Saturday 14 June 2008

Pressure on Shell to seek new site for gas terminal

SHELL E&P Ireland Ltd (SEPIL) remains steadfast in the face of growing support for the recently endorsed compromise solution to the Corrib gas dispute.

Last week the church based organisation, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR), joined the list of both church and political figures from Ireland who have supported the compromise resolution to the long running controversy.

On April 27 last local community leaders endorsed the resolution originally tabled by the three priests of the parish in November 2007 which proposed to relocate the Corrib gas terminal to an uninhabited coastal area like Glinsk in North Mayo. This move was backed by the Bishop of Killala, Dr John Fleming, the President of the Irish Labour Party, Michael D Higgins , the Mayo Green Party, the Norwegian Oil and Gas Workers Union and the Erris Inshore Fishermen Association.

Vincent McGrath, who is one of the Rossport Five imprisoned in 2005 for interfering with works by SEPIL on their lands, is among those to have endorsed the compromise solution.

He says the vast majority of the receiving community at the heart of the campaign for health and safety would accept the relo-cation of the refinery "in the interest of healing the deep divisions in their community".

The ECCR has now urged SEPIL's parent company, Royal Dutch Shell, to consider the unprecedented offer of compromise very care-fully, taking account of all the relevant factors "including the long term reputational benefits it will gain in reaching a settlement".

ECCR Co-ordinator, Mr Miles Litvinoff, says he has spoken to Shell's Investor Relations Department and was told that they would give the matter some consideration and reply in due course.

While he acknowledged that Shell had not implied that it would accept the proposal, Mr Litvinoff said he hoped the company would give the matter careful thought and show some magnanimity on the issue.

Having contacted Royal Dutch Shell the Western People was referred back to SEPIL whose spokesperson said the company's stance on the proposed compromise has not changed.

"SEPIL has reiterated that Bellanaboy is the best and most suitable site available in the area for a refinery. The company notes that the project was granted permission following a three year long planning process during which all interested parties had an opportunity to voice their concerns which then related to the perceived safety of the onshore pipeline not the terminal location."

Mr McGrath responded: "Shell remains the only obstacle to a resolution of the conflict, and the only argument Shell has left is the amount of work carried out and money spent on the refinery. Shell commenced work on the refinery before they had permission for an operating licence from the EPA and before they had found a route for the pipeline. It was their decision to pour speculative money into the refinery. This is an attempt to put pressure on the authorities to grant the remaining consents.

"They will never have the consent of a large number of landowners nor of the majority of the rseidents. They are heading down the road of conflict that will be far more serious than in 2005."

Mr Litvinoff said the ECC is also notifying the UK and Irish church investors, trade union and other pension funds, and the wider responsible investor community about this development, asking all concerned to join calls on Shell to accept the relo-cation proposal for the greater public good. Orla Hearns

Western People

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