03 August 2005

IrishExaminer.com: Fury as Shell gets green light for pipeline

Irish Examiner

03 August 2005
By Paul O’Brien

THE Government was accused of favouring ‘big business’ over people last night after Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey granted oil giant Shell permission to construct the offshore section of the controversial Corrib gas pipeline.

Mr Dempsey gave his blessing despite having recently ordered a safety review of the onshore element of the project, the results of which will not be known for several weeks.

The minister’s decision showed the Government was clearly “on the side of Shell”, said Green Party energy spokesman Eamon Ryan, adding that it made “a mockery of his own supposedly independent safety review of the onshore section of the same pipeline”.

“If the Government was really representing the public interest, then it would ask Shell to hold back on any further work on the project - offshore as well as onshore - until all the safety issues are properly addressed,” Mr Ryan said.

Mayo Independent TD Jerry Cowley said he was “totally disgusted” by the decision, adding that the Government was “kowtowing” to Shell.

Last week, it emerged the company had carried out work on the onshore section of the pipeline without permission. Within days, Minister Dempsey ordered Shell to dismantle the 3km-long section of pipeline it had welded together onshore, but has now given his blessing for work to begin on the 70km stretch of pipeline offshore.

Mark Garavan, a spokesman for the five Mayo men imprisoned because of their opposition to the project, said the decision underlined the “incoherence” of Government policy.

“We have this crazy situation where he is telling them to dismantle pipeline at the weekend and (now) he’s giving them permission to build part of the same pipeline offshore,” he said.

The pipeline is designed to link the gas fields in the Corrib with a processing terminal at Bellanaboy, five kilometres inland.

Local opposition to the project centres on fears that the onshore section of the pipeline will run too closely to homes, posing health and safety risks.

The overall project already has permission. However, under an agreed programme, consent for construction work is effectively being sanctioned in seven distinct phases. Of these, phases 1,2, and 6, and preparatory works of phase 3, had already been approved. Yesterday’s decision related to phase 4.

Shell welcomed the approval, saying it would “now carefully consider the terms of the consent and shortly make a decision on when to undertake this work”.

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