SHELL EP Ireland is expected to resume efforts to lay the offshore section of the Corrib gas pipeline, after approval of its environmental management plan by Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan.
The ministerial approval, issued on Thursday, has been greeted with dismay by community groups involved in talks with the Government and Shell to resolve the conflict over the project.
The talks between Pobal Chill Chomáin and Pobal Le Chéile, Royal Dutch Shell, Shell EP Ireland and Ministers for Energy and the Gaeltacht Eamon Ryan and Éamon Ó Cuív broke down earlier this week in Dublin.
The talks were the first between Rossport Five members and Shell since the five were jailed for 94 days in 2005 over their opposition to the routing of the onshore high-pressure Corrib gas pipeline.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is still committed to separate mediation, following its declaration that a complaint lodged by Pobal Chill Chomáin over the project is “admissible”.
However, the Corrib gas partners – Shell, Statoil and Marathon – have already signalled to Mr Ryan’s department that they are “preparing for activities to commence” on pipelaying offshore to the landfall at Glengad.
An Bord Pleanála is still considering a revised application for the onshore pipeline routing.
Measures to “mitigate” the effect of the pipelaying work on the Special Protection Area (SPA) in Broadhaven Bay and at Glengad have been incorporated in Mr Ryan’s approval of the environmental management plan.
Shell has said it has “nothing to say” on the breakdown of talks, while Government mediator Joe Brosnan has said informal contacts will continue. He intends to chair a session of the Government’s forum in Belmullet, Co Mayo, in late April/early May.
Pobal Chill Chomáin and Pobal le Chéile said they “greatly regretted” the outcome of the talks: “This is directly and solely because Shell has made clear that it remains wedded to its present development model for the Corrib gas project in spite of significant and mounting opposition in the local community . . . we still call on the Government to exercise its duty towards its citizens, act resolutely, and insist that Shell face up to the realities and behave as a responsible company must do.”