EPA turns down oral hearing request on Corrib gas project licence

Revised atmospheric and marine emissions licence one of final authorisations

A section of the Corrib gas line at Aughoose, Co Mayo. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

A section of the Corrib gas line at Aughoose, Co Mayo. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has turned down requests for an oral hearing into a revised licence sought by Shell E&P Ireland for the Corrib gas project in north Mayo.

The revised licence covering atmospheric and marine emissions from the Corrib gas refinery is one of the last State authorisations required before the project becomes fully operational.

Shell had received its original EPA licence in 2007, but sought a review after it agreed to a demand by Erris fishermen that “treated produced water” from the refinery be discharged out at the well head, rather than some 12 km offshore.

The EPA recommended a revised licence in April of this year in a preliminary decision which attracted eight objections - including one from Shell. The multinational was not happy with aspects of nine conditions.

An oral hearing was requested by local residents and others in two separate objections, signed by a total of 1,164 people.

One of the two requests asked the hearing be held to comply with the principles of the Aarhus Convention on access to environmental information and justice and public participation, which Ireland only ratified in June 2012.

A submission from 64 residents living on both sides of the Sruwadaccon estuary - route of the last section of linking pipeline - said they had experienced “spills, sinkholes, light and noise pollution, changes to the land and the waters and breaches of regulations” relating to the project over the past decade.

“Our reports and observations have been blocked out consistently,” they state, and “we have learned that there is no reliable system in place to react immediately and adequately when things go wrong”.

The EPA said there were “no new issues raised or data provided” in the objections relating to the location, and said “all pertinent matters in relation to environmental sensitivity were dealt with” in the oral hearing of 2007.

Its inspector said she considered the objections could be “fully and adequately assessed” by a technical committee of the agency, and a final decision is expected in September 10th with the provision to extend if necessary.

Shell to Sea spokeswoman Maura Harrington said the EPA “didn’t want to give another oral hearing to save Shell the embarrassment,because at every oral hearing campaigners have wiped the floor with Shell”.

Shell to Sea campaigner Terence Conway said there was “no confidence” in the EPA’s ability to regulate Shell, noting the agency did not send an inspector to examine a water outfall pipe from the project which surfaced in Broadhaven Bay several months ago.

In a related development, local farmer Gerry Bourke, who objects to the project, said a film crew working for Shell entered private lands overlooking Sruwaddaccon estuary on Thursday without seeking permission.

Mr Bourke said he had come across the film crew on a neighbour’s land and the neighbour had then asked the crew to leave. The company had “learned nothing” in relation to community relations, in spite of its recent public statements, he said.

Shell E&P Ireland did not respond to a request for comment.