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Irish planning authority controversial decision on Corrib Gas ‘super-tunnel’

Tuesday, 07 June 2011 08:22

Rabbitte dubs Bord Pleanála decision about Corrib ‘super-tunnel’ as ‘extraordinary’

Áine Ryan

Minister for Energy, Pat Rabbitte has dubbed as ‘extraordinary’ An Bord Pleanála’s decision that a section of the raw gas pipeline for the Corrib project should be laid in a sub-sea tunnel in the Sruwaddacon estuary.

In fact, a series of recent remarks made by the Labour minister, from Ballindine, has led community group, Pobal Chill Chomáin to seek an urgent meeting with him. In a letter, seen by The Mayo News, they claim he is misinformed about key issues relating to the project and protest.

In a recent interview with Eolas magazine about the future exploitation of offshore resources, Minister Rabbitte said: “Unfortunately we haven’t moved on from Corrib. My honest, personal reaction is that the imposition by the planning authorities of the requirement to build a super-tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay is an extraordinary one.”

He remarked: “Is [the tunnel] necessary in terms of safety?…I suppose if the authorities say it is, I’m not going to second guess them, but it is an extraordinary undertaking.”

During April, the Energy Minister told the Dáil that only four commercial discoveries of oil had been made since the 1970s and that due to the huge costs incurred, exploration costs should be borne by the industries rather than the Irish taxpayer.

He was responding to a Sinn Féin Private Members’ motion that called for the establishment of a State exploration company.

The proposed company would hold a 51 per cent share in all oil and gas finds.

A 2006 study for the minister’s department estimated a total reserve potential of ten billion barrels of oil equivalent for offshore frontier basins west of Ireland – worth €750 billion at current prices of €75 a barrel.

Minister Rabbitte said last week the Corrib gas field must be brought to full production for strategic reasons, when he outlined his energy policy at an Energy Ireland conference in Dublin.

He also revealed that a record number of 15 applications had been made by exploration companies on the Atlantic margin.

Addressing the Corrib issue on RTE, he said: “Most people who were concerned about safety acknowledged that everything that is humanly possible has been done on the safety front, and the people who were concerned about safety deserved support.”
“Unfortunately, the protests have now passed on to people – you know – it’s no longer a case of Shell to Sea, it’s Shell out of Ireland, and that’s not in Ireland’s national interest, in our strategic interest at this time.”

He also said the recent increased price of gas was an argument for proceeding with the Corrib project as soon as possible.

Community group responds

RESPONDING to Minister Rabbitte’s comments, Vincent McGrath of community group, Pobal Chill Chomáin said his views could be perceived as prejudicial to two ongoing judicial reviews regarding permissions for the project. They are being taken by An Taisce and residents, Monica Muller and Peter Sweetman and are due to be heard in the Commercial Court on October 4 next.

Challenges to key consents signed by former Minister for Energy, Pat Carey, on the day of the General Election, may also be heard in tandem with the abovementioned hearings.

Mr McGrath also wrote: “You say that most people concerned about safety in the Corrib project acknowledged that everything possible had been done to improve safety. Our concerns about health and safety have not been allayed by the constant tweaking of a project, which is essentially the same as that rejected by An Bord Pleanála in 2003. The people who are most concerned about health and safety live in this community and have been forced to defend themselves and their environment when the State abandoned them.”

He goes on to quote the Labour Party Manifesto 2011. “Equality is not a luxury for the good times or a buzzword: it is at the heart of what it means to be a citizen in our Democracy.”

Requesting a meeting with members of Pobal Chill Chomáin, he also challenges the minister’s remarks that gas prices will fall when Corrib begins to flow.


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