Wednesday 27 May 2009

Hearing chairman 'ignored' key question

THE CHAIRMAN of an An Bord Pleanála hearing was yesterday accused of “obfuscation” and “failing to answer questions” about issues relating to its jurisdiction over ongoing works by Shell at the landfall site of the Corrib gas project at Glengad.

At the opening of the third day of the hearing on the modified pipeline route, held in Belmullet, Co Mayo, Martin Nolan said it would be a matter for the board on “whether or not to seek a legal opinion” about the issues raised and he noted that the planning board had powers to reopen the hearing.

He also referred to the general parameters of the Strategic Infrastructure Act and said these issues could be raised by any party at the appropriate junctures in the hearing.

However, he did not specifically refer to a section of the proposed pipeline route – above the mean high water mark at Glengad that Shell is already working on.

This is the location where a series of clashes occurred between protesters, gardaí and Shell security men over recent weeks.

Expert speakers for Shell have – during the first two days of the hearing – included this 500m section of the 9.2km pipeline in submissions for determination.

Responding last night, Micheál Ó Seighin, of the Rossport Five, accused the chairman of not answering a key question he had been asked on a number of occasions over the previous days. The issue already has led to three people – Brendan Philbin, Bríd McGarry and Ed Moran – withdrawing from the hearing.

“The chairman has ignored my question, which is: what is the overlap of jurisdiction between a ministerial consent [Frank Fahey] in 2002 and the present An Bord Pleanála hearing under the Strategic Infrastructure Act?”

Mr Ó Seighin continued: “The fact is that Shell is doing work at present that is being considered by An Bord Pleanála.”

In response to other issues raised by local resident Imelda Moran earlier, the chairman also said he would neither compel the Health and Safety Authority nor the Environmental Protection Agency to attend.

However, he said that, if necessary, the hearing could be reopened and the bodies could then be compelled to attend.

An addendum to a presentation on the Glenamoy Bog Complex (special area of conservation) by Eileen McCarthy, an eco-hydrology and eco-hydrogeology consultant, was adjourned until next week so it could be translated into non-technical language.

Irish Times

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