Corrib gas project review not an option, says Ryan
Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has said that the Government "cannot commit" to the proposed review of the entire Corrib gas project, which the Green Party had endorsed earlier this year if elected to office.
Mr Ryan told The Irish Timesthat there would be no legal basis for such a review, given that the Corrib gas refinery in north Mayo has been approved by An Bord Pleanála.
However, he would try to ensure that there was "open consultation" on a new pipeline route for the controversial project, which consultants for Shell E&P Ireland are currently engaged in selecting.
An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision on an integrated pollution prevention control licence (IPCC) for the gas terminal is also pending.
An independent commission to examine the best development concept for the Corrib gas project secured the backing of Labour, the Green Party, Socialist Party and a number of Independent TDs and Senators in the previous government. It was proposed last year by former Shell to Sea spokesman Dr Mark Garavan and former Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley, who had expressed concern about the risk of serious injury in continuing protests over the project in Erris.
The Green Party also endorsed such a strategy if elected to government in a resolution passed unanimously at last February's party conference.
The resolution stated that "the Green Party in government will not approve of a production pipeline consent being signed as part of the Corrib gas project until the completion of a full independent review of the best development concept for the project".
Mr Ryan told The Irish Times that even though this resolution has been passed, he now had to adopt a "neutral position" as Minister. In any event, his legal advice was that a Bord Pleanála approval of the refinery or terminal "could not be reversed".
Bord Pleanála decisions could only be appealed on a matter of "process rather than of substance", within a specific timeframe, although groups unhappy with particular rulings had also sought recourse in the High Court, he said.
Mr Ryan said that he had visited the area, had walked the original route of the onshore pipeline, and he had appealed the second round of planning permission for the gas terminal. He was critical of the manner in which the onshore pipeline was granted by ministerial consent and he was also concerned about the impact on bog movements.
As his party's spokesman he had also suggested other locations for the terminal in the past, such as the old Asahi factory near Killala.
Mr Ryan said he believed the Advantica safety review, published last year by his predecessor Noel Dempsey, had recognised and made allowances for many of the concerns of the local community. "It validated the community concerns, and made significant changes, such as recommending reduced pressure through the pipeline."