Corrib Gas Pipeline Decision ‘legally flawed’

An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve planning permission for the final section of the Corrib gas pipeline in north Mayo has been condemned as ‘legally flawed by the Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership. It demands that this development, along with all developments, must be completed in accordance with the law.
“This decision is legally flawed because the legal requirements of a number of EU directives have not been taken into account,” said Michael Ewing, a spokesperson for the group. “This goes beyond the Corrib gas pipeline project and has major implications for the status of implementation of European Directives in Ireland, particularly the Habitat’s Directive, as it sets the Board up as having more insight into the law than the Supreme Court of Ireