AN ORAL hearing by An Bord Pleanála into the construction of a pipeline to connect the proposed liquefied natural gas terminal in Co Kerry to the national gas network near Foynes, Co Limerick, begins in Listowel today.
The hearing will take place at the Listowel Arms Hotel and is scheduled to last for up to nine days.
The €500 million terminal, the State's first, on a Shannon Development-owned land bank on the Shannon estuary, was granted permission in March. It too was the subject of an oral hearing.
The project is being built by Shannon LNG, a subsidiary of the US Hess corporation.
Both the terminal and the 25km pipeline have been deemed strategic infrastructure which means the planning applications can bypass the local authority and go directly to An Bord Pleanála.
However, both Kerry County Council and Limerick County Council have been asked to make submissions and they will be among at least 20 parties to address the hearing in Listowel.
The hearing will be addressed by the applicant as well as the Department of the Environment, local landowners and heritage and environmental organisations.
A planning condition states that the gas must be moved by pipeline, not road. An Bord Pleanála will also assess the compulsory purchase orders for land for the pipeline which went into public notice in August.
A local group called "Safety before LNG" is opposed to the terminal. Last week the group asked Kerry County Council for a formal declaration on whether splitting such a large project into separate parts invalidated the project as a whole. The proposed LNG terminal will be "the most sizeable hazard in Ireland, the impacts of which will be felt by many different interest groups beyond the local area," the group said.
The hearing will consider the environmental impact of the gas project, as well as assessing whether it conforms to proper planning and sustainable development guidelines.
The hearing is likely to discuss the selection of the pipeline route as well as the possibility of linking the pipeline to the Tarbert and Moneypoint power stations.
The Tarbert area of the Shannon estuary, in north Kerry, is destined to become an energy hub. Endesa, the Spanish energy giant has bought the former Tarbert ESB power station. Shannon LNG has an option to buy some 260 acres of Shannon Development owned land bank on the Tarbert area of the estuary for the terminal.