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Bishop breaks silence on Corrib
Áine RyanTHE BISHOP of Killala, Most Rev John Fleming, has broken his protracted silence about the Corrib gas dispute, in the same week that the controversial refinery was given a licence by the EPA and Shell was ordered to repair damage to a protected bog complex.In a letter to The Mayo News, Bishop Fleming stated he was ‘not competent to make a scientific judgement’ on the safety of the project but acknowledged the local community’s fears, observing that while the granting of an IPPC licence would allay some of these fears, ‘it may not remove them all’.“The route of this pipeline, therefore, should be as far removed from family homes as possible and, in particular, every effort must be made to ensure that Carrowmore lake will be permanently free from pollution,” the Bishop wrote. (See full text of letter, page 28) Bishop Fleming also urged that both sides of the community respect each other’s stance and for decision-makers to take account of expressed fears. He was responding to an article in The Mayo News, on November 6 last, in which Ms Mary Corduff, of Shell to Sea, called on him, as a Church leader, to ‘represent all his flock’, and speak out on the issue which has left the community in turmoil. Meanwhile, Shell welcomed last Wednesday’s decision by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to grant an Integrated Pollution Prevention Control licence (IPPC) for the beleaguered project. “This is a significant milestone for the delivery of Corrib natural gas to the Irish market. The Corrib Gas Partners are committed to building and operating a world-class facility at Bellanaboy. All decisions around the project are taken with due concern for the protection of the environment. We continue to be open to talk to any groups or individuals who may have outstanding concerns around the project,” said Shell Deputy Managing Director, Mr Terry Nolan.The EPA said the decision, which is subject to 90 conditions, followed an ‘exhaustive examination’ of the application, originally submitted in December 2004. After a proposed approval was issued in January last, there was a 12-day oral hearing in Belmullet, arising out of 13 objections. Objectors included Shell itself, An Taisce and local parish priest, Fr Michael Nallen. The EPA board also took note of the serious concerns of local residents about the cold-venting of gas but conceded it was the best environmental option available in the circumstances. It also accepted recommendations by the hearing’s Chairman, Mr Frank Clinton, to strengthen controls relating to the possible pollution risk to Carrowmore lake, which is the source of the drinking water for 10,000 people. It said it would institute a rigorous monitoring and reporting regime on emissions, as well as an annual audit of the refinery’s operation which would be available to the public. However, Shell’s good fortune last week had a sting in the tail after Minister for the Environment, John Gormley threatened the multi-national with a possible prosecution, if it does not repair damage caused to a SAC when its consultants, RPS, drilled in the Glenamoy bog complex, last month, without permission. At the weekend, Minister Gormley told The Sunday Times he was disappointed with Shell’s ‘irresponsible behaviour’. However, in a statement, issued yesterday (Monday) the Minister stepped back from the brink, observing that while he had considered such an action, he has instead decided ‘to utilise the powers [he has] under Article 19 of the Habitats Regulations to require Shell to restore the site to its original condition’.“The actions of the Shell contractors in entering a Special Area of Conservation and carrying out works without authorisation are a matter of serious concern to me. I find it unacceptable that this has occurred at a time when my Department has been making special efforts to keep in communication with Shell during the course of this project to date,” the statement said. A group of local Shell to Sea supporters had also tried to stop the work, showing RPS officials a map clearly delineating the SAC. After gardaí were called, a stand-off ensued during which a protester climbed to the top of a piece of machinery. In a response, RPS said it ‘will immediately comply with the directions from Minister Gormley’.“It was a genuine mistake which was the result of miscommunication within both RPS and Shell E&P Ireland Limited. We’re more than happy to comply with the Minister’s requirements,” said Director, Mr PJ Rudden. In another development, IBEC Director for the West region, Mr John Brennan has welcomed the findings of an independent report by Goodbody Economic Consultants on the project. He said it highlights its ‘regional and national significance’, its huge employment potential, its significant contribution to GDP (€3bn over the field’s lifespan) and its security of supply for a nation highly dependent on imported gas.
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Posted Date: 
29 October 2007 - 1:39pm