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Irish Times: Dempsey may allow offshore pipe to be laid

Irish Times: Dempsey may allow offshore pipe to be laid

“The company said yesterday it was “carefully studying” the content of the letter received from Mr Dempsey on Sunday night in which he ordered that the 3km length of pipeline already welded in breach of consents be dismantled.”: “A tighter monitoring regime established from the outset of the project would have spotted any breaches in consents much earlier, according to Mark Garavan, spokesman for the men and the Shell to Sea campaign. He said it also had serious implications for the information presented by Shell to the High Court when obtaining its injunction against landowners objecting to the onshore pipeline. The company had at all times claimed that it was adhering to all consents issued, but this was clearly not the case, Mr Garavan added.”:

Tuesday 2 August 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey is under pressure now to grant Shell E&P Ireland approval to proceed to lay the offshore section of the Corrib gas pipeline, even as his new safety measures for the onshore pipeline are being put in place.

Shell E&P Ireland would neither confirm nor deny yesterday that it has applied to lay the 70km offshore section of the pipeline linking the Corrib gas field well head to the shoreline at north Mayo.

However, it is understood that the world’s largest pipe-laying vessel, Solitaire , has been provisionally booked to work on the project this month.

Under the “project-splitting” system of approval for the Corrib gas field, the Minister may be obliged to treat the offshore application separately, even though he is about to appoint consultants to carry out a new safety review of the onshore pipeline.

The company said yesterday it was “carefully studying” the content of the letter received from Mr Dempsey on Sunday night in which he ordered that the 3km length of pipeline already welded in breach of consents be dismantled.

It was also studying the comments made by the Minister “in regard to the Corrib project” on radio yesterday and would be making “no further comment at this time”.

Supporters of the five Mayo men, who are still in prison over their opposition to the onshore pipeline, welcomed Mr Dempsey’s direction yesterday, while stating that it was “disappointing” that his department had not reacted much earlier in response to concerns raised by local people, rather than to media reports.

A tighter monitoring regime established from the outset of the project would have spotted any breaches in consents much earlier, according to Mark Garavan, spokesman for the men and the Shell to Sea campaign.

He said it also had serious implications for the information presented by Shell to the High Court when obtaining its injunction against landowners objecting to the onshore pipeline.

The company had at all times claimed that it was adhering to all consents issued, but this was clearly not the case, Mr Garavan added.

Mayo Independent TD Jerry Cowley welcomed the development, but questioned whether the pipeline was safe to use again once it had been cut up.

“The Minister’s decision bolsters the case made by the five men in prison, and it is now up to Shell to do the decent thing and collapse the injunction it has imposed on these men,” Dr Cowley said. He called on the Minister to “take courage in his hands” and direct the company to build an offshore terminal.

He also called for clarification from the department on a weekend report that exploration companies, including Shell, had been offered licences in the Slyne/ Erris/Donegal basins under the existing 1992 financial terms which apply to the Corrib gas field.

When announcing the new round last January, the Minister said the infrastructure of the Corrib field could “significantly reduce the development cost of any further commercial discoveries in the vicinity”.

Dr Cowley has repeatedly called for a freeze on all licensing, pending an independent audit of the Corrib gas field project.

He has also called for changes to the legislative regime for exploration companies, introduced during the terms of Ray Burke and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as ministers for finance, under which no royalties are paid and corporation tax is set at 25 per cent on declared taxable profits.

The Minister said last night he would not be issuing any licensing options or licences to explore in the Slyne/Erris/Donegal areas until afer the closing date for applications of March,2006.

Mayo TD Beverley Flynn (Independent) has renewed her call on Mr Ahern to intervene personally in the current “impasse”.

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