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Stealth Planning further exposed at Shell Oral Hearing

Lulu - Rossport Solidarity Camp - Indymedia

September 1913 and The Great Gas Giveaway cross paths at Shell Oral Hearing

The Bord Pleannala oral hearing saga continued today in Bellmullet at the Broadhaven Bay Hotel, looking at the Compulsory Acquisition Orders of the present project application of the Shell Corrib Gas proposed estuary pipeline route, as well as various other aspects of the project. The various concerns raised by local objectors and the Rossport Solidarity Camp were not appeased by Shell's experts, and the question of whether the project was in 'the public interest' was once again raised by Mr Leo Mulrooney, Barrister for local land owners.

Laurence Coyle and Patrick McAndrew, two of the land-owners under threat of CAOs, were represented by Leo Mulrooney, a Dublin-based barrister. Mr. Mulrooney thoroughly questioned Shell’s experts and called into question whether this project should be considered a strategic project in the ‘interests of the common good’, as required under the Infrastructural Act 2006 for the lawful use of CAOs. The 1976 Gas Act was also referred to, which states that CAOs should only be granted when they serve the ‘public interest’. Mr. Mulrooney comprehensively argued that the negligible benefits to the local community and the State were highly outweighed by the blatant lack of royalties from Shell to the State, and he seriously called into doubt whether Shell would ever pay any tax to the State on the gas extracted.

Mr. Mulrooney called Shell’s planning methods “Planning by Stealth” as objectors have not had the opportunity to comment on the project as a whole, due to Shell’s ‘project splitting’. Unfortunately now that the offshore pipeline and refinery are nearly complete, Shell’s team has significant leverage in the oral hearing over the onshore pipeline that totally corrupts the planning process. Mr Mulrooney stated that “Never before in Ireland, has a private company been allowed to usurp the land of a private individual in the name of profit” and urged the Board to carefully consider how this project could possibly be deemed to serve any public interests at all.

Mr. Mulrooney concluded by comparing the present tragedy unfolding in the State to the September 1913 worker’s lockout viewed as the most severe and significant industrial dispute in Irish history, and he quoted from W.B. Yeats’ September 1913 poem to much applause from the audience.

Local resident Winifred Macklin confronted Shell with their previous international record in relation to health and safety and emergency procedures, or lack thereof, in the event of an unforeseen accident, such as an explosion on the pipeline route. Ms. Macklin concluded by stating that “ It’s like me inviting an arsonist into my house without having a fire extinguisher or sprinkler system”.

Mr. Eoin Ó Leidhin from the Rossport Solidarity Camp questioned Shell on the cumulative effects of traffic disruption in the area, over the 26-month construction period of the project. Shell admitted that there would be a total of 58,415 truck movements over 26 months, averaging at 74 a day, with a further estimated 255,620 personnel movements (approximately 327 per day). Mr Ó Leidhin correctly pointed out that one of the reasons for the Board’s rejection of Shell’s 2009 route was due to the high traffic disruption (totaling at 40,673 truck movements over 12 months), therefore would not the same reason stand, to reject the present project which has an even higher traffic volume (albeit over a longer timeframe), and thus more impact on the community.

Several other local residents asked questions of Shell today regarding traffic and construction. Diane Taylor challenged Shell regarding traffic management, citing two incidents in the last month where her access to a public road was restricted, in favour of lorries going to the Shell compound. In response, Mr. Nolan essentially told Ms. Taylor that she was ‘stuck in the past’, and stated that ‘we are not looking at the history of the project’. In this writer’s opinion, the inspector seems to have tunnel vision (no pun intended), and is somehow deeming the local community’s experience with Shell in the last 10 years as irrelevant.

An Bord Pleanala Inspector Mr. Martin Nolan, was called up on by Peter Sweetman, for his unfair treatment of the ‘amateur observers’ from the Rossport Solidarity Camp by cutting their questions short, while allowing Mr. Keane, Barrister for Shell, a much lengthier time to make his case on Shell’s behalf, during the hearing.

The oral hearing continues on Wednesday in Belmullet when the Department of Energy, Marine and Natural Resources, Shell, and The National Parks and Wildlife Service will be questioned on the ecological impacts of the planning application.