Legal challenge to Shannon LNG project has EU implications

Case centres on terminal and pipeline listing in EU Projects of Community Importance

A Project of Community Importance  is defined as one necessary to implement energy infrastructure priority corridors and areas.

A Project of Community Importance is defined as one necessary to implement energy infrastructure priority corridors and areas.

 

An environmental group’s challenge over how the controversial €500 million Shannon LNG terminal and pipeline was included in a list of EU Projects of Community Importance has implications not just for Ireland “but potentially across the EU”, the State has told the High Court.

Suzanne Kingston, for various State defendants, said the European Commission had been informed of the proceedings, which include a challenge to the validity of commission decisions, but no response has been received so far from it.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald, who earlier this month granted leave to Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) to bring the case, said he wants it to progress speedily, for reasons including a reference to the Court of Justice of the EU may be necessary.

During a case management hearing on Thursday, he made directions for the parties to provide documents, including setting out the State’s position on legal costs issues, and adjourned the matter for further case management to March 12th.

Public interest

The case centres on the decision-making procedure, involving the European Commission and the State, leading to the inclusion of the Shannon project in the fourth EU Projects of Community Importance (PCI) list. That list was approved earlier this month by the European Parliament and inclusion in it entitles projects to the “most rapid treatment legally possible”, consideration as being of public interest from an energy policy perspective and, possibly, as of “overriding public interest” .

The proposed development is for four liquefied natural gas tanks, jetties to receive ships of LNG and associated works near Tarbert, Co Kerry. Objectors, including the singer Cher, have raised several concerns, including about its proposed use of fracked gas. In separate, earlier, proceedings challenging an extension to 2023 of permission for the development, the High Court sent issues to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) for determination and an opinion in that case is due on April 30th from that court’s advocate general.

Judicial review

When granting leave on February 13th for the second case, Mr Justice McDonald said he was satisfied FIE, represented by James Devlin SC, with John Kenny, instructed by solicitor Fred Logue, had made out a good case for judicial review. The case is against the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Ireland and the Attorney General.

FIE, with an address at Eeyries, Beara, Co Cork, wants several reliefs, including a reference to the CJEU to determine the validity of the October 2019 delegated act of the commission adopting the PCI list insofar as it includes the Shannon LNG project.

A PCI is defined as a project necessary to implement energy infrastructure priority corridors and areas. FIE wants the High Court to quash the inclusion decision on grounds including alleged failure by the State to have any, or any adequate regard to several matters, including matters specified in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.

It also claims the commission failed to meet its obligation under the relevant European regulation to conduct any assessment of the “sustainability” of the Shannon project, or any of the PCI projects.