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Irish Independent: Shell asked to show proof of consultation on gas-burning

SHELL Ireland has been asked for detailed proof that it consulted with Mayo County Council and local people about the decision not to burn built-up excess gases from its proposed gas pipeline.

The request was made by the chairman of the Environmental Protection Agency’s hearing into the issuing of the pollution-prevention licence to the company for its proposed refinery at Bellanaboy, Co Mayo yesterday.

On its second day, EPA hearing chairman Frank Clinton said there “isn’t much in the way of supporting fact around this consultation process”.

He was referring to a section of a statement made by one of its expert witnesses, Ian McRae, which said: “In the case of the Bellanaboy Bridge Terminal, the overriding influence in the decision to permit releases to be cold-vented is the commitment to the local community, and the Planning Authority, to reduce to a minimum the visual intrusion and disturbance that could arise from the operation of a flare, in what is a rural area.”

The cold-venting of gas, usually methane, means it is released directly into the environment, without being burned.

There has been an ongoing debate over the fact that this proposed process was omitted from Shell’s original environmental impact statement (EIS) and later added as an addendum.

“Without very clear and substantive information regarding the consultation process, I will have to take a very serious look at cold-venting,” said the chairman.

“This is one of the central issues and I won’t forget about it.”

Imelda Moran said that, since Shell had implicated Mayo County Council in this decision, it should be mandated to attend the hearing. The chairman rejected this.

Ms Moran also said she had been involved in collecting 200 signatures of people within a 5km radius of the proposed refinery, all of whom verified they had not been consulted about cold-venting.

Appellant William Walker, chairman of a lobster re-stocking group which is a sub-committee of the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association, said the location of the discharge pipe from the proposed refinery was not appropriate and should be reviewed.

‘It seemed ludicrous Shell would be the only monitor of the marine environment close to the discharge area.

However, he said, his objection primarily concentrated on “the monitoring of the impact of the discharge to sea”, since it seemed ludicrous that Shell would be the only monitor of the marine environment close to the discharge area.

Expert witness for the lobster group, Professor Peter Matthiessen, who is an independent ecotoxicology consultant, said he had advised the group that the likely environmental risks from the discharge, based on documents provided by Shell, were acceptably small.

He advised that a more rigorous monitoring programme be imposed, saying the main fishery in the area, crab and lobster, had been omitted as monitoring targets.

When asked by appellant Tony Irwin would it not be easier to simply move the discharge pipe further out to sea, Prof Matthiessen highlighted the extra costs for Shell, saying that cost-benefits must be rationalised.

He added that, “in essence”, the pipe would need a robust monitoring regime no matter where it was situated.

Meanwhile, Justice Mary Laffoy is due to make a judgment today as to whether Shell can discontinue proceedings against some members of the Rossport Five as well as others.

Aine Ryan

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