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Irish Times: Shell to submit Corrib route for approval

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent, Irish Times
Published: Sep 18, 2007

Consultants for Shell E&P Ireland intend to submit the entire Corrib gas pipeline route to State authorities for approval for the first time.

The move, which will only take place when a new onshore route for the pipeline is finalised, should circumvent criticisms of “project splitting” levelled at the Corrib gas partners, according to the consultants.

However, An Bord Pleanala said it can’t consider the entire pipeline, from the wellhead off the Mayo coast to the terminal inshore, as its remit does not extend to the foreshore in this case.

An Bord Pleanala has confirmed it is “aware” the entire route will be submitted to it, but its jurisdiction is confined in this case to the functional area of Mayo County Council.

Shell and its Corrib gas partners are expected to make three applications for the controversial pipeline – to An Bord Pleanala, if it is deemed to qualify under the new Strategic Infrastructure Act; to the Minister for Energy for consent under the Gas Acts; and for foreshore approval under whichever department handles this aspect of the Foreshore Act under a post-election reorganisation of marine functions.

An Bord Pleanala is expected to rule shortly on qualification under the fast-tracking strategic infrastructure legislation. Separately, the Environmental Protection Agency is due to issue its decision on the integrated pollution prevention control licence for the terminal at Bellanaboy, which already has An Bord Pleanala approval.

Consultants RPS Ireland are due to publish a shortlist of three possible new onshore pipeline routes this week, pending discussions with relevant landowners.

Modification “in the vicinity of Rossport to address community concerns regarding proximity to housing” was one of the key recommendations of Government mediator Peter Cassells in his report published in July, 2006.

The consultants published a list of eight possible routes last June, and had hoped to pare this down during the summer. Once the new shortlist is published, the consultants intend to have experts on hand in their project office in Belmullet, Co Mayo, to discuss various aspects with the public, and they say an environmental impact statement will be prepared for the final planning submission.

The pipeline’s exemption from planning has been one of the key criticisms highlighted by the Shell to Sea campaign. Shortly before the 2002 general election, the then marine minister Frank Fahey approved a plan of development for the Corrib gas field, including consent for construction of gas export pipeline, sub-sea structure, and foreshore licence for the pipeline.

In May 2002, Mr Fahey signed 34 compulsory acquisition orders for access to private lands on the pipeline route – precipitating opposition which led to the jailing for 94 days of the Rossport Five in June 2005.

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