Wednesday 13 August 2008

Pipeline can bypass local planning

NO COUNTY planning application will be required for a 25km Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) pipeline following a decision by An Bord Pleanála that it is "strategic infrastructure".

The pipeline will link the planned Shannon LNG terminal on the Shannon estuary near Tarbert, Co Kerry, to the Bord Gáis national gas network near Foynes, Co Limerick.

As strategic infrastructure, the planning application does not have to go through the local Kerry and Limerick planning processes, but will be made directly to An Bord Pleanála for decision.

Earlier this year, the appeals board gave the go-ahead to Shannon LNG, a subsidiary of the US-owned Hess corporation, for the LNG terminal. Forty conditions were imposed, including that the gas could not leave the terminal by road. The terminal was also deemed a strategic infrastructure development.

An oral hearing in Tralee was told the €500 million facility, the first in the State, proposes to supply just under half the State's gas needs.

Kilcolgan Residents' Association criticised the proposed pipeline route and called on the council to use its influence to "at a minimum" demand the natural gas be made available locally. Residents said the separate purchase last week of the nearby Tarbert ESB power station by the Spanish energy giant Endesa means the Shannon estuary area of Kerry was to be "an energy hub", and the pipeline proposed was too far from the ESB power station.

"The pipeline route proposed by Shannon LNG in its secret agreement with Bord Pleanála is at least two miles from the power station, with no consideration whatsoever being given on where or how the pipeline could be linked to the ESB station," the residents said.

The Kilcolgan residents told the hearing they had serious concerns about a lack of a co-ordinated safety plan by the various bodies and wanted the terminal, which will include a regasification plant and giant storage tanks, to be located offshore. The residents and an environmental group have initiated legal action seeking a judicial review of the An Bord Pleanála decision to give the terminal the go-ahead. They refer to the lack of an environmental assessment of the project as well as marine safety issues.

Although the councils will not be able to make a decision on the pipeline, they will be invited to make a submission, the residents said. The residents are "now calling on Kerry County Council to demand, as a minimum, a strategic assessment of the oil and gas storage hub now proposed for the Shannon estuary," they said.

"If the dangerous LNG storage facility is to be forced on north Kerry, the least that the council can do in return for the millions that it will receive each year in rates is to ensure that north Kerry has access to the gas for the development of the region. It is no use looking for it once permission is given for the route preferred by the developer."

The Irish Times

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