Monday 2 August 2010

OECD finds insufficient grounds for Corrib talks

AN INQUIRY by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) into complaints about the Corrib gas project in north Mayo has failed to find sufficient grounds for mediation between Shell EP Ireland and the community.

The OECD “final statement”, which is due to be published tomorrow, says Government compliance with EU legislation on Corrib consents is an issue for the judicial system and not within its remit.

It finds that the Shell-led “consortium” has “shown a willingness to address health and safety concerns, of which the revised route for the onshore part of the pipeline seems the clearest proof”.

North Mayo community group Pobal Chill Chomáin, which sought the OECD’s intervention in 2008, says it is “very disappointed” that the organisation’s representatives failed to undertake a visit to the area to consult with residents before coming to its conclusion.

It also notes that OECD representatives held only two meetings with it in the two years since the complaint was filed, alleging violation of OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises.

Pobal Chill Chomáin was initiated in spring 2008 by former Shell-to-Sea supporters to find a compromise solution on location of the gas terminal or refinery, which it believed to be central to health, safety and environmental issues.

Lodging of its appeal for OECD involvement in finding an alternative solution to safe processing of the gas ashore was facilitated by the Irish peace and justice group, Afri, and a French counterpart non-governmental organisation, Sherpa.

The OECD guidelines are non-binding recommendations by government members of the organisation to multinational enterprises. They provide principles of good practice, including environmental standards, and each OECD member state is obliged to establish a national contact point (NCP) to deal with notifications of alleged violations of guidelines.

The Irish NCP position is held by a senior official in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Pobal Chill Chomáin made presentations to the NCPs on August 21st, 2008 in Dublin and August 22nd, 2008 in The Hague, Netherlands. There was just one more meeting between the NCPs and Pobal Chill Chomáin on April 28th, 2009, following the initial discussions. The OECD’s final statement notes that enterprises have a responsibility to go “beyond what is legally required” in consulting with communities.

It says that while dialogue with local stakeholders in the project’s early stage failed to meet the “spirit” of OECD guidelines, the Corrib gas consortium has “improved this” since 2005, after the jailing of the Rossport Five.

It quotes widely from the report by Government mediator Peter Cassells in 2006, which recommended a modified pipeline route and greater spend by the Corrib gas developers in the area; and it notes that a new pipeline route has been applied for.

Pobal Chill Chomáin says that an investigation on the ground “would have provided the NCPs with an opportunity to value the statements on stakeholder consultation made [by Shell EP Ireland and Pobal Chill Chomáin] and to assess the reliability of Peter Cassells’s findings regarding the views of the community in relation to the project”.

Shell EP Ireland was unavailable for comment.

At the time, Shell EP Ireland said it would “wholeheartedly” engage with the OECD process.

A separate Government forum on Corrib has not sat since May 10th last in Erris. Last week, some 17 separate submissions were lodged with An Bord Pleanála from the community over Shell EP Ireland’s new plan to tunnel the last section of pipeline under Sruwaddacon estuary, a special area of conservation.

One of the 17 submissions includes a petition with more than 300 signatures, according to Pobal Chill Chomáin spokesman John Monaghan. An Bord Pleanála is due to reopen its oral hearing on the pipeline on August 24th.

Irish TImes

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