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Mayo Advertiser: Shell E&PI to pay €1 m as action dropped against Rossport residents

Current Publication Date: 20/04/2007

Shell E&PI has been allowed to drop long-running legal action against four Rossport people opposed to the Corrib gas pipeline.

However, the company now faces a bill of around €1 million to cover most of the legal costs of the defendants Philip McGrath, Bríd McGarry, James Brendan Philbin and Willie Corduff.

The High Court heard this week that Shell E&PI wanted to discontinue its legal action, without having to meet the costs of the four defendants. The company said its action aimed at restraining the interference of the defendants with the pipeline, was no longer necessary because the pipeline was to be re-routed.

Shell E&PI said that compulsory acquisition orders served on the defendants’ land were no longer needed. The company said it would look for new orders for the modified pipeline route, only if it could not secure agreement from affected landowners first.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said she condemned unreservedly the behaviour of Mr McGrath, Mr Corduff and Mr Philbin for refusing to purge their contempt, after having been jailed for 94 days in 2005 for breaking an order restraining interference with the pipeline.

She also said that Shell E&PI was effectively seeking to punish the men with the costs of the legal action. The judge said she was not satisfied that justice would be served because the company wanted to unilaterally abandon its claims, before the substantive issues between the two sides were determined.

Counterclaims by some residents against Shell E&PI are to continue. These challenge the validity of ministerial consents for the pipeline.

Ms Justice Mary Laffoy also delivered reserved judgement on the discovery of documents, and gave Shell E&PI three weeks to produce them.

Seanad candidate Dr Mark Garavan said the judgement “amounts to a complete vindication” of the stance take by the Rossport Five in 2005.  

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Related article, also dated 20 April 2007

Mayo Advertiser: Environmental concerns raised at Shell oral hearing

By Fiona McGarry

An expert environmental consultant has called for a “belt and braces” approach in preventing pollution of Broadhaven Bay from discharges from the outfall pipe of the Corrib gas terminal.

Speaking at the Environmental Protection Agency’s oral hearing on a decision to grant a pollution control licence to Shell E&PI, Professor Peter Matthiessen said it was vital that a robust, open and transparent monitoring programme be put in place to check water discharges once the terminal begins to operate. Prof Matthiessen, who spent four hours on the stand, noted that Broadhaven Bay was “a completely pristine area” and said any degradation must be avoided.

Prof Matthiessen has already produced an expert report for the lobster fishermen’s committee of the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association. The report, seen by the Mayo Advertiser, documents the “predicted effects of the Corrib gas field produced water” on local fisheries. Prof Matthiessen concluded that, based on the data provided by the company, discharges into Broadhaven Bay will probably not threaten the marine environment.

The independent consultant has praised the efforts of the fishing community in keeing Shell and the EPA up to the mark in formulating environmental protection measures. He advised them to keep pressure on the EPA to ensure they implement the tightened-up monitoring measures.

On day three of the oral hearing, Shell’s expert witnesses Robert Burns and James Garvie completed their evidence in relation to air quality issues.

In his witness statement Robert Burns (an employee of Shell) talked about cold venting and flaring and addressed objections made to the EPA’s proposed determination on these issues. In his opening remarks he stated that, from the perspective of the cold vents and flares, the Corrib terminal at Bellanaboy is similar to many other gas plants and as such presents no unusual technical issues.

James Garvie, an air quality specialist and Associate Director of RSK Limited Consultancy, addressed the issue of air emissions. James Garvie spoke about the detailed air dispersion modelling that has been carried out to analyse the impact of emissions from the Bellanaboy Bridge terminal. Mr Garvie concluded by saying that assessments have been carried out that demonstrate emissions generated from the Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Terminal, including those from cold venting will not have a significant impact on human health, animals or plants.

On the important issue of climate change Mr Garvie noted that the benefits of a secure, indigenous source of natural gas outweigh the effect of emissions with global warming potential generated from the site itself. He finished by saying that based on the impact assessment studies carried out for the Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Terminal and his own experience of other sites in the UK, where not one but three terminals operate side by side, he is confident that the Bellanaboy Bridge Gas Terminal can operate without significant impact on air quality.

Meanwhile, the EPA has contacted the Gardaí over complaints about the police presence outside the Broadhaven Bay Hotel in Belmullet where the oral hearing is taking place.

The Chairperson, Frank Clinton, has been in touch with Gardaí, after concerns were raised at the opening session of the hearing.

A spokesperson for the EPA has confirmed to the Mayo Advertiser that Mr Clinton has contacted the force after a number of speakers at the hearing said the presence of Gardaí was discouraging full participation in the hearing. The EPA did not request a Garda presence at the public hearing, she said.

During the course of the hearing, Mr Clinton also asked that Shell E&PI provide evidence of its consulations with the local community. Mr Clinton said that issues such as the cold-venting of gas were closely connected to the issue of consultation, and that he would return to the matter later in the hearing.

Concerns were also raised by Imelda Moran, an objector to the licence, about the lack of any presence from Mayo County Council at the hearing.

The oral hearing was called by the EPA after receiving 13 submissions on its preliminary decision to give Shell E&PI an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control licence.

The EPA issued its preliminary decision to grant the IPPC licence last January, attaching 85 conditions. Among the submissions received was one from Shell E&PI itself. Other submissions came from local priest Fr Michael Nallen, Shell to Sea, the EIFA and a number of individual objectors. Last week, Shell E&PI issued its response to the objections, reiterating its view that the €900 million would not cause air or water pollution.

There have been a number of protests at the terminal site in recent days, and six arrests were made over the course of last weekend. No charges followed the incident in which a number of protesters entered the site, saying they wanted to inspect the water treatment works. There were scuffles with Gardaí and a number of protesters alleged they received minor injuries.

The oral hearing looks set to continues next week, and the EPA have booked the venue for two weeks.

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