Friday 24 November 2006

Shell seeks licence to carry out survey for pipeline

Shell E&P Ireland has applied for foreshore licensing to carry out marine surveys as part of its work on a modified route for its onshore pipeline.

The full marine surveys will be conducted in Sruwaddaccon and Rossport bays, following foreshore licence approval, the company confirmed at an open evening in Belmullet, Co Mayo last night.

Sruwaddaccon Bay, within Broadhaven Bay, is a candidate special area of conservation (SAC), thus requiring consultation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), according to the company. Corrib gas project officials have met with the NPWS and a number of statutory bodies, as part of a seven-stage procedure aimed at securing agreement on a modified route.

Several dozen people attended last night's opening of the two-day exhibition by the Corrib gas partners in the Broadhaven Hotel, Belmullet.

Among participants was contractor, Mercury Engineering. It is offering places to 15 apprentices from the Erris area who may be given an option to work in north Mayo on graduation.

Shell E&P Ireland officials were on hand to talk to visitors, and feedback forms with stamped addressed envelopes and free copies of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group's new guidebook were among literature available.

The company is stressing that the resumption of work at the Bellanaboy terminal - in advance of a new pipeline route agreement - represents a "jobs boost", with 170 jobs linked to terminal construction and 50 permanent jobs on completion.

Local objectors are still conducting dawn protests, and up to 100 gardaí are being maintained to escort staff to work. Chris Tallott, a retired Bord na Móna employee and founder of the North-West Mayo Action Group, attended last night's open evening, and said he felt that the project had enormous benefits for the area. "Our action group doesn't want jobs at any cost, and I do feel Shell made some stupid mistakes and that last year's jailing of the Rossport five was terrible," Mr Tallott said.

"I don't like to see what's happening with the gardaí either, but I do wish for dialogue. I feel that 50 jobs in Bellanaboy is the equivalent of 500 jobs in Dublin in an area like this."

Maura Harrington, one of the objectors present, said that there was "no excuse for the paucity of hard information" at the exhibition.

She cited its reference to a "small amount of cold venting" during gas processing at the terminal - an issue which the Environmental Protection Agency has been seeking more information on.

Several Rossport residents who attended said there were still questions to be answered about the proximity of the gas terminal to Carrowmore lake, Erris's main public water supply.

Shell to Sea has called off its "day of solidarity" planned for this Friday at Bellanaboy, on health and safety grounds. It has reiterated its call for a commission of inquiry to look at the optimum development concept for the project, and this has been supported by the Labour Party, the Green Party and Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin's marine spokesman Martin Ferris has criticised the rejection of the proposal by Minister for the Marine, Noel Dempsey. Speaking in Dublin yesterday, he accused Mr Dempsey of "playing fast and loose with the facts in his claim that the project has received full approval from the appropriate statutory bodies".

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