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Corrib oral hearing before Christmas

THE Mayo News


Áine Ryan

THE controversial Corrib gas project is set to be the subject of yet another oral hearing regarding the modified route of the pipeline as early as December next, The Mayo News has learned.

The beleaguered project has already undergone two An Bord Pleanála hearings in 2002 and an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearing in early 2007.

In September the company furnished An Bord Pleanála (ABP) with extensive additional information on the development’s impact on the stability of the ground in the area. The modified onshore pipeline route runs from a landfall site at Glengad under Dooncarton mountain, where there was a series of major landslides in September 2003. ABP also requested information on potential habitat impact and the effects of the ‘extensification’ of the wellfields.

An ABP spokesman confirmed yesterday (Monday) that additional information, arising from the further information furnished by Shell on September 9 last, was sought by the board on October 15. In a letter addressed to Shell consultants RPS, the planning board requested maps and detailed information, including the environmental impact, on the disposal of peat from the new route. It also requested the identification of the haulage route.

The letter, seen by The Mayo News, stated that: “The Board is of the view that the disposal of peat from the route of the onshore pipeline forms an integral part of this proposed strategic infrastructure development, and that the environmental impacts of this element of the development should be assessed in the context of the overall proposal.”

This request was in response to Shell’s proposal to address this aspect through a separate application.

Meanwhile, the mechanical construction at the Bellanaboy refinery site is over 56 per cent finished, with a company spokesman confirming yesterday that it is on course for completion in the spring of 2009. However, he also said that the offshore pipe-laying programme has been suspended for the remainder of the year.

“Following detailed assessments of all factors, and the worsening weather conditions, a decision was taken very recently that the works would not continue this year,” the Shell spokesman said.

When asked by The Mayo News about the future return of giant pipe-laying vessel, the Solitaire, he stated: “Vessel availability for 2009 is still being investigated so it is too early to confirm. It’s too early to comment on detailed operational plans for 2009. These will be finalised in the coming months.”

He also said that the company hopes ‘to bring the project on stream as quickly as possible’.

In a separate development, two representatives of community group Pobal Chill Chomáin last week addressed the annual congress of Norwegian energy workers’ union SAFE in Stavanger. The union supports efforts to find an alternative Corrib project acceptable to all parties, concentrating on health safety and the environment. Norway has an interest in the Corrib project through its State oil company Statoil (now StatoilHydro).

During their address, Rossport Five’s Vincent McGrath and John Monaghan outlined the history of the Corrib project, its impact on the local community, environmental and human rights concerns, and positive ways forward for all stakeholders – ‘concentrating on community input and local consent’.


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