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Irish Times: Doubt cast on Corrib consent

Aine Ryan
Published: May 03, 2007

The next minister for the marine could refuse to issue a consent for the new route of the Corrib gas pipeline since the proposed refinery at Bellanaboy is situated in a drinking-water catchment and thus breaches the code of practice, the oral hearing was told yesterday.

It was the 11th day of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) oral hearing into the issuing of an integrated pollution prevention control licence for the gas project.

Leo Corcoran of An Taisce said the new route would require new consents under the Gas Act 2002 or the Strategic Infrastructure Act and it was the prerogative of the incoming minister, as gas regulator, to issue these.

In his closing statement, Mr Corcoran said the consent, issued in 2002 by then minister for the marine and natural resources Frank Fahey without compliance with the Pipeline Code of Practice, may now be nullified in light of a recent High Court decision to vacate compulsory acquisition orders for the original route.

“There is no guarantee that the new application will succeed because a new consent will require a statement that the infrastructure will comply with a code of practice,” Mr Corcoran, a former Bord Gais engineer, said.

The option was there from the outset for Shell E&P Ireland to locate the terminal “outside a sensitive water catchment”.

He cited the EU and the Government’s “precautionary principle”, which stipulates that where scientific evidence of environmental risk exists, evasive action should be taken in absence of conclusive proof.

Earlier, “planning by stealth” was how objector Eve Campbell, from the Rossport Solidarity Camp, described a 2006 report, Cost Effective Field Development Study for Atlantic Ireland Basins, by the Department of Marine and Natural Resources’ petroleum affairs division.

“Several of the hypothetical fields use the Corrib infrastructure or adjacent facilities at Bellanaboy,” Ms Campbell said, referring to the fact that the proposed refinery site is 407 acres, while the refinery will encompass 32 acres.

The report details the potential expansion of the refinery to facilitate a number of fields in the Slyne-Erris-Donegal basin gas/ condensate fields. Ms Campbell said this seemed “to indicate that the Bellanaboy area has been designated a refining zone, similar to the St Fergus site [ in Scotland], albeit informally or without public pronouncement”.

The hearing reconvenes next Wednesday.

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