EPA confirms Shell can still use original Corrib emissions licence

Modified version of permit quashed in Commercial Court

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

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

 

The Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that Shell E&P Ireland can fall back on the original emissions licence for the Corrib gas refinery, following this week’s quashing of a modified version of the permit in the Commercial Court.

The original licence was secured in late 2007 before new legislation on environmental impact assessments (EIA) was introduced, and expires in late 2014.

Earlier this week the agency conceded in court that local resident Martin Harrington was entitled to an order quashing the “revised” emissions licence, arising from defects in relation to the board’s carrying out of an environmental impact assessment on the revised application.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly granted the order to Mr Harrington, Ballina, Co Mayo, after the agency said it was not opposing his legal challenge to the revised integrated pollution prevention and control licence issued by the agency to Shell E&P Ireland. The agency also agreed to play Mr Harrington’s costs.

Modified licence
The revised or modified licence was issued last year after Shell brokered an agreement with Erris fishermen to change its plans to release discharges from the refinery at the mouth of Broadhaven Bay.

Under the agreement, which was legally binding, the company agreed to pump the contaminated or “produced” water back to source at the wellhead some 70 km out to sea. The company said it had agreed to this as a “goodwill gesture”, although “international experts” had confirmed that this “treated produced water will cause no harm to the marine environment”.

The deal required a change to the agency-issued licence, which also covered atmospheric emissions from the refinery at Ballinaboy.

In his judicial review challenge, Mr Harrington claimed the agency erred in law in seeking to retrospectively carry out an environmental impact assessments at a meeting of the EPA board held on June 25th, when the decision on the pollution prevention and control licence had already been made.

Shell E&P Ireland Ltd said it would examine court developments and fully anticipated that the “required licences” would be “in place for first gas”.

The Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association said its agreement with the company was legally binding and the association would not be happy with the terms of the 2007 licence.

Residents concerned with the impact of the refinery on the public drinking water supply at Carrowmore lake are not happy with either the original or modified licence. Community group Pobal Chill Chomáin said it was concerned that authorities could be “so apparently lax about very serious matters which will affect generations”, while Shell to Sea spokeswoman Maura Harrington, who had welcomed this week’s court decision, accused the EPA of “gross negligence”.

Environmental impact
The EPA said in a statement it accepted the Commercial Court decision.

It added that new legislation on environmental impact assessment was introduced during the licence review application assessment process that “made the assessment procedure difficult to carry out”.

“The 2007 licence remains valid. However, it is open to the licensee to apply for a review of the existing licence at any time,” it said.