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Irish Times: Environment watchdog agrees to Shell refinery

Aoife Carr

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to licence Shell E&P Ireland to develop its €900 million gas refinery and combustion plant facilities at Bellanaboy Bridge, Co Mayo.

The licence will not take effect before a 28-day consultation period during which the public and Shell can lodge objections or requests for oral hearings.

In a statement released this morning, the EPA said the it was “satisfied that emissions from the refinery, when operated in accordance with the conditions of the proposed licence, will not adversely affect human health or the environment and will meet all relevant national and EU standards”.

The EPA has said it would impose strict controls on emissions at the plant and attached 85 conditions to the licence.

The conditions relate to the environmental management, operation, control and monitoring of the proposed refinery and insist on a “high standard of treatment” of waste water prior to its discharge.

That discharge must be outside the Broadhaven Bay Special Area of Conservation.

Speaking to ireland.com this morning, local TD Dr Jerry Cowley said the EPA decision was regrettable.

“EPA approval to pollute this region’s drinking water, farms and fishery is regrettable and hard to reconcile. The Corrib Gas Project is only possible because of the silence and support of the Taoiseach and Enda Kenny. We are lucky we didn’t have men like them around in 1916,” he said.

Mark Garavan of the Shell to Sea campaign group said the group would be seeking an oral hearing.

“Even though again one’s confidence in the process has been diminished, we have always been of the view that on the argument, our position is a valid one and a reasonable one,” he told RTÉ Radio this morning.

He said the upcoming election could provide them with a platform to alter the decision.

“The general election throws up a range of issues, and I suspect the issue in the Corrib gas project goes to a particular health and safety one, the ways in which local communities can participate in making decisions that affect their own community and the wider issue to do with natural resources and the benefits to the State,” he said.

“So I suspect all of these will become issues in the election, and I think the Taoiseach may not be correct in imagining this is a marginal issue that is resolved. The local people will be continuing their protests, they are the ones who have to live with this,” he added.

Shell has welcomed the EPA’s decision, however, saying the company was committed to operating a world class facility at Bellanaboy in partnership with the local community.

“The Corrib Gas Partners are committed to building and all decisions around the Corrib gas project are taken with due concern for the protection of the environment,” it said in a statement.

“The Corrib project is already bringing many benefits to the local area, such as jobs and investment. Since work resumed at the Bellanaboy site in October, almost 200 jobs have been created in the local community.

“This will rise to 300 jobs when peat haulage resumes in the spring and approximately 700 people will be employed when full construction of the terminal commences in the autumn,” the statement added.

Shell said the conditions set down by the EPA will also be reviewed.

© 2007 ireland.com

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