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June 2, 2008: The Shell Corrib Gas Project Controversy: Peace in our time?

Welcome to The Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility

 

 

 

 

Statement by Miles Litvinoff,Co-ordinator, Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility 

You may be aware of Royal Dutch Shell’s troubled Corrib project in County Mayo, Ireland. For background see http://www.eccr.org.uk/Article65.html

Now the opportunity has arisen for a historic, peace-making agreement between the company and those Rossport residents who have been in opposition to the on-land gas refinery and pipeline.
 
Last week ECCR received the attached message from Vincent McGrath, one of the `Rossport Five’ (imprisoned in 2005 – see note at foot of his message), which we are forwarding to you with his agreement.  This message states that the proposed relocation of the Corrib gas refinery to an uninhabited coastal location such as Glinks is now something that `the vast majority of the receiving community at the heart of the campaign for health and safety are prepared to accept … in the interests of healing the deep divisions in their community and getting back to a normal life’.
 
The relocation proposal was first made by one of the parish priests in early 2007 and is mentioned in ECCR’s visit report dated May 2007 (full version available on request). As Mr McGrath indicates, this renewed proposal now comes from the three parish priests and has the support of the Bishop of the Diocese of Killala, the President of the Irish Labour Party, the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association, the Mayo Green Party and others.
 
Along with Mr McGrath’s message – which includes his list of the advantages of an agreement on re-siting the refinery – also attached are a copy of a residents’ statement dated 27 April 2008 (including on pages 2-4 a map and a copy of the parish priests’ letter to the Irish government minster responsible) and the endorsement by the Bishop of Killala.
 
Norway’s Statoil is a member of the project consortium. As the residents’ statement indicates, the Norwegian oil and gas workers’ union has supported the campaign to relocate the refinery (see also http://www.corribsos.com/index.php?id=1740).
 
ECCR has forwarded these documents to Mike Wilkinson, Shell’s Vice-President Sustainable Development.
 
In view of the bitter divisions within the community that the Corrib project has caused, ECCR is urging Shell to give the most careful consideration to all relevant factors, including the long-term reputational benefits to itself of reaching a settlement that the majority of the local Rossport community will now accept as fair. We are urging them to agree to and implement the refinery relocation.
 
ECCR is notifying its membership and partners, UK and Irish church investors, trade union and other pension fund contacts, and all those institutional and individual investors who showed interest in our 2006 shareholder resolution, about this latest development.
 
We are asking all concerned to use any influence they may have with Shell to join us in calling on the company to accept the refinery relocation proposal and in this way to resolve once and for all this long-running and painful dispute.
 
If you would like to discuss the matter, please let me know, and please feel free to alert others about this important opportunity for a `win-win’ for Shell and an embattled local community.
 
With all good wishes
 
Miles Litvinoff
 
Co-ordinator, Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility
PO Box 500, Oxford OX1 1ZL, UK
tel. +44 (0)20 8965 9682
mobile +44 (0)7984 720103
[email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>
www.eccr.org.uk <http://www.eccr.org.uk/>

ECCR is a company limited by guarantee in England & Wales (No. 2764183) and a Body in Association with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Note from Vincent McGrath to ECCR 

Received by ECCR: 27 May 2008 

Subject: Shell-Rossport 

The priests of the parish of Kilcommon have put forward a compromise proposal aimed at finding a resolution to the long-running dispute between Shell and the local community. Their proposal, to relocate the refinery to a remote uninhabited coastal location, has already been endorsed by the President of the Irish Labour Party, Michael D. Higgins, by the Bishop of the Diocese of Killala, Dr. John Fleming and by Michael Ring, the most popular public representative in Co. Mayo. The Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association and the Mayo Green Party have come out in support of this proposal. 

Significantly the vast majority of the receiving community at the heart of the campaign for health and safety are prepared to accept a land-based refinery in the interests of healing the deep divisions in their community and getting back to a normal life. 

The community endorsement of the priests’ proposal came in a statement from local residents [cf. attachment] who along with concerned politicians had visited Norway two weeks previously. One of the aims of the delegation was to bring to the attention of the Norwegian people how their 60% State-owned company, HydroStatoil, is colluding with Shell in breaching human rights and environmental law in Ireland. Another important aim of the delegation was to try and initiate a process that could lead to a resolution acceptable to all the relevant stakeholders. 

While in Norway the group met with the Government parties and NGOs such as FORUM and had a face to face meeting with Statoil officials. The visit was reported on the main TV news which included footage of the police manhandling peaceful protesters in the Rossport area. The Norwegians were visibly sickened and embarrassed that they should in any way be seen to be complicit in such behaviour. 

