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Corrib hearing may be reopened

Corrib hearing may be reopened

Áine Ryan

NEW material submitted by Shell E&P Ireland (SEPIL) may lead to the reopening of an An Bord Pleanála hearing into the controversial Corrib gas project. A spokesman for the board told The Mayo News yesterday that a letter from Pobal Chill Chomáin, and others, requesting the reopening of the hearing was presently under consideration by members of its team.
He explained that the additional information submitted by Shell after the closure, in early October, of the latest hearing into the project would need to be ‘materially significant’ to the application for the board to consider reopening the hearing.
The planning appeals board spokesman also confirmed that if this was not the case, the board still planned to make a decision on the final section of the proposed pipeline route before the end of the year.
The further information, regarding an application for a Foreshore License, in relation to the laying of the pipeline up Sruwaddacon estuary, was sent to the Department of the Environment by Shell on October 26.
This was over three weeks after the resumed oral hearing, under the Strategic Infrastructure Act, closed.  
In the letter, community group, An Pobal Chill Chomáin and others, claim there are ‘serious irregularities’ in the further information, which was ‘not requested by any regulatory authority, despite being described in the applicant’s published notice as significant’.
The letter also claims that much of the information provided recently was withheld from the planning hearings by both the Department of Energy and Shell.
“Clear references are made to the Health & Safety Authority (whose input was absent from the planning hearings) and to fundamental issues such as public safety, housing proximity and land use planning,” the letter continues.
“We are also drawing the board’s attention to the great disparity between SEPIL’s assertions in the new information given to the Department of the Environment, and their evidence on the very same issues given at the planning hearings in 2009 and 2010,” the letter also states.
In conclusion, it states that the signatories believe there is a real danger that the board’s deliberations will ‘result in a project that has escaped full and proper scrutiny’ unless the oral hearing is re-opened.
In a written response to The Mayo News yesterday, Shell stated that: “Additional information was provided to the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) to support the Foreshore Licence and Gas Act applications which they are considering.   Both Departments have subsequently engaged in public consultation, each for a period of one month.  The information contains material submitted to the DCENR in the course of their environmental assessment process, as well as material presented and discussed during An Bord Pleanála’s Oral Hearing.”