Lorna Siggins witing in The Irish Times tells us how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision on an integrated pollution prevention and control licence for the Corrib gas project has been welcomed by the Corrib gas partners and criticised by An Taisce and the Shell to Sea campaign in north Mayo.
Leo Corcoran, consultant to An Taisce, said the 85 conditions attached to the preliminary licence ruling included "no practical provisions" to protect the drinking water supply for 10,000 people in the Erris region, drawn from Carrowmore lake.
"If a major incident occurs it is highly likely that the surrounding blanket bog and consequently Carrowmore lake, close to the Bellanaboy terminal, would be polluted," Mr Corcoran, a former Bord Gáis engineer, said. He pointed out that the international code of practice which Government bodies are expected to apply "specifically requires engineers to consider the location of water catchments when selecting an appropriate site".
"Because Bellanaboy is within the water catchment of the major supply for this area its selection is in breach of the code of practice. Bellanaboy should never have been selected as the location for the terminal on this basis alone."
The Shell to Sea campaign said that it would be requesting an oral hearing into the decision, and questioned the timing of the announcement by the EPA when a decision had not been anticipated before March 7th.
Spokesman Dr Mark Garavan said once again it highlighted the essential flaws in a "project splitting" exercise. The issue of health and safety to residents in relation to the onshore pipeline and location of the terminal had still not been resolved, he said. Shell is currently engaged in a seven-stage procedure to modify the pipeline route.
These health and safety concerns, and the wider concerns relating to Government handling of natural resources, would be an issue in the forthcoming general election campaign, Dr Garavan said.
Imelda Moran, a local resident in north Mayo, said "no one could have faith in the planning process" as a result of the move.
"The EPA sought additional information from Shell in relation to its environmental impact statement (EIS), which it found to be defective," she said.
"This flawed EIS had already been used by other agencies, including Mayo County Council, to award planning permission.
"This effectively means that a developer can withhold essential information until it has to provide it - in this case, after planning permission has been granted," Ms Moran said.
She has already made submissions to the EPA, including cold venting of gas which was not included in the EIS presented to Mayo County Council. She has also expressed concerns about the impact of the refinery's outfall pipe into Broadhaven Bay.