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(en) Ireland, Working Class Resistance #7 - Saga of the Corrib Gas Field

From Organise Ireland <organiseireland@yahoo.ie>
Date Wed, 22 Sep 2004 17:51:00 +0200 (CEST)


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The story of Shell's on shore gas terminal development
in Erris, Mayo, and proposed exploitation of the Corrib Gas Field.
“There is a village known to the poor travelling
people of Ireland as ‘Baile an ghra Dia’, the village
of the Love of God, or if you like, the charitable
place, for the Irish name for charity is ‘Love of
God’. It was there that I first heard stories of good
deeds done by seals. The village is on the north cost
of Mayo, in poor and isolated country, so poor and
isolated that the beggars and poor travelling people
and the wandering story-tellers used to come there in
their hundreds, knowing that they were sure of food
and a place to sleep by the fire. They were valued as
strangers, for their voices or their talents or for
the news they brought, and even now if you meet a
North Mayo man on the road you should be willing to
tell him of your purpose.”

At least so says ‘The People of the Sea’, David
Thomson’s book on the legend of the selchie. But open
those dewy eyes and wipe away that romantic mist, for
this is planet Earth circa 2004 and this tale is of
toxic terminals not speaking seals. One stranger sure
isn’t getting a welcome to the North West of Mayo and
that’s Shell, the world’s foremost perpetrator of
environmental injustice.
The saga of the Corrib Gas Field began with it’s
discovery in 1996, 70km north west off the coast of
Mayo.
It’s owned by a consortium consisting of Shell,
Statoil and Marathon Oil.
It’s been 4 years now since Energy Enterprise Ireland,
– a subsidiary of Shell, first applied for planning
permission for a on shore terminal to exploit this
field.
Four years in the planning process during which time
objectors, in the words of then Minister for Marine
and Natural Resources Frank Fahey, “held up progress”.

Objectors including local residents, conservation
groups, trade unionists, fishermen and
environmentalists.
This article is going to outline the magnitude of the
ecological threat facing one of the most beautifully
desolate parts of Ireland, and the seas off it’s
shore. Later articles will look at other aspects of
this issue.

THE DEVELOPMENT:

Firstly you have a high pressure raw gas pipeline
coming on shore and going for five miles through the
village of Rossport, past houses and some other
villages to the on shore terminal and cleaning station
at Ballinaboy Bridge.

There is also to be an adjoining pipeline containing
discharge from the terminal, pumped back out into the
semi-enclosed Broadhaven Bay, as well as electric
cables.

These high pressure pipelines have raised fears about
the potential for an explosion among the people who
are, should the development go ahead, to be it’s close
neighbours.

Then you have the terminal itself, which will be
cleaning the gas of impurities, including heavy metals
and toxins like lead, nickel, magnesium, phosphorous,
arsenic and mercury, and pumping all this out to sea.

The terminal will be powered by a huge internal power
plant, burning off condensed uncleaned gas, through
nine chimneys, four of them around 140 feet high.
Obviously issuing forth a massive amount of the
greenhouse gases which cause global warming.

THE CONSTRUCTION:

The terminal is being built in a bog, so construction
involves the removal of 650,000 cubic metres of peat
and it’s transferral to be spread on another bog 11km
away.

This poses three immediate problems, firstly the risk
of landslide where the peat is stored, secondly the
removal of the rain absorbing turf in a area which
gets on average 200 days of rain a year, this opens
the door to flooding, and finally the traffic of what
one local activist has calculated as 800 truck
journeys for six months along poor, narrow, winding,
country roads.

Another issue to come up in the planning hearings is
the unstable nature of daube material beneath the
peat, which poses further landslide potential.

THE MARINE ECOLOGY:

The toxic waste from the terminal is to be pumped into
Broadhaven Bay.
Leading the Erris Inshore Fishermen’s Association to
be one of the objecting
parties in the planning permission process, fearing
the destruction of stocks of salmon and crab upon
which much of the local economy depends.
According to state heritage agency An Duchas
“Broadhaven Bay supports an
internationally important number of Brent Geese” as
well as regionally important populations of other
birds.

According to Friends of the Irish Environment the
exact point where the pipeline comes on shore is a
rare sand martin nesting colony.
The Environmental Impact Statement made to the
Department of the Marine by Shell as part of the
process to gain a licence for off-shore work claimed
there was "no evidence that Broadhaven Bay is of
particular importance to cetaceans (whales and
dolphins)".

Against this the Irish Whale and Dolphin group pointed
out the historic and anecdotal evidence to the
contrary, that is sightings by fishermen, and the
former presence in the area of major whaling stations.


However it now turns out that Shell commissioned a
study by University College Cork's Coastal and Marine
Resources Centre which found the exact opposite from
the claim Shell made in it’s environmental impact
statement.

Shell neglected to mention the study, though the lack
of concrete data on whales and dolphins in their
statement was criticised by the department.
The U.C.C. research team recorded over 220 sightings
of seven whale and dolphin species, plus sightings of
two seal species and marine mammals such as basking
sharks and a sea turtle in Broadhaven Bay and
north-west Mayo waters.

This including sightings of the relatively rare
Risso’s Dolphin.
It found that Broadhaven bay was an important breading
and rearing area for dolphins and whales.
The significance of this is that Shell has already
been carrying out underwater blasting and seismic
surveys, which are detrimental to whales, seals and
dolphins as they sense through sound and the noise
generated through blasting and surveys drives them
away, disorientates them and disrupts feeding and
breeding patterns, in all probability causing a
population reduction.

Various Irish and EU laws make for the conservation of
these species, but don’t hold you breath waiting for
the government to enforce them.

THE CURRENT SITUATION

As it stands after two public hearings in the spring
and winter of 2002 An Board Pleanala announced it’s
decision to deny planning permission to the onshore
terminal in late April 2003. However a year later on
April 30th 2004 Mayo County Council approved planning
permission for a revised plan, which principally
altered the plans in regard to storage of removed
peat.

Appeals have again been lodged and this should be
coming before An Board Pleanala again soon.

*****************************************************

>From the pages of Working Class Resistance, now
available in text and PDF formats at:

http://www.organiseireland.org

To distribute in your area, contact Organise*! at:

organiseireland@yahoo.ie

To receive WCR! in your inbox, send a blank email to:

workingclassresistance@yahoogroups.com


In this issue:

# Water Tax –Don’t Pay
# Propping Up the House of Cards
# 1916-22 –Ireland’s Unfinished Revolution
# PIRA ceasefire 10 years on
# Grassroots Gathering in Belfast
# Peace Activists Bound Over
# Saga of the Corrib Gas Field

==============================
* Organise! is an Irish anarchist group


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