ONE OF the last pieces in the complex jigsaw of statutory approvals needed for the Corrib gas project is due to be addressed in a Bord Pleanála hearing which opens today in north Mayo.
The oral hearing into a revised onshore pipeline route, linking the landfall at Broadhaven Bay to the Corrib gas refinery at Bellanaboy, is to be heard under the Strategic Infrastructure Act and is expected to last three to four weeks.
However, plans by Shell EP Ireland to resume attempts to lay the offshore pipeline with the ship Solitaire appear to have hit an obstacle, with failure to secure an agreement with Erris fishermen.
The Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association says that the company has not lived up to its promise in relation to discharges from an outfall pipe, which could harm sensitive marine areas.
“This is not about compensation or money – there is a principle involved here,” Eddie Diver, a spokesman for the Erris fishermen, told The Irish Times . Fishermen will remain at all times within the law, but will continue to fish in Broadhaven Bay, as is their legal right, he said.
An agreement secured by Shell last year had involved compensation for lost fishing time during pipelaying, but hinged on commitments to deal with the outfall pipe.
An Bord Pleanála inspector Martin Nolan is expected to hear some 78 submissions on a revised onshore pipeline routing, which represents the first ever planning application for any part of the pipeline. A second application by Shell EP Ireland and partners Statoil and Marathon for a compulsory acquisition order for access to private lands will also be handled at the hearing.
The original onshore pipeline route was exempted from planning approval under the Gas Acts. It was sanctioned by former marine minister Frank Fahey before the 2002 general election.
The hearing to open today will hear objections from a number of local residents and groupings. Statutory bodies such as the Environmental Protection Agency will also be represented.