THE DEPARTMENT of the Environment is sending a senior engineer to north Mayo to investigate a complaint about Shell EP Ireland’s preliminary survey work on its proposed new Corrib gas pipeline route.
The department’s investigation into aspects of Shell’s geological testing work in Sruwaddacon estuary has been confirmed on the eve of An Bord Pleanála’s resumed oral hearing into actual State approval for the revised route.
The hearing opens in Belmullet this morning almost 10 months after An Bord Pleanála turned down permission for a previous route option, as up to half of it was “unacceptable” on safety grounds due to proximity to housing.
The Department of the Environment told The Irish Times yesterday it was investigating a complaint received from community group Pobal Chill Chomáin.
Earlier this year, Minister for the Environment John Gormley approved a foreshore licence for the investigative work by Shell in the Sruwaddacon estuary special area of conservation.
Pobal Chill Chomáin told the department the number of water-borne craft used by Shell contractors for investigative work “regularly” exceeds the number cited in the company’s foreshore licence application – as do the numbers on board the vessels, it says. It cites an incident on August 14th when a group of dolphins swam into Broadhaven bay, which Sruwaddacon estuary enters, and was “subjected to a barrage of Shell boats that constantly travelled between Rossport and Ballyglass”.
The resumed An Bord Pleanála oral hearing opening today is due to hear a revised application for the Sruwaddacon estuary route for the pipeline, which would avoid Rossport village and involve tunnelling through the waterway from the Glengad landfall.
Shell says the pipeline will be 508mm or 20 inches in diameter, running through a bored tunnel of 4.2 metres in external diameter.
The company has been reported as stating the tunnel option could delay the project by another year and cost an additional €100 million.
Some 49 submissions will be heard, including one lodged on behalf of 320 residents. Submissions have also been lodged by two priests – Fr Michael Nallen of Aughoose and Fr Kevin Hegarty of Kilmore-Erris – with bodies including Pobal Chill Chomáin, Pro-Gas Mayo, Rossport Solidarity Camp, Chambers Ireland, the Irish Offshore Operators Association and the board of management of Pollathomas National School.