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Priest voices concerns to EPA

Priest voices concerns to EPA

Áine Ryan

THE NEGATIVE social and environmental implications of the Corrib gas controversy on ‘the parish, community and beyond’ have been strongly highlighted in an objection by the Parish Priest of Kilcommon (Erris) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In his submission, Father Michael Nallen (below) argues that ‘[our] environment is more precious, in both the long and short term, than economics’.
A native of Belmullet, Fr Nallen told The Mayo News there were various concerns ‘which had driven him’ to formulate his submission. His primary concern, he said, was for ‘the decent, good and ordinary people who are hurting’.
“Our Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell has used spin saying it’s [being hijacked by] Sinn Féin, but theses people who are up and down to the [Bellanaboy] gates every morning, are traditionally Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael,”said Fr Nallen.
He urged that the re-opening of Bellacorrick peat plant would provide more sustainable and long-term employment for the community than the phased surges of jobs on the Corrib project. 
Fr Nallen’s ‘Third Party Submission’ is among 12 objections to the preliminary decision by the EPA to grant an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) license to Shell, four of which have called for an oral hearing.
In his written observation, he says ‘[it] is evident that the Corrib Gas Project is adversely impacting on many people whether they are for or against the chosen method of development’. He adds that people have ‘health, safety, environmental and sociological worries for the future facing them’.
Fr Nallen also questions the long-term ecological implications of a breach of the EPA’s licensing conditions ‘through negligence, error, accident, or something unforeseen’.
“If a failure occurs and is detected who or what can undo the damage that results? Fines or penalties will hardly rectify a damaged ecology,” he states.
“In such [a] case conditions and monitoring might not have much practical value for environmental protection,” continues Fr Nallen, citing the waste pipe from the refinery going into the sea as a prime example. The location of this pipe has been a long-standing issue for the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association, which has also lodged an objection.
“To take the pipe sufficiently out to sea so that its contents can be dispersed by the currents outside Broadhaven Bay might give some assurance,” argues the priest, adding: “Better safe than sorry.”
He charges the EPA with having ‘the competence and expertise’ to ensure the highest standards are applied.
“Avoiding possible risks is essential. Conditions that might be open to abuse, not detectable until it is too late with implications for air quality, water supply, fishing in Broadhaven Bay and Carramore lake wold be most undesirable,” he says.
“As people who live here and revere what we have, we must strive to maintain it in the best possible condition for the future,” the submission concludes.