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Irish Times: Shell set to resume work on gas terminal

EXTRACT: Shell’s legal representatives have sought meetings with solicitors for all six defendants, but two of them have signalled they intend to pursue their counter claim.

THE ARTICLE

By: Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent, Irish Times
Published: Aug 04, 2006

Shell E&P Ireland hopes to resume work on its Corrib gas terminal next month, following its confirmation that it intends to modify the route of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline near Rossport.

The company’s decision, announced yesterday, has been welcomed by Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey, as a very positive development but has elicited a cautious response from both objectors and supporters of the onshore pipeline in north Mayo. Significantly, the company has also said it wishes to “review” its legal position in relation to ongoing High Court injunction proceedings.

Earlier this week, High Court judge Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, ruled that the company must produce a range of documents, including the petroleum lease granted by the State for the project, for the full court hearing on Corrib issues in the autumn.

She also identified the issue of planning permission for the pipeline – exempted by the Government in 2002 – as an issue in the proceedings, due for mention again on September 28th.

It is understood that any decision by the company to drop its court action against six defendants, including three landowners jailed last year, could be contingent on receiving assurances that counter-claims lodged against it would be withdrawn.

Shell’s legal representatives have sought meetings with solicitors for all six defendants, but two of them have signalled they intend to pursue their counter claim.

Shell E&P Ireland would give no details of any pipeline route change yesterday, beyond stating that it would relate to the particular onshore section as identified last week by Government mediator Peter Cassells. The company intends to retain its ministerial consents for the existing 9km route onshore, awarded by former marine minister Frank Fahey.

Mr Cassells advised in his report, published by Mr Dempsey, that the route be modified “in the vicinity of Rossport to address community concerns regarding proximity to housing”. He urged that “consideration be given to involving Bord Gais in the project”.

Shell to Sea campaign spokesman Dr Mark Garavan has said that it does not address the central issue in relation to the proposed gas terminal’s “unsafe and unsuitable” onshore location, and says it believes the company is “reacting to an unfavourable High Court ruling earlier this week”.

“It is time for the Minister for the Marine to ask for a new plan of development,” he added. The report on landslides published yesterday by the Minister made this all the more pressing, he said, given the proximity of Dooncarton mountain and the issue of peat instability.

Michael Healy, chair of Pro-Erris Gas Group (PEGG), has called on the company to “clarify its intentions in relation to any route change”. PEGG had called last May for the rerouting of the pipeline down Sruwadaccon estuary – one of four routes examined by original Corrib developer, Enterprise Energy Ireland. It was ruled out in an environmental impact statement for the developer on the grounds that it was a special area of protection under the EU habitats directive.

The company said yesterday that it accepted the other recommendations in Mr Cassells’s report, and hoped to announce “new initiatives around enhancing local benefits, providing local employment and the procurement of services locally”.

The company stressed it would proceed with the project, and would resume work at the Bellanaboy terminal site next month with expansion of a water treatment unit.

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