Shell E&P Ireland have been granted a four-month extension by an Bord Pleanála to the previous deadline of February 5 for the submission of further information in relation to the onshore pipeline in Erris. The deadline has now been extended to May 31 to allow Shell more time to submit information which the Board requested in a four-page letter to Shell last November.
In seeking the extension of time RPS, on behalf of Shell, said the applicants were committed to providing the board with a “complete, transparent, and adequate demonstration that the proposed modified pipeline will not pose an unacceptable risk to the public and is otherwise in accordance with the principles of proper planning and sustainable development”.
Shell also requested clarification on a number of points requested by the board. That letter was submitted to the board on January 15. These issues were clarified in a letter to RPS on January 29 from An Bord Pleanála in which the board stated that the response “does not alter the board’s view concerning the route of the pipeline” as expressed in its letter dated November 2 2009. On Monday of this week, February 1, the Board again wrote to RPS confirming the granting of the extension of time until 5.30pm on Monday May 31 2010.
However, following the time extension, the Board have been accused by Shell to Sea of continuing their efforts to “facilitate Shell and their Corrib gas project”. The group, who reacted angrily to the latest development, said it is seen as “further efforts to enable Shell’s construction of the onshore pipeline”.
In a statement Shell to Sea said huge concerns over issues of safety and the giveaway of Irish natural resources remained.
Shell to Sea have also responded to a letter from officials from Minister Éamon Ryan’s department to An Bord Pleanála which concluded that “the Corrib gas pipeline meet(s ) or exceed(s ) all relevant safety standards and codes”. According to campaigners this marks a clear attempt to intimate that An Bord Pleanála are failing by not following the Technical Advisory Group's opinion, and allowing permission for Shell's onshore pipeline, and to influence the Board to ignore the potentially massive repercussions of an accident during their deliberations.
“An Bord Pleanála have already ruled that Shell's pipeline was not safe as proposed,” said Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway. “This should have led to an outright refusal of permission at the time, rather than a request from the board for further information.
“There are fundamental flaws with this application,” he added. “Now that Shell have failed to meet their deadline, having already failed to satisfy the board's safety concerns, it is past time for this application to be fully and unambiguously refused — anything else would cast significant doubt on the board's integrity.”
Shell to Sea spokesperson Maura Harrington added: “The letter from Bob Hanna of the TAG clearly shows that Shell is putting the squeeze on Ryan's department to get this project through, by hook or by crook — this is no way for a government department to behave in relation to a supposedly transparent and independent planning process.
“While massive cuts are being felt all over the country, the giveaway of Ireland's natural resources is taking place disguised as national strategic development — the resources of this country should be for the people of this country.”