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Irish Times: Mayo group suggests new pipeline route

Mayo group suggests new pipeline route
Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
Irish Times; May 09, 2006

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A Mayo group of residents and business people who support the Corrib gas project has forwarded a modified route for the pipeline to Minister for the Marine Noel Dempsey, which, it says, would break the “current deadlock”.

The Pro-Erris Gas Group suggests the onshore pipeline should run as planned through the property of consenting landowners. However, it should then be rerouted down the environmentally sensitive Sruwaddacon Bay towards Bellanaboy, the group says.

This option would avoid the property of three of the Rossport landowners jailed last year for 94 days, according to the group, which says it has not been in direct contact with Shell E&P Ireland over its plan.

Shell said last night that it had no specific comment to make, other than reiterating that it was prepared to discuss “all options” in mediation. Dr Mark Garavan of the Shell to Sea campaign said that more radical thinking was required to resolve the problem. “If the project is going to be reconfigured, it might as well be done properly,” he said.

The Sruwaddacon Bay route was one of four considered in an original environmental impact statement prepared for Enterprise Energy Ireland, former main shareholder in the Corrib gas field. However, it was ruled out on the grounds that it was a special area of protection under the EU habitats directive and because of the “predicted amount of disturbance associated with rerouting through it”, said the environmental impact statement.

John Rowland, secretary of the pro-Erris group, said the pipeline linking the gas field offshore to the Bellanaboy terminal was already planned to come through sensitive environmental areas in Broadhaven Bay, and it was “not impossible” to route it down Sruwaddaccon on this basis. The route had some engineering challenges which were “not insurmountable”, he said.

“We're confident that this proposal represents a solid, compromising solution to the present impasse, utilising the good will of the already consenting landowners and also respecting the wishes of the non-consenting landowners,” he said.

Mr Rowland said that he was aware that a group of consenting landowners had signed a petition opposing the project last year, but this was in the context of “five men in jail”. Circumstances were now different, he said.

Labour Party president Michael D Higgins yesterday welcomed the “apparent rethink” on the Corrib gas pipeline route by Shell. “This new and apparently fresh thinking by the Shell chief executive and his staff should assist the mediation process currently being overseen by Peter Cassells,” Mr Higgins said.

The safety reports published last week on the pipeline made “very useful recommendations” but did not address the “continuing grave reservations of the people of Rossport and north-west Mayo,” he said.

However, Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley (Ind) expressed concern that Shell was “pulling back” from its commitment to look at all options. “I, like everyone else, would want to see the Corrib gas brought ashore, but it cannot and definitely will not happen if Shell does not change its position,” he said.

An offshore terminal linked to a deep-water port in north Mayo could provide hundreds of long-term permanent jobs, he said.

The Council for the West said that favourable conditions had now been created for resolving the impasse.

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