AN BORD Pleanála is to reopen its oral hearing into the latest Corrib gas pipeline route application, which involves tunnelling under the protected habitat of Sruwaddacon estuary in north Mayo.
The appeals board has set August 24th as the date for the resumed hearing, which will assess new information and a fresh environmental impact statement to be submitted by Shell EP Ireland. Last November, An Bord Pleanála vindicated Rossport residents’ concerns when it found that up to half of the company’s second proposed route was “unacceptable” on safety grounds due to its proximity to housing.
An Bord Pleanála advised that British safety risk thresholds, and a standard for hazard distances in the event of a pipeline failure, should be applied to the route and design. It also suggested the developers explore another route, up the Sruwaddacon estuary, and gave three months for further information to be submitted on the route, design and safety of the high pressure pipe.
It is on the basis of this further information that it is reopening its original hearing which sat in May and June 2009. Shell E&P Ireland said it believes its new plan for the pipeline “meets or exceeds” all “relevant” international and national codes and standards.
The nearest occupied house will now be 234 metres from the pipeline – more than three times the original distance, the developers state.
The developer’s proposal to construct a tunnel for the pipeline under Sruwaddaccon “will have the least environmental impact” on the estuary, which is a special area of conservation, Shell E&P Ireland managing director Terry Nolan has said.
The original pipeline route – opposition to which led to the jailing of the Rossport five for 95 days five years ago – was exempted from planning and given approval by former minister for the marine Frank Fahey. A modified route which avoided housing in Rossport was then submitted for planning approval.
This latest and third route avoids Rossport altogether, but comes ashore at a landfall already constructed by the developers at Glengad before running under the estuary.
A large security presence was in place at Glengad and along the shoreline of Sruwaddacon estuary last night as Shell contractors moved equipment in for investigative work on the proposed new pipeline route.
The company was given a foreshore licence for the investigative work by Minister for the Environment John Gormley.
Gardaí and private security personnel arrived in the area early yesterday evening. Shell intends to drill up to 80 boreholes in the estuary as part of investigative work on the proposed new pipeline route.