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Irish Times: Shell ‘led astray’ in gas project

Aine Ryan
Published: May 02, 2007

The politicisation of the Corrib gas project was not the fault of Shell E&P Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) oral hearing into the issuing if an integrated pollution prevention licence (IPPC) was told yesterday.

On the 10th day of the hearing in Belmullet, Co Mayo, Micheal O Seighin, one of the Rossport Five, said Shell and the other partners (Statoil and Marathon) had been “led astray in this project”.

Mr O Seighin was addressing the fact that due to project splitting, the removal of 350,000 tonnes of peat from the proposed refinery site was progressing in the absence of an IPPC licence and a specific route.

He cited, as an example of the politicisation of the project, a statement made by Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Eamon O CuIv at a public meeting in Belmullet after An Bord Pleanala turned down the project in April 2003. “The Minister announced the development was going ahead in Bellanaboy, because it was too late for it to go anywhere else,” he said.

“Objectively, and from a distance, it would seem as if Shell is just ignoring the EPA. Shell is frustrated by the society we have created,” said Mr O Seighin, adding that “unfortunately we have developed an establishment of chancers”.

Anthony Irwin, an objector who operates a marine-based tour company, said there should have been a baseline study implemented before the initiation of the project, which was already in breach of an EU habitats directive. He said former minister for the marine Frank Fahey had issued consents and licences without investigating the area’s flora and fauna resources.

The unavailability of local agencies was highlighted in a submission by Kate Kirkpatrick, who said she had made 30 unanswered phone calls to Mayo County Council’s project engineer about a diesel spill at the refinery site on March 25th last.

The stream from the refinery runs into Carrowmore lake, the water supply for 10,000 people.

She produced a sample of the polluted water at the hearing, observing that it still smelt of diesel. She also said John Cronin of Shell’s Bangor office admitted the leak had occurred on March 24th.

However, Shell senior counsel said the company did not know the origin of the leak.

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