AN BORD Pleanála has confirmed that it will accept applications for the Corrib gas project's modified onshore pipeline route under the Strategic Infrastructure Act which allows for fast-tracking certain projects.
Shell E&P Ireland has prepared two applications for the planning appeals board under the fast-tracking legislation, which may result in another oral hearing.
The first of these two was lodged on behalf of the Corrib gas developers on Monday - hours before formally rejecting a compromise proposal from Erris residents which aimed to resolve the continuing difficulties.
The compromise, which is still before Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan, involves relocating the refinery currently under construction at Bellanaboy - but dropping a demand for it to be built at sea.
A coastal location would obviate the need for an onshore pipeline and would not pose the risk which the current refinery does to public drinking water, as it is within the Carrowmore lake catchment, the seven Erris community leaders contend. All seven were key supporters of the Mayo Shell To Sea campaign, which is making no comment on the development.
The compromise has received public endorsement from the Bishop of Killala, Dr John Fleming, Mayo Fine Gael TD Michael Ring and Labour Party president Michael D Higgins - all of whom have appealed for Shell and Mr Ryan to respond.
Mr Higgins yesterday described the bishop's support and that of community leaders as "very significant", and urged StatoilHydro, as a partner in the Corrib gas project, to use its influence with Shell if further conflict is to be avoided.
"StatoilHydro is responsible to a Norwegian government which has an oil and gas development policy that stresses consultation must take place with local communities," Mr Higgins said.
However, Pro Erris Gas Group secretary and retired garda Brendan Cafferty described the compromise location at Glinsk on the coastline as "another diversion" and "preposterous".
In a related development, the European Parliament's petitions committee is to discuss Corrib gas issues on May 26th. This follows a petition lodged last year by former Shell To Sea spokesman and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology lecturer Dr Mark Garavan.
His petition argues that the project is in breach of a number of EU directives, including the habitats, Seveso and water framework directives.
Shell E&P Ireland's first application to an Bord Pleanála this week relates to compulsory application orders (CAOs) for access to land on the modified high-pressure pipeline route. The second relates to planning permission for the actual route.
The Irish Times