"This is one of the most important stories of it's kind in Europe."
The Irish Times
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent
The European Commission's environment directorate is to conduct a preliminary investigation into the Corrib gas project, following a request from the European Parliament's petitions committee.
The committee has deemed as "admissible" a complaint lodged by former Shell to Sea spokesman Dr Mark Garavan and intends to begin an examination "as soon as possible".
As part of this inquiry, it has asked the commission to conduct a preliminary investigation into "various aspects", as raised by Dr Garavan, relating to alleged breaches of several EU directives.
Under article 194 of the EC Treaty, any EU citizen or resident in a member state may, individually or in association with others, submit a petition to the European Parliament on a subject which comes within the EU's fields of activity and which affects them directly. A petition may take the form of a complaint or a request and may relate to issues of public or private interest.
A committee delegation which included Irish MEPs Kathy Sinnott and Proinsias De Rossa discussed Dr Garavan's petition in Galway during a visit to Ireland in late June. The delegation visited the site of the proposed incinerator in Poolbeg, Dublin, the M3 route through Tara and a Kilkenny farm where unexplained animal illnesses have occurred.
Shell E&P Ireland said yesterday it did not believe any of the accusations made in Dr Garavan's complaint in relation to breaches of EU directives were admissible, but it would co-operate with the commission.
Dr Garavan, who was a candidate in the recent Seanad elections, welcomed yesterday's development and said he had received "firm assurances" from the petitions committee that the issue would be treated with urgency .
In his petition, Dr Garavan says the project is in breach of a number of EU directives, including the habitats directive, the Seveso directive, the water framework directive and directives relating to public consultation. He maintains that an appropriate environmental impact assessment cannot be carried, as the pipeline route is as yet unknown.
Other components, including construction of the refinery at Bellanaboy, are proceeding, while Shell's promised modification of the existing route is still ongoing.
Dr Garavan says this "project-splitting" has "ensured, as a matter of simple logic, that no full environmental impact assessment of the Corrib gas development as a totality has been possible".
An Taisce is also preparing its own case for the European Commission in relation to the proximity of the Bellanaboy refinery to the main public drinking water supply for the Erris area at Carrowmore lake. The environmental organisation maintains that Ireland could face "massive" fines if it permits the terminal to be built in a major drinking water catchment, given that Ireland is already in breach of the EU drinking water directive on several counts.
© 2007 The Irish Times