Sunday, 19 October 2008

Actions over gas terminal in Kerry dismissed

TWO LEGAL challenges to a proposed development of a €500 million gas terminal in Co Kerry have been dismissed at the Commercial Court following an agreement that the objectors will not have to pay the legal costs of the other side.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) and a local man, Raymond O'Mahony, said yesterday that they were prepared to withdraw their proceedings after the State, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and terminal developer Shannon LNG had agreed not to pursue them for costs.

An Bord Pleanála, against whom the proceedings were also brought, did seek its costs against the applicants but Mr Justice John MacMenamin, who expressed the view the actions were "misconceived from the outset" and that the taxpayer ultimately paid for such cases, said he would dismiss the cases with no order for costs, meaning each side pays its own costs.

The judge stressed his costs order should not be regarded as a precedent.

The cases arose from the granting of planning permission for the development of a liquid natural gas terminal at Kilcolgan, near Tarbert, by Shannon LNG.

The environmental group and Mr O'Mahony subsequently brought proceedings against An Bord Pleanála, the HSA, Ireland and the Attorney General.

Earlier this year, Shannon LNG successfully applied to have the case fast-tracked through the High Court's big-business division, the Commercial Court.

Shannon LNG claimed it had spent €15 million on the project by the end of April last and any delay in progressing it would have significant commercial consequences. It aims to have the facility operational by 2012 or 2013.

Mr Justice MacMenamin began hearing the proceedings last Tuesday but was told yesterday that both FIE and Mr O'Mahony had agreed to withdraw the actions on the basis they would not be pursued for the legal costs. The judge dismissed the proceedings with no order on costs.

Earlier, lawyers for the State, Shannon LNG and the health authority indicated they would not be pursuing costs if proceedings were withdrawn.

However, Nuala Butler SC, for the planning board, said her side was seeking its costs.

The applicants' case was virtually unstateable and if the board did not seek costs, applicants could pose hopeless cases and walk away without incurring the expense involved.

The environmental group had claimed the HSA had failed to give proper technical advice on the control of major accident hazards relating to the proposed development as required by domestic and European law.

It also claimed the State failed to properly transpose a number of EU directives relating to the control of major accident hazards along with the assessment of certain projects and their impact on the environment.

The Irish Times

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