Shell among eight objectors to new emissions licence for Corrib gas refinery
EPA board says it will consider two requests for oral hearing
Shell’s objection takes issue with aspects of nine conditions attached to the revised licence which the EPA is likely to grant. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA
Shell E&P Ireland is author of one of eight objections submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a revised emissions licence for the Corrib gas project. Seven other valid objections to the revised licence include two requests for an oral hearing which the EPA says its board will consider “at a future date”.
Objectors include a group of 64 residents living in the communities of Rossport, Pollathomas and Glengad, and a group of 1,100 people living in Ireland and abroad who are signatories to a petition initiated by Shell to Sea. An Taisce has also objected.
The EPA recommended issuing the revised licence, which regulates emissions to the atmosphere and freshwater/marine environments, in a preliminary decision published on April 13th. It allowed for objections to be received by May 11th.
Shell is not seeking an oral hearing, but its objection takes issue with aspects of nine conditions attached to the revised licence which the EPA intends to grant. Shell is querying details relating to leak detection and repair programmes which must be installed within six months of granting the licence.
It says that the EPA’s “singling out” of a fuel gas leak detection system for installation is “inappropriate” for a major gas installation. It says the Ballinaboy bridge gas terminal has a “comprehensive leak detection system in operation which encompasses the fuel gas system”.
It also objects to the wording of a condition limiting noise emanating from non-emergency flaring of gas – a technique used to relieve pressure in the system which involves burning off excess gas. It queries certain emissions limits, including that relating to aluminium, and says that neither of the dual activities at Ballinaboy “produces, uses or releases, aluminium to the surface water environment”.
The 64 residents living on both sides of the Sruwadaccon estuary, the route of the last section of linking pipeline, say they have experienced “spills, sinkholes, light and noise pollution, changes to the land and the waters and breaches of regulations” over the past decade.
They point to the recent surfacing after storms of a discharge pipe which had been laid in Broadhaven Bay as part of the project. “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. “Not one person was ever identifiable to us to have overall responsibility,” their submission states.
Shell to Sea also objects to the revised licence and says that Shell cannot operate the refinery as its earlier emissions licence was quashed by the High Court last year.
The licence, which is a vital piece in the jigsaw of statutory authorisations for the project, was first approved in 2007 by the EPA after an oral hearing in Belmullet, Co Mayo.
Residents had objected to the application on the basis that emissions posed a risk to the local public drinking water supply at Carrowmore lake, and that licensing could allow for controversial practices like cold venting and “flaring” or burning of excess gas to relieve pressure.
The company promised to change the 2007 licence after lobbying by Erris fishermen to protect Broadhaven Bay from contaminated marine emissions.
The EPA gave preliminary approval for a revised IPPC licence in August 2010, after Shell agreed to the Erris fishermen’s demand to discharge some 80 per cent of waste chemicals more than 80km off the Mayo coastline, instead of the original proposal to discharge into a “diffuser” just over 12km offshore.
The EPA’s handling of changes without an environmental impact assessment was challenged in a court action taken by Martin Harrington. The EPA says it will issue a final decision on the revised licence within four months, by September 11th at the latest, although it adds that it has the discretion to extend this date, if necessary.