"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
SHELL EP Ireland has received a written warning from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources over breaches of conditions regarding the construction of its pipeline at its Corrib gas site at Aughoose, northwest Mayo.
The letter, sent on December 22nd last, stated future incidents of non-compliance could result in the department calling for “the cessation of works until such time as compliance with the statutory permissions can be demonstrated”.
The breaches relate to the discharge of untreated peaty water through the natural drainage channel into Sruwaddacon Bay and the failure to properly monitor noise levels.
Permission for the last section of the onshore pipeline was granted by An Bord Pleanála in February 2011, subject to conditions under section 40 of the Gas Act and commitments to an environmental management plan.
The department’s letter, forwarded to recently appointed managing director Michael Crothers, also complained in relation to the “considerable delay” in reporting the incidents, which stymied an assessment of the implications and environmental impact of the breaches by independent government consultants Environ.
A Shell spokeswoman confirmed in a statement yesterday that the incident occurred in late October after a period of extremely heavy rainfall caused discharge of boggy water at Aughoose.
“The level of peat in this water was above the limit allowed, but this was for a short period of time,” the statement said.
“There was no adverse environmental impact as a result of it. The incident has been investigated and additional management controls have been implemented to ensure there is no recurrence.”
The spokeswoman said there had been a problem with noise-monitoring equipment but that all the Environ recommendations had now been fully implemented.
The Irish Times understands Shell has responded in recent days to the department in relation to the concerns raised.
The department did not respond to written questions from The Irish Times on the issue.
Community group Pobal Chill Chomáin said its members were very concerned about the breaches and the company’s failure to honour its statutory obligation to report such incidents promptly.
Spokesman John Monaghan asked: “If Shell and [Corrib gas partner] Statoil are either unwilling or unable to manage a ‘relatively’ simple water run-off issue, how are they to be trusted with the safe operation of a potentially explosive gas pipeline and experimental valve system?”
Mr Monaghan noted this latest pollution incident at Corrib “only reinforces the distrust of the industry in Erris and beyond and should serve as a serious warning to the authorities and public about the likely future conduct on oil and gas projects in Ireland”.
Shell to Sea and Rossport Solidarity Camp members are continuing protests by obstructing Shell contractors moving materials to and from Aughoose.