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Irish Times: Shell says gas partners will ‘respond positively and in full’ to report

By: Lorna Siggins, Irish Times
Published: Jul 29, 2006

Shell E&P Ireland has said that the Corrib gas partners will “respond positively and in full” to the report on the Corrib gas pipeline published yesterday by Government mediator Peter Cassells.

In its strongest indication yet that it would review the high-pressure pipeline’s onshore route, the company has welcomed the publication of the mediator’s “detailed and thorough” document. However, it says that it needs to consider a number of its recommendations.

Should the company decide to modify the route, it will not require planning approval under current legislation – and it may also be able to drop its legal action against landowners, which is due before the courts again in the autumn. Nor will it have to revise any plans for the terminal at Bellanaboy, which is of considerable strategic value to the company in the long term.

The Shell to Sea campaign has expressed disappointment at the report’s recommendations on modifying the route, saying that this would simply “export the same problem to another Mayo community”.

Campaign spokesman Dr Mark Garavan has called on the Minister for the Marine to use the opportunity to reconfigure the entire project. The Minister could do this by requesting a new plan of development for the Corrib gas field from Shell and its partners, Statoil and Marathon.

Campaign supporters, including several of the men jailed last year over their objection to the pipeline, intend to set out on a march to Dublin today to highlight their concerns.

An Taisce consultant Leo Corcoran has said he is surprised at Shell’s statement yesterday in relation to the offer of “face-to-face dialogue” on alternative routes given that he has never, at any stage, been invited to any talks by the company.

The former senior Bord Gais engineer, who has undertaken a number of studies of the project for An Taisce – one of which has been submitted as the basis of a complaint to the European Commission – said that he was also disappointed with yesterday’s report by Mr Cassells.

“The report addresses the effect rather than the cause of the problem – the cause being the location of the gas-processing terminal 9km inland rather than adjacent to the coast, as is normal for this type of project,” Mr Corcoran said. The Bellanaboy site on former Coillte land was not near the coast: it lay within a catchment for a major water supply at Carrowmore lake. “The ground conditions are unsuitable and it would require a connecting pipeline to traverse an inland populated area and a special area of conservation (SAC) in Broadhaven Bay,” he added.

This connecting pipeline route from the wells offshore to the terminal was in breach of pipeline safety and environmental requirements, Mr Corcoran said.

Padhraig Campbell, of Siptu’s offshore oil and gas committee and the Campaign for Resources, said that the report of Mr Cassells did not address the main issue, as identified by Bord Pleanala inspector Kevin Moore in his report of May 2003. Mr Moore had identified serious safety and environmental concerns relating to the proposed gas terminal, to which the pipeline is linked, but these findings were overruled.

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