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Mayo Advertiser: Shell rapped by Environment Minister for unauthorised drilling

23/11/2007
By Toni Bourke

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr John Gormley TD, has given Shell a sharp slap on the hand for drilling boreholes in Glenamoy Bog, a Special Area of Conservation, but has decided not to prosecute. The holes were drilled by RPS, consultants employed by Shell, and their actions were described as a “matter of grave concern” by the minister.

Minister Gormley said it was unacceptable that this occurred at a time when his Department had been making special efforts to keep in communication with Shell.

“I have considered taking a prosecution in this case under the regulations. However, I concluded that the most immediate imperative now is to demonstrate to the company that such works in a special conservation area, without consent of my Department, will not be tolerated. The best way to achieve this is for me to utilise the powers I have under Article 19 of the Habitats Regulations to require Shell to restore the site to its original condition,” explained Minister Gormley.

RPS have stated that they will immediately comply with the directions of the Minister and reinstate the two boreholes drilled “mistakenly” in the Glenamoy Bog complex.

RPS said they are pleased that the minister confirmed that no habitats of particular ecological value were adversely affected.

Mr PJ Rudden, Director RPS, said: “It was a genuine mistake which was the result of miscommunication within both RPS and Shell E&P Ireland Limited. We’re more than happy to comply with the Minister’s requirements.”

RPS confirmed they stopped drilling as soon as they realised the mistake. In a statement the company said it was not the case that they were instructed by Department officials to cease work and did not do so.

Last Monday Minister Gormley issued directions requiring Shell or its agents to restore the SAC at Glengad to its original condition.

The offending drilling works and the installation of two boreholes were carried out last month on behalf of Shell in the proposed area of the Corrib gas pipeline. Such work on a SAC site requires permission of the Minister under the the EC Habitats Regulations.

Staff at the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) were not notified of the work until after it had taken place. The work was therefore carried out without permission from the Minister and constituted an offence under the Habitats Regulations.

Minister Gormley last month sought a report by an NPWS ecologist on the impact of the work. That report found that the extent of the ecological damage/disturbance was minor and that no habitats of particular ecological value were adversely affected.

The Minister then issued a Ministerial Direction under the Habitats Regulations requiring Shell or its agents to restore the site to its original condition. Failure to comply with such a Ministerial Direction is a criminal offence.

Work on choosing the modified onshore pipeline route continues, RPS have confirmed. Technical investigations as well as consultation with landowners and the local community are ongoing and it will be 2008 before the final route is known.

http://www.mayoadvertiser.com/index.php?aid=4187

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