Shell remains the only obstacle to a resolution of the conflict, and the only argument Shell has left is the amount of work carried out and money already spent on the refinery. Shell commenced work on the refinery (helped by hundreds of police) before they had permission for an operating licence from the EPA and before they had found a route for the pipeline. It was their decision to pour speculative money into the refinery. This is an attempt to put pressure on the authorities to grant the remaining consents. They have applied for Compulsory Acquisition Orders to enter private lands for the purpose of laying an unprecedented high-pressure raw gas pipeline. They will never have the consent of a large number of landowners nor of the majority of the residents. They are heading down the road of conflict that will be far more serious than in 2005. 

On a positive note, [below] are the advantages (as I see it) of relocating the refinery – no significance in the order. I see the compromise as a “win win” situation. The opportunity shouldn’t be lost. 

See also http://www.corribsos.com/index.php?id=1763

and

http://www.corribsos.com/index.php?id=1759 

and

http://www.corribsos.com/index.php?id=1755

and

http://www.corribsos.com/index.php?id=1740 

Advantages of relocating refinery to “remote uninhabited area such as Glinsk” 

(According to engineering sources this option is technically feasible and there are no major engineering difficulties involved) 

1.     Uninhabited area

2.     Not an environmentally protected area

3.     Full pressure from well can be achieved. No pressure limiting valve necessary (to limit pressure from 345 bar to 144 bar). This is at design stage and is proposed close to landfall within an SAC and close to homes)

4.     Fishermen’s concern re outfall pipe allayed 

5.     Room for expansion to accommodate further discoveries

6.     Light pollution mitigated

7.     Noise pollution mitigated

8.     Visual pollution mitigated

9.     Explosion impact would be cushioned

10.  Extra construction jobs in new refinery

11.  Present jobs in tourist industry in Erris no longer at risk from actual or perceived pollution

12.  Refinery removed from water catchment (Carrowmore Lake); threat to region’s drinking water supply removed

13.  Potential for Erris region to develop in a sustainable manner.

14.  No need for upstream/production pipeline through populated areas. Further conflict with the local community avoided.

15.  Gas can come to market sooner; new fast-tracking planning laws; project already 7 years behind schedule; Shell/Statoil can give a completion date for project to their shareholders

16.  Plant and equipment already in place can be relocated from Ballinaboy.

17.  Costs incurred by oil companies can be written off for tax purposes (1992 Licensing Terms).

18.  Old refinery site at Ballinaboy could be modified and used as research centre for renewable energy – extra jobs. 

A “WIN–WIN” for all?   

About Vincent McGrath:

`Vincent McGrath , a musician and retired teacher, was one of five men jailed for 94 days in 2005 for disobeying a court injunction preventing him interfering with Shell’s engineering works. He objected to the firm burying a high-pressure gas pipeline 70 metres from his front door. “We are not against the gas being brought to market,” he explains. “We are against the way the project is configured.” ‘ – The Guardian 7/3/07

Statement by Rossport ( Kilcommon Parish)  Residents – 27/04/2008 

We the undersigned, as concerned residents of Rossport (Kilcommon Parish) in North Mayo, fully support the initiative as proposed by our three priests, Fr. Michael Nallen, Fr. Michael Gilroy and Fr. Sean Noone, in their effort to help resolve the disputed and controversial Corrib gas project.  

Their proposal, to consider relocating the Corrib refinery to a much more remote and coastal location, is the first real attempt at finding a solution to the ongoing dispute that understands the many concerns surrounding the current location.  All of the problems surrounding the Bellanaboy site would be solved in one move.  Our stance has never been anti-gas, but our priority has always been health, safety and the environment, and this remains the case. 

This proposal has come about after a series of events, culminating in our recent visit to Norway as community representatives alongside west-of-Ireland politicians from Labour, Sinn Fein and the Green Party, which included discussions with representatives of the Norwegian oil & gas workers unions and Shell’s Corrib partners Statoil.  

This conflict has always been capable of being resolved by agreement and respect, and we call on all genuinely interested parties to respond positively to this move.  Failure to do so would inevitably see the situation revert to compulsory land acquisition, court orders, court cases, conflict, and more suffering and trauma for our families, neighbours and community.  

The current Corrib project has done untold damage to this community, the reputations of  Shell, Statoil and successive Governments, and the integrity of numerous State agencies.  We sincerely hope that this chance for agreement is not lost, as it represents a clearly long-overdue opportunity for resolution, agreement and healing. 

Signed: 

Mary Corduff   PJ Moran   Philip McGrath Caitlín Uí Seighin. 

Willie Corduff  Pat O’Donnell  Vincent McGrath 

For comment or verification please call Vincent McGrath 087 7557244 

Briefing Note for media  

A delegation of local people visited Norway on early April (3 weeks ago). The delegation was made up of the signatories of this statement. The delegation was accompanied by Michael D Higgins President of the Labour party, Cllr Niall O Brolchain of the green party and Cllr Noel Campbell of Sinn Fein. The delegation received full support from Terje Nustad leader of Norway’s important oil and gas workers union. With him, they held meetings with Statoil and also met with Norwegian political parties.   

The proposed new pipeline route will need approval from An Bord Pleanala and consent from the Minister of the Marine, Eamon Ryan. It is certain that oral hearings will be required. Compulsory Acquisition Orders for the pipeline route will be contested which will involve further oral hearings and court actions. Because the route crosses an SAC it will also need approval from the Minister of the Environment, John Gormley. The government will need derogations from the EU for the SAC infringements. Given that viable development alternatives exist, it is likely that the EU will have serious difficulties approving the project. 

The cost of any new refinery development can be entirely written-off for taxation purposes by Shell. No net cost will arise for them for a new development. 

A new refinery project will provide further employment and investment in North Mayo. A new project can be processed through the new Strategic Infrastructure legislation. The existing terminal site can be modified for use as a center of excellence for renewable energy. The community will be coming forward with a plan for this modified use. 

(Graphic showing Proposed and Original Route will be inserted here ASAP) 

The construction at the present Bellanaboy site is 30% completed. No off-shore or on-shore production pipelines from the Corrib well have yet been laid so the project remains at an early stage of physical development. 

Letter from Priests of Kilcommon Parish to Minister Eamon Ryan T.D.

Parish of Kilcommon Erris  

Christ the King    St. Paul’s Church    St. Patrick’s Church    Star of the Sea    Séipéal Muire gan Smál     Aughoose    Glenamoy  Inver        Cornboy          Ceathrú Thaidhg    

November 14, 2007  

Minister Eamon Ryan T.D., 

Minister for Communications, Energy, & Natural Resources, 

29-31 Adelaide Road, 

Dublin 2.  

 

Re: Corrib Gas Project  

Dear Minister Ryan,  

Thank you for your letter of November 5, 2007 outlining your response to our letter of October 16, 2007. We would like to make the following observations to your reply.  

We wish to reiterate that we believe most people are not opposed to the gas coming ashore.  Benefits for community and country are something that most people would welcome. It should be possible to achieve this goal in an environmentally and community friendly way without the flaws which are linked to the Ballinaboy site.  

The remit of Shell’s consultants, RPS, is to identify an acceptable pipeline route. However, given the strength of community opposition to the project in its present form, it is difficult to see how any route will be acceptable. The consultation process for this project has been entirely inadequate because the objections and concerns of the local community are not being taken seriously. Among the concerns not being addressed is the location of the terminal within our Carrowmore Lake drinking water catchment, which, we understand, is in breach of codes of practice and EU directives. Other concerns relate to the potential negative impact on the local fishing industry and the environmental and ecological integrity of Broadhaven Bay. As stated in our previous correspondence, the present location of the proposed refinery necessitates the construction of a raw gas pipeline close to human habitation, a situation which to our knowledge is unprecedented. The assurances given to date have done little to alleviate the worries of the community. 

In an attempt to find some resolution to the current impasse we suggest that an alternative site for the refinery should be explored. One such option would be to explore the possible relocation of the refinery to an uninhabited coastal area such as Glinsk, a location already identified by RPS as a possible alternative corridor for the pipeline (Corridor G). We believe such a solution is technically and economically feasible and would comply with the codes of practice and EU directives. It would be our fervent hope that this solution would gain widespread community support and we would, therefore, ask you to give serious consideration to this option in an effort to bring the sorry history of this project to a peaceful and just conclusion.  

While there may be conservation issues wherever the refinery is located, we believe it is paramount that human life be protected. In the event of the relocation of the refinery being explored, we respectfully urge all involved to learn from the mistakes of this project to date. It is incumbent on all of us to explore all viable options in the hope of reaching an amicable solution.

We are concerned about the impact, past, present and future, for the people to whom we minister in our community. We have a moral obligation to highlight the fears of our parishioners and to urge those in positions of authority to safeguard the rights and dignity of our people.  

Yours sincerely,                   

Fr. Michael Nallen      Fr. Michael Gilroy    Fr. Seán Noone P.E. 

Co-Pastors 

Aughoose, Pullathomas, Ballina, Co. Mayo 

Parish Office 097-87701 

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