, signed by a total of 1,164 people.

One of the two requests asked the hearing be held to comply with the principles of the Aarhus Convention on access to environmental information and justice and public participation, which Ireland only ratified in June 2012.

A submission from 64 residents living on both sides of the Sruwadaccon estuary – route of the last section of linking pipeline – said they had experienced “spills, sinkholes, light and noise pollution, changes to the land and the waters and breaches of regulations” relating to the project over the past decade.

“Our reports and observations have been blocked out consistently,” they state, and “we have learned that there is no reliable system in place to react immediately and adequately when things go wrong”.

The EPA said there were “no new issues raised or data provided” in the objections relating to the location, and said “all pertinent matters in relation to environmental sensitivity were dealt with” in the oral hearing of 2007.

Its inspector said she considered the objections could be “fully and adequately assessed” by a technical committee of the agency, and a final decision is expected in September 10th with the provision to extend if necessary.

Shell to Sea spokeswoman Maura Harrington said the EPA “didn’t want to give another oral hearing to save Shell the embarrassment,because at every oral hearing campaigners have wiped the floor with Shell”.

Shell to Sea campaigner Terence Conway said there was “no confidence” in the EPA’s ability to regulate Shell, noting the agency did not send an inspector to examine a water outfall pipe from the project which surfaced in Broadhaven Bay several months ago.

In a related development, local farmer Gerry Bourke, who objects to the project, said a film crew working for Shell entered private lands overlooking Sruwaddaccon estuary on Thursday without seeking permission.

Mr Bourke said he had come across the film crew on a neighbour’s land and the neighbour had then asked the crew to leave. The company had “learned nothing” in relation to community relations, in spite of its recent public statements, he said.

Shell E&P Ireland did not respond to a request for comment.

SOURCE

RELATED PRESS RELEASE BY SHELL TO SEA 3 JULY 2015

News Release: EPA Refuse Requests for Corrib Gas Oral Hearing

The EPA has refused the requests of 1164 people to hold an oral hearing into the Industrial Emissions licence for the Shell/Corrib Gas refinery. Shell are currently unable to start operating the Bellanaboy refinery as their earlier Emissions Licence was quashed by the High Court in 2013.  Martin Harrington successfully took the challenge on the basis that the EPA was wrong in granting Shell an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) licence before undertaking an Environmental Impact Assessment. [1]

One of the oral hearing requests – which was signed by 1100 people – requested that an oral hearing be held in order to comply with the principles of the Aarhus Convention. The Aarhus Convention ensures public participation in decision-making about the environment, and was ratified by Ireland ratified on 20 June 2012.

Another oral hearing request came from 64 residents of the immediate area who requested the oral hearing “to allow us to explain and demonstrate in detail our concerns and our reasons for strongly objecting to this proposal”.

In refusing the oral hearing, EPA Inspector Jennifer Cope states there were no issues “which could not be dealt with by a Technical Committee as effectively as if an oral hearing of objections was held.” [2,3]  The Inspector also claimed that many of the issues had been dealt with in the 2007 EPA oral hearing.

Commenting on the EPA refusal, Shell to Sea spokesperson Maura Harrington stated: “The EPA didn’t want to give another oral hearing to save Shell the embarrassment because at every oral hearing campaigners have wiped the floor with Shell.  How, one wonders, does the “technical committee” propose to address the recent papal encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ and the recent working paper by the IMF entitled, ‘How Large Are Global Energy Subsidies?’  which found annual energy subsidies currently stand at $5.3 trillion”?[4,5]

The EPA had given objectors until the 22nd June to make comment on the other objections, yet by the 16th June they had already decided to refuse the oral hearing.

Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway stated: “Previously the head of the EPA  Laura Burke said that the EPA wouldn’t be ‘racing to prosecute’ business, but in this case they seem to be ‘racing’ to give Shell a licence to pollute this area. There is no confidence that the EPA has the will to regulate Shell in any way.  How can the EPA say that new issues haven’t been raised, at the moment Shell are trying to fix their pollution removal pipeline in Broadhaven Bay which floated to the surface and was found by passing fishermen.”[6]

ENDS

For more information contact:            

Maura Harrington:    087 9591474

Terence Conway:     086 0866264

http://www.shelltosea.com

http://www.facebook.com/shelltosea

http://twitter.com/#!/ShellToSea

Links

[1] Revised Corrib gas licence quashed by court – RTE News

http://www.rte.ie/news/2013/1015/480557-corrib-gas-epa/

[2] EPA Inspector’s Report – re Oral Hearing Request

http://www.epa.ie/licences/lic_eDMS/090151b280543b8a.pdf

[3] Documents relating to the Industrial Emissions application

http://www.epa.ie/terminalfour/ippc/ippc-view-filter.jsp?regno=P0738-03&filter=c&docfilter=go

[4] ‘Laudato Si’ – On the care for our common home – Pope Francis

https://laudatosi.com/watch

[5] ‘How Large Are Global Energy Subsidies?’  – IMF

http://www.imf.org/external/np/fad/subsidies/

[6]  Concern about State response to dislodged Corrib discharge pipe – Lorna Siggins – Irish Times

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/concern-about-state-response-to-dislodged-corrib-discharge-pipe-1.2141971

The Shell to Sea Campaign has three main aims:

1) That any exploitation of the Corrib gas field be done in a safe way that will not expose the local community in Erris to unnecessary health, safety and environmental risks.
2) To renegotiate the terms of the Great Oil and Gas Giveaway, which sees Ireland’s 10 billion barrels of oil equivalent* off the West Coast go directly to the oil companies, with the Irish State retaining a 0% share, no energy security of supply and only 25% tax on profits against which all costs can be deducted.
3) To seek justice for the human rights abuses suffered by Shell to Sea campaigners due to their opposition to Shell’s proposed inland refinery.

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