The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deferred its decision on awarding an integrated pollution licence to the Corrib gas terminal.
An EPA spokeswoman confirmed that a date of September 28th has been given to the applicant, Shell E&P Ireland, and to the objectors.
Extra time is allowed for under the legislation, but the board may come to a decision before this date - or may seek a further extension, the spokeswoman said. The integrated pollution prevention control (IPPC) licence is one of the key consents in a series handled by different State agencies for the €900 million project. The licence covers emissions from the terminal to the
atmosphere and the marine environment, and preliminary approval has already been given by the EPA.
To date, the EPA has not overturned an interim decision of this nature in other cases.
However, following the lodgement of 13 objections, including one from Shell E&P Ireland, the agency held an oral hearing in Belmullet, Co Mayo, which ran over 12 days between mid-April and mid-May of this year.
The Erris Inshore Fishermen's Association is one of the appellants, and its main concern relates to impact on the marine environment from the refinery's outfall pipe, which bears treated chemical and metallic contaminants.
Other appellants include An Taisce, local parish priest Fr Michael Nallen and several members of the Shell to Sea campaign.
During the hearing, there was criticism of the failure to call representatives of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), Mayo County Council and An Bord Pleanála - all of whom have had input into various aspects of the project. Shell told the hearing that compliance with legislation and the conditions of the IPCC licence would be "key priorities".
Shell made no comment on the deferred ruling yesterday, beyond stating that it was a procedural matter for the EPA.
A Garda presence was maintained at the 12-day EPA hearing, in spite of complaints by appellants. It was part of the continuing Garda security operation in north Mayo for the Corrib project. The cost of this was €5.4 million for a period of just over six months, from October to mid-April, according to figures supplied by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell.
© 2007 The Irish Times