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Ryan seeks transfer of safety function to energy regulator

Lorna Siggins - Irish Times

MINISTER for Energy Eamon Ryan has published proposed legislation which aims to “set a new standard” for the safety of oil and gas infrastructure.

The Petroleum (Exploration and Extraction) Safety Bill 2010 proposes transferring regulatory functions for the safety of oil and gas extraction and production from the Minister’s department to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

The proposal comes more than 3½ years after his predecessor, Noel Dempsey promised it, in the context of the Corrib gas project.

Former energy minister Mr Dempsey announced in early May 2006 that monitoring of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline’s safety would be given to the CER.

The measure was one of a series outlined by the Minister when he published the Advantica consultancy study on the safety of the Corrib gas onshore pipeline.

The Advantica report was criticised by Shell To Sea at the time for limited terms of reference as its remit focused on design rather than location, and it stopped short of recommending a new route for the controversial high-pressure pipeline.

However, a modified onshore route was subsequently identified by the company.

Last November, An Bord Pleanála found that up to half this modified route was “unacceptable” on safety grounds due to the proximity of housing in Rossport and between Glengad and Aughoose.Shell is due to respond to the appeals board by February 5th.

Mr Ryan said yesterday that the new Bill set “the framework for the development and implementation of a risk-based safety assessment for upstream petroleum activities and associated infrastructure”.

The framework will cover the “construction, operation, maintenance, modification and decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure”.

In a related development, the cost of Garda overtime and subsistence expenses for policing the Corrib gas project has cost the State almost €14 million since August 2005, according to Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern. The figure was given by Mr Ahern in a written Dáil reply to Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh this month.