Irish Natural Resources

Shell Pipeline Now Exempt from Planning Permission

On Thursday, July 24th at approximately 8:00am over 40 Gardaí, and 70 Shell specialist security forced the local community from a section of Glengad Beach to enable Shell contractors to erect 10ft high security fencing about 40ft down onto the beach. Using the Public Order Act, Superintendent John Gilligan ordered local people to leave the area. Gardaí then forcibly removed some of the protestors from the area. The members of the local community had been gathering from before 4am because they feared that Shell would begin work early as they had on the previous morning when the cliff-face was torn down to create a causeway down to the beach. It appears that the entire operation was a joint Garda and Shell security operation.

The fencing was erected down to the water’s edge. It is presumed that Shell will seek to extend the fencing further once the tide has gone out again. However far it extends, it already cuts the beach in two, which of course means that beach goers do not have the right of way through the beach. Shell to Sea campaigner Terence Conway stated “The gardaí have always spoken about keeping the roads open for the public and Shell alike however today they are willing to close off a public beach so that Shell can fence it off”. The legality of the consents given are an issue of major concern as it is now unclear what permissions Shell have received and for what exact work. While Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan has claimed that it was an “oversight” that the latest authorisations for the project were not published. This was an “oversight”, the spokeswoman said, and all authorisations and new information relating to the department’s role would be published on the website from today.

Shell Oil is now attempting to construct up to the first 200m metres of the onshore section of the pipeline without planning permission. Although the remaining 9.2km of the onshore pipeline is presently before An Bord Pleanala, this first 200m metres is due to be laid before a decision on the rest of the onshore section has been made. Terence Conway continued ”The fact is that this first onshore section is the most dangerous part of the whole project as the pressure could be as high as 345bar and still it will not have gone through any planning if it is constructed”.

The further destruction of the Special Conservation Area has continued unabated under the eyes of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Corrib protest has now moved to sea as North Mayo fishermen called on the Government to protect their rights to continue using the traditional fishing grounds.
A flotilla of over 30 boats, and up to 100 fishermen, appeared on the edge of Broadhaven  Bay. Sailing from Killala, Belderrig, Blacksod, Porturlin, Frenchport and Rinroe, they tied up to applause from the large  quayside crowd of supporters. The protest was organised by the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association (EIFA), and was a symbolic show of solidarity ahead of the arrival of the world’s largest sub-sea pipe-laying boat, the Solitaire (1,300ft long) – now anchored off Killybegs. Over the coming months, it is due to lay the pipe from the landfall site at Gelngar, 83km out to the Corrib field.

The protest was also convened to highlight the stand-off between Shell and the fishermen’s organisation over the location of the refinery’s ouflow pipe in a rich fishery.  Members of the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association say they are still considering staging a sea blockade if Shell goes ahead with the pipeline which will have an outfall point outside the bay. Broadhaven Bay is a Special Area of Conservation, and the EIFA has expressed concerns to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Community, Rural, and Gaeltacht Affairs over possible damage to fish stocks.

The Department of the Environment has now granted permission to the Corrib gas developers to construct a key section of onshore pipeline without approval from An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act. Shell EP Ireland and its consultants RPS had said earlier this summer that the entire onshore section would be submitted to An Bord Pleanála under the new fast-tracking legislation, apart from two estuary crossings which are regarded as “marine” and come under the Foreshore Act.

The Department of the Environment has therefore stated that a high-pressure section at the Glengad landfall which runs under Dooncarton mountain, location of a 2003 landslide, and across a public beach used by locals and tourists is “exempted” from planning permission under the Planning and Development Act 2000. Shell Oil intends to start laying the offshore section of the pipeline very soon. Almost inevitably, this will lead to a confrontation with the inshore fishermen.