The Irish Minister for the Environment, John Gormley T.D., may be about to grant permission for a final stage of a major gas project (the Corrib Gas Project) led by Shell Oil that has ruined the lives of a small community in the West of Ireland and prompted a massive national and international campaign of opposition. The project, if permitted to be completed, will endanger the lives of the people, destroy the local environment and give away a major natural gas resource to a consortium of wealthy companies.
Urgent Support Needed
Please write to Irish Minister for the Environment, John Gormley T.D, and ask him not to grant permission for this stage of this damaging project and to carry out a comprehensive review of the entire project. Specifically, ask him NOT to grant permission for the Foreshore Licence needed by the consortium of companies led by Shell Oil because:
- The overall project puts people’s lives in danger and jeopardizes the environment.
- Shell’s application for the Foreshore Licence for the piping of unprocessed gas does not address the serious health, safety, environment or security concerns of the community.
- The project does not provide adequate resources to the people of Ireland, who are, in effect, seeing their gas given away.
1. Contact the Minister:
John Gormley T.D,
Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government,
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government,
Tel: +353 (0)1 888 2403
Fax: +353 (0)1 878 8640
Suggested email – feel free to write your own.
2. And write to your local Irish embassy / ask for a meeting to discuss the project:
Link to Irish Embassies: http://www.dfa.ie/home/index.aspx?id=285
The Project and the Players
The Corrib Gas Project is a joint endeavour between Shell (45%), Statoil (36.5%), a Norwegian semi-state company, and Vermilion (18.5%), a Canadian company. It aims to bring raw gas from the Corrib Gas field, 80km off the west coast of Ireland, onshore. The value of the gas was estimated at approximately €10 billion in 2007.
The Reasons for Opposition to the Project:
a. Safety concerns. The plan is to extract the gas, pipe it through Broadhaven Bay to a landfall site in Glengad, North Mayo, and then onwards in a raw and unrefined state to a refinery 9 kilometres inland. The dangers of such a pipeline to the local residents were noted in a government-sponsored safety review (the Advantica report), which pointed out that should there be an explosion in the pipeline everyone within a 200 metre radius would be killed. Shell’s own experts also conceded that this is a unique pipeline found nowhere else in the world, stating that in the event of a gas leak “houses within 230 metres of the pipeline could burn spontaneously from heat radiation”. An Bord Pleanála (Ireland’s planning board) found that up to half the proposed pipeline posed an unacceptable risk to the community, and suggested that the companies investigate alternative routes.
b. Lack of consultation and compromise. Most locals, and their supporters, are not opposed to the project but are opposed to the manner of the extraction. For example, the gas could be refined at sea and pumped ashore in a safer, processed state. In 2007 an alternative refinery site in a remote area, away from the community, was proposed by three local priests, a site many people in the community would find acceptable. However, Shell and its partners have remained intransigent. In 2003 an Inspector for An Bord Pleanála had stated that the refinery was in the wrong place on a number of grounds: strategic planning, government policy for the region, and sustainable development.
c. Environmental concerns. The refinery is situated close to Carrowmore Lake, which supplies drinking water for 10,000 people. In 2007, due to run-off from the refinery site, aluminum levels in the lake were up to 200 times higher than WHO recommended levels. Furthermore, there have been a number of breaches of environmental law in the course of the project – such as the unauthorized digging of test bore holes at the landfall site in a Special Area of Conservation without Ministerial consent in 2007.
d. Resources. Ireland has no share in the Corrib gas field and will not receive any royalty payments from the exploration companies. Furthermore, a very low tax rate of 25% applies – but only after the company’s costs have been recovered. Other countries, such as Bolivia, Venezuela, Russia and Brazil, have renegotiated deals with oil and gas companies to ensure that they get a fairer share of the revenue.
The Community’s Resistance
In 2005 5 local men (“the Rossport 5”) went to jail for 94 days for refusing to allow Shell et al access to their lands. Only in the face of public outrage did the companies drop their claim against the men. Since then there has been a high police level in the community along with a private security force (IRMS) hired on behalf of Shell. Global Community Monitor, a US-based NGO, noted in a visit in February 2007 that the Gardai were often involved in personally beating up protesters. In 2009 a local farmer, Willie Corduff, was beaten by masked men during a peaceful protest. Later that year, Pat O’Donnell, a local fisherman outspoken about his opposition to the project, had his boat sunk by unidentified armed men. Pat O’Donnell was jailed in February 2010 for 7 months for his participation in protests against the Corrib Gas Project.
Resisting the Foreshore Licence
On January 15, 2010, Shell submitted an application for a Foreshore Licence to the Department of the Environment to obtain permission to carry out geotechnical and geophysical investigations in Sruwaddacon Estuary as part of the Corrib Gas Project. A Foreshore Licence must be obtained from the Minister for the Environment in advance of any works on the foreshore that is owned by the State. Sruwaddacon estuary is an important part of the local landscape, linked to the famous Irish myth of the Children of Lír, as well as being both an environmentally protected Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Special Protection Area (SPA). When researching a modified route for the pipeline two years ago, Shell’s consultants, RPS, ruled out the Sruwaddacon option, noting that the estuary was listed under the EU Habitats Directive and was crucial in maintaining salmon fishery in the Glenamoy river.
Why locals are objecting to the Foreshore Licence
There have been 190 submissions sent to the Department in relation to Shell’s application to date, on a number of grounds.
1. Potential noise and light pollution from drilling – impacting on both locals and wildlife.
2. Security. There has been no comprehensive assessment of the risk of third party attack on the refinery site at Glengad. The site is insecure and without local cooperation it would be difficult to uphold EU policy in relation to security of energy supplies. Consequently, it would be premature to grant a Foreshore Licence for intrusive works in the estuary until An Bord Pleanála has made a decision in relation to the pipeline itself.
3. The application lacks sufficient detail and does not address health and safety concerns. It is unclear what terms such as “method statements”, “safety briefs” and “mitigation measures”, all mentioned in the application, entail. This makes it impossible to ensure proper consideration of the consequences of the works proposed.
4. Shell have a history of exceeding permission. For example, in 2007 there was unauthorised drilling in the Glenamoy Bog Complex (SAC) which the Minister for the Environment later ordered undone. Work carried out at the landfall site in Glengad in 2009 was entirely without legal authorization. Also, there have been numerous failures to adopt codes of practice in relation to the project.
The Foreshore Licence is part of a wider project that ultimately not only has the potential to put people’s lives in danger and jeopardize the environment, but also will give away Ireland’s resources at a time when the country never needed them more! This licence should not be granted and a comprehensive review of the entire project should be undertaken.
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