"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.”
Some Frequently Asked Questions are answered here
- Why is Shell's Corrib gas project unsafe?
There are major health and safety issues with the high pressure raw gas pipeline planned so close to people's homes - regarding an earlier pipeline route Shell admitted that homes would be put within a kill-zone from heat radiation in the event of a pipe failure. The refinery itself is in the catchment area of the local drinking water supply which would be forbidden in most other European countries.
- Why is this the 'wrong site'?
An Bord Pleanala's senior planning inspector, Kevin Moore, turned down Shell's plan in 2002 as it was 'the wrong site'. Shamefully political interference ensured that the project was later approved.
The refinery and pipeline is proposed for an unspoilt area in the northwest of Ireland where the economy is based on small scale tourism, farming and fishing - much of the area is designated as a special area of conservation by the EU. Many local people believe that their livelihoods and jobs are directly threatened by Shell's Corrib gas project.
- What went wrong with the planning process?
The main problem is the fact that there has never been a planning hearing on the entire project. Shell split the project in to 3 main sections-the offshore pipeline, the refinery and the onshore pipeline. There were also separate planning processes on the pollution licences etc. Project splitting is illegal under EU law. There is a case in the EU Parliament regarding this matter but it will take years to actually be heard. The planning authorities have facilitated Shell since the beginning, it was An Bord Pleanala who actually suggested the planned pipeline route! It is thought that the Strategic Infrastructure Act was pushed through in 2006 to fast track the planning process for Shell.
- What about jobs?
Shell have admitted that there will only be 50 jobs created during the operational phrase and these will be specialised so unlikely to be people from the local area. Many local people believe that their livelihoods and jobs are directly threatened by Shell's Corrib gas project. The local economy is based on small scale tourism, fishing and farming. Who will buy fish or swim in the bay knowing that the outfall pipe is releasing harmful metals such as mercury and lead in to these pristine waters?
- Who owns Irish gas and how much is it worth?
In terms of Corrib, 45% is owned by Royal Dutch Shell (Dutch/British oil company), 36.5% Statoil (Norwegian state owned oil company) and 18.5% Vermillion (Canadian oil company).
Vast quantities of gas and oil have been discovered under Irish waters in the Atlantic Ocean over the past 15 years. The Government’s figures put the value of these reserves at €600 billion (€600,000,000,000), but this is a very conservative estimate. The real figure is likely to be much higher, especially as the global price of oil and gas rises.
- How come Ireland doesn't benefit from the gas?
A deal done by the corrupt Government and the oil/gas companies meant that Ireland gave away €600 billion of it's oil and gas resources and the Irish people must buy it back at market rate. All exploration and development costs can be written off against tax. Because Corrib is all privately owned, all the profits go to the oil companies rather than the people of Ireland.
While people in Ireland are suffering in a recession, being told to tighten their belts, to grin and bear the painful cuts to health, education and their dole, the pension levy, the giant oil companies of the world are preparing to remove Ireland’s valuable natural resources and divvy up the billions of euro of profits between their shareholders.
So the next time you hear a politician defending the Corrib Gas fiasco by mentioning the “national interest”, remember that Corrib actually represents a net loss to the Irish exchequer of tens of billions of euro.
- Why is the 'security of supply' claim wrong?
Because our Government gave away the licences, we have no control over it - Shell can decide whether it's more profitable to sell it in Europe rather than Ireland.
- What is the contract between the Irish state and the oil companies? Did the Government really just give it away?
Thanks to a deal made between the corrupt Haughey government and multinational oil companies. Minister Ray Burke (later jailed for corruption) changed the law in 1987, reducing the State’s share in our offshore oil and gas from 50% to zero and abolishing royalties. In 1992, Minister Bertie Ahern reduced the tax rate for the profits made from the sale of these resources from 50% to 25%.
According to respected economist Colm Rapple, the amount of tax paid will be very low and will not be paid until many years into the operation of a gas or oil field, because the deal allows the companies to write off 100% of costs (even the anticipated cost of shutting down the operation!) before they declare the profits to be taxed (see www.colmrapple.com). In major oil/gas producing countries, the state takes an average (median) of 68% of the value of gas and oil.
- How easy is it to change the current deal? What would a better deal look like?
The Minister for Energy could change the deal at any time.
The relevant clause is available on the website of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources:
‘’The Minister may, for such period as the Minister deems necessary, require that specified exploration, exploitation, production or processing activities should cease…subject to conditions which the Minister may specify, in any case where the Minister is satisfied that it is desirable to do so in order to reduce the risk of injury to the person, waste of petroleum or damage to property or the environment. No claim for compensation may be made against the Minister on foot of any such requirement.’’
In Norway, the profits from the state owned oil and gas company Statoil are invested in to public services.
- What is the new pipeline route?
- Is this the first of many pipelines and refineries? Will there be oil?
The Government and a number of oil companies have already admitted that they plan to use Ballinaboy as the hub for alot of the oil and gas off the West coast of Ireland. Do we want this beautiful rural area to be destroyed for a petrochemical industrial dumping ground?
- What is the current situation?
An Taisce have launched a legal challenge against the An Bord Pleanala decision to grant permission for the pipeline. The court case begins on October 4th 2011. However despite the legal challenge, Shell started preparation work in March 2011 and so protests to delay work are continuous. You are warmly welcome to come up & see the area for yourself or get involved in the protests.
The success of Risteard Ó Domhnaill award winning film The Pipe has increased awareness of the situation and support is growing from all over the world. Shell plan to begin constructing the work area for the pipeline shortly. The community have vowed to continue to protect their families and land from Shell and so protests are ongoing.