SHELL E&P Ireland's publication of a modified onshore pipeline route for the Corrib gas project in north Mayo has drawn a mixed reaction from Erris community interests.
An Bord Pleanála has also denied that it has completed consultations with the Corrib gas developers on "pre-planning" aspects of the proposed amended route.
"Consultations are ongoing and the board has no comment on those consultations," the planning appeals board said in a statement.
Three Government Ministers will have to give various approvals for the amended route, and it may also be the subject of another oral hearing. The amended route is 9.2km long and runs for 40 per cent of the original high-pressure pipeline track. As with the original route, the landfall is at Glengad, and it crosses Sruwaddaccon Bay into Rossport, where it continues in a northeasterly direction, and then southeasterly through commonage shared by over 60 landowners.
It cuts into the Glenamoy bog complex, a special area of conservation (SAC), before crossing Sruwaddaccon Bay for a second time and travelling south to the refinery at Bellanaboy.
RPS - which was hired by Shell to identify the modified route on foot of a recommendation of Government mediator Peter Cassells - says the new route is "twice as far from occupied housing" as the original route.
An option to run straight down Sruwaddaccon Bay, also an SAC, was abandoned, mainly on environmental grounds, it says.
RPS adds that, following statutory consultation, applications and an environmental impact statement will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act. Consents will also be sought from Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan under the Gas Act, and from Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Mary Coughlan under foreshore legislation.
Permission may also be required from Minister for the Environment John Gormley for the SAC dimensions to the route at Glengad and Glenamoy. This will be a matter for An Bord Pleanála to decide, RPS group director PJ Rudden told The Irish Times.
Compulsory acquisition orders are also to be issued by the developers for access to all land involved, even though such orders had been issued before for the original route, Mr Rudden said.
The original route had not been subject to planning, and consents were signed by former marine minister Frank Fahey before the 2002 general election.
Shell E&P Ireland's managing director Andy Pyle said that this announcement showed that "we have made every reasonable effort to address the concerns expressed by local people". The Bellanaboy gas terminal was now 30 per cent complete, he said.
Shell to Sea in Mayo said that the modified route "exposes not just the people of Rossport, but the people of the entire parish of Kilcommon to unprecedented and unacceptable risk".
"We do not give our consent to this and will resist it through every legal, political and campaigning means open to us, even though this could lead to more years of unnecessary conflict," its spokesman John Monaghan said.
"This conflict can be resolved if there is a genuine willingness on the part of Shell and Statoil to reach agreement and secure real consent," Mr Monaghan said. "The tragedy is that there has always been a better way. What we need is resolution and agreement, not the forced imposition on an unwilling community of an unwanted and unsafe project." The Pro Gas Mayo group said it welcomed the announcement, and said it should "allay fears which householders in the Rossport area had".
The Irish Times