OECD to offer mediation in Corrib gas dispute

 

THE ORGANISATION for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to offer to mediate between Shell and the north Mayo community over residents’ health and safety concerns about the Corrib gas project.

OECD representatives in the Netherlands and Ireland have made contact with both parties, following confirmation that a complaint lodged by community group Pobal Chill Chomáin is admissible.

The complaint, lodged last year by the north Mayo community group, claims that Corrib gas developers Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil Hydro and Marathon Oil have violated OECD guidelines for multinational companies.

The OECD guidelines comprise voluntary principles and standards for “responsible business conduct” by multinational companies. They are non-binding, but have considerable moral authority in the 30 OECD member states.

The guidelines relate to employment and industrial relations, human rights, environmental issues, information disclosure, combating bribery, consumer interests, science and technology, competition and taxation.

The complaint was lodged with OECD national contact points in both the Netherlands and Ireland, as Royal Dutch Shell has its headquarters in The Hague.

It is the first time that the Irish national contact point of the OECD has handled a complaint at this level. OECD contact points in Norway and Britain have also been notified by the Dutch and Irish representatives.

The OECD intervention has been welcomed as “very significant” by Pobal Chill Chomáin while Shell EP Ireland made no comment. Pobal Chill Chomáin spokesman Vincent McGrath said that such mediation promised to be far more extensive than that offered late last year under “confined” terms of reference by the Government.

“The key issue with this project is that it has to be examined in its totality in relation to its environmental impact, which the Government has failed to do so far,” he said.

To date, the key community groups have not participated directly in the forum established late last year by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív, due to concerns over the terms of reference. It is understood that direct talks with the Ministers may take place later this month.

The Pobal Chill Chomáin complaint, supported by the peace and justice organisation Afri, specifies chapter five of the OECD guidelines and says the Corrib gas developers failed to “operate in consideration of relevant international agreements, principles, objectives and standards” and to provide the public with “adequate and timely information” on potential impacts.

It says the three companies breached chapter two of the guidelines in failing to comply with human rights, failing to “encourage the local capacity building” and failing to “act in partnership with the local community”.

The community group has also lodged a complaint on the project with the European Commission.

The Corrib gas developers have recently submitted a revised application for an onshore pipeline route to An Bord Pleanála and are also seeking planning permission for a beach valve station at Glengad, along with relevant ministerial consents.

Earlier this week, Shell EP Ireland also applied to Mayo County Council for a further amendment to original planning permission for the gas refinery at Bellanaboy.

The company plans to lay its offshore pipeline linking the well-head to the landfall at Glengad this summer. It had secured agreement with the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association last year in relation to discharges into Broadhaven Bay.