RISK FROM the proposed Corrib gas pipeline “is no greater than that posed by existing transmission pipelines across Ireland”, according to Shell EP Ireland.
Speaking yesterday in Belmullet, Co Mayo, on the final day of the resumed An Bord Pleanála hearing into the last section of the controversial pipeline, senior counsel Esmonde Keane said Shell’s latest application had “satisfied all relevant criteria” set down by the planning appeals board in its letter of November 2nd, 2009.
“It is virtually certain . . . that no other Irish development proposal has been subject to such an amount of study and surveys over such a period of time,” he said.
Mr Keane argued the pipeline was designed to “the highest safety standards” and “to achieve the least impact possible on the environment”. Recognising the public’s fears, Mr Keane said the company “acknowledges the concerns of the public and has at all times regarded the safety of the community through which the pipeline [will run] as paramount.”
He addressed concerns, repeatedly expressed by observers during the hearing, about the impact on Dooncarton mountain, Co Mayo, of continuous tunnelling under nearby Sruwaddacon Bay, for the proposed 4.9km sub-sea tunnel. A catastrophic landslide left people homeless and graves floating out to sea in 2003.
“The application and the evidence before the hearing has demonstrated that there is no risk of landslides being caused or contributed to by reasoning of tunnelling, haulage or other construction activities, or the subsequent operation of the pipeline . . . in the area of Dooncarton mountain or elsewhere along the route,” Mr Keane said. He said the company had proposed 24-hour tunnelling to expedite the process and thereby “reduce so far as possible the community impacts associated with the operation”.
Mr Keane challenged an allegation made during An Taisce’s submission by Attracta Uí Bhroin that the applicant had deliberately presented “tardy” and “minimum” information.
During Mr Keane’s lengthy closing remarks, environmental consultant Peter Sweetman and local resident Monica Muller walked out protesting that Mr Keane’s remarks were “a legal submission” and not a closing statement. Retired teacher Ed Moran also protested at Mr Keane’s use of case law, as “outside the scope of the hearing”.
During an earlier closing statement, Mary Corduff noted that Thursday last, September 30th, was the fifth anniversary of her husband’s – a member of the Rossport Five – release from jail. “If the board gives permission our community will continue to be in conflict with the company, face imprisonment or worse,” she said.