SHELL E&P Ireland made a commitment in 2007 to no longer rely on consents issued in 2002 for an onshore pipeline by the then minister for the marine Frank Fahey, according to two environmentalists.
The claim by Peter Sweetman and Monica Muller, which was challenged by Shell counsel, was made during a heated debate at yesterday morning’s session of the An Bord Pleanála hearing in Belmullet, Co Mayo into the controversial Corrib gas project.
Shell has consistently argued that the section of the pipeline on and above the shore at the landfall site of Glengad has consents.
The appeal hearing is deliberating on a revised plan for the onshore pipeline linking Glengad to the Bellanaboy terminal, which would involve tunnelling under the Sruwaddacon estuary, a special area of conservation. It is also due to hear an application by Shell for compulsory acquisition orders to lands.
On Wednesday, inspector Martin Nolan allocated time for objectors to address questions to the applicant regarding an ongoing dispute about the legality of a 10m section of the pipeline at Glengad, which has already been laid.
During this debate, Ms Muller said she and Mr Sweetman withdrew their counterclaim in 2007 in the High Court case of Shell vs McGrath and others because “Shell had given an undertaking it would no longer use the consent from 2002 for the onshore route”.
“They stated they wouldn’t be able to withdraw the entire consent because they needed it for the offshore section of the pipeline,” Ms Muller said.
However, Esmonde Keane SC argued that the only commitment the company made at that time was with regard to the vacating of compulsory acquisition orders, and that there was no concessions granted about the consents.
“The special undertaking by Shell in April 2007 was with regard to compulsory acquisition orders. This was a specific undertaking regarding the lands of the five men who were jailed [the Rossport Five],” Mr Keane said.
Mr Sweetman argued there were grounds for a judicial review of this application by the developer. In a letter from An Bord Pleanála last November, in which it advised Shell to go back to the drawing board about almost half the proposed route, it was noted that Shell “omitted” this section of the pipeline from its first application for the modified route.
Mr Nolan asked Mr Keane what the company’s position was with regard to its inclusion of that part of the route in this latest application.
“Its inclusion was done entirely without prejudice by the applicant with the view that it does not need planning permission and this was upheld by Mr Justice Peter Charleton in the High Court last month,” Mr Keane said.
The hearing continues today and is expected to continue into mid-September.