GREEN Party Senator Niall Ó Brolcháin has said he believes it is “inappropriate” for two Green Ministers to sign off on outstanding consents for the Corrib gas pipeline with a general election imminent.
The Galway-based Senator said he would be discussing this with Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan and Minister for the Environment John Gormley shortly, and would raise the issue at next week’s parliamentary party meeting. Mr Ó Brolcháin made his comments a day after An Bord Pleanála’s landmark ruling to approve the third proposed route for the onshore pipeline linking a landfall at Glengad to the gas terminal at Bellinaboy.
The developers still have to secure a foreshore licence from Mr Gormley, and approval from Mr Ryan for an amended plan of development and a section 40 consent under the Petroleum and Gas Acts before starting construction on the last section of the project, which could take two years.
However, Mr Gormley said on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Pat Kenny that “unless something can be fast forwarded”, the file on the foreshore licence application would not be on his desk “for quite a while”.
Mr Gormley said there were about 700 foreshore licence applications to be dealt with, as the function had been transferred from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to his department. A spokesman for the Minister said Mr Gormley was outlining the statutory procedures that had to be followed and the backlog of applications.
Shell EP Ireland applied last year to the Department of the Environment for foreshore licence approval to lay its final section, along with its revised application to An Bord Pleanála. The board approved the application with 58 conditions.
Mr Ryan said on Thursday the applications before his department were at an advanced stage and a decision was expected within weeks. However, An Taisce urged the two Green Ministers to refuse the applications, and both it and the Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership, have described the board’s ruling as legally flawed.
The ruling by inspector Martin Nolan did not take into account EU directive requirements, both groups said. The pipeline route runs through a special area of conservation. “Ireland has the highest per capita level of actions and judgments by the European Court of Justice against any nation state in relation to breaches of environmental directives, namely waste, water, environmental impact assessment, birds and habitats directive,” Charles Stanley-Smith of An Taisce said. “It would be an admirable legacy if the Green Ministers were to ensure their last ministerial actions did not add to Ireland’s environmental and financial liability,” he said.
During a debate on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s Iris Aniar show yesterday, the Department of the Environment confirmed it did not consult with the European Commission on the implications of granting planning permission in Sruwaddacon Bay, a protected area. Shell EP Ireland and Pro-Gas Mayo have both welcomed the board’s ruling, while community groups and residents said they are taking legal advice.