ONE OF the last outstanding consent applications for the Corrib gas project was completed yesterday when Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan granted a foreshore licence to Shell EP Ireland.
The foreshore licence, which is subject to conditions, allows the lead developer to construct the final 8km section of pipeline linking the gas field to the terminal built inland at Ballinaboy.
An Taisce, which has sought a judicial review of the recent An Bord Pleanála decision to approve the pipeline route through a special area of conservation, said it was “unhappy” that Mr Hogan had made his decision while legal proceedings were still in train.
A month ago, consents for the onshore pipeline issued by acting Fianna Fáil minister for energy Pat Carey on the day of the general election aroused criticism from a number of opposition TDs and from former Labour Party president Michael D Higgins.
Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has rejected a call made by up to 20 Opposition TDs and Dublin Shell to Sea outside the Dáil last Tuesday to reverse Mr Carey’s decision.
Former minister for the environment John Gormley had earlier pointed out he did not anticipate a foreshore licence recommendation for some time, due to the volume of up to 700 foreshore applications before his department.
However, last week, the Department of the Environment told The Irish Times that a decision on the Shell EP Ireland application, lodged in June 2010, would be made “as soon as possible”. It denied yesterday there had been any “fast-tracking”.
Mr Hogan’s approval with conditions permits the lead developer to construct a pipeline system from Glengad through Sruwaddacon estuary, a special area of conservation.
Mr Hogan said the decision was made “pursuant to the provisions of the Foreshore Acts 1933 to 2009”, and “having regard to” submissions from prescribed bodies, submissions during public consultation, the advice of his department and the conclusions and recommendations of the Marine Licence Vetting Committee.
An Taisce chairman Charles Stanley Smith said yesterday that he was “unhappy that such a decision has been made before the judicial review process has been completed”, but it “does not affect the case”.
Pobal Chill Chomáin community group spokesman John Monaghan said his group was disappointed “a Minister barely in office approves work that is currently being challenged in the courts”.
Mr Monaghan said hundreds of residents in Kilcommon parish in Erris had called for an oral hearing, which foreshore legislation allows for, but had been “denied meaningful input into significant decision-making by the State”.
The pipeline route is expected to take two years to complete, and gas will not flow before a safety permit is issued by the Commission for Energy Regulation, and before a revised emissions licence application is issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The additional €100 million cost of this third route option will be written off against tax by the developer, with cited costs of the project now running at between €2.5 billion and €3 billion.
Earlier this week, ESB chief executive Pádraig McManus told RTÉ’s Today with Pat Kenny that the Irish consumer would not “get Corrib gas cheaper than gas from anywhere else” as it was an “international commodity”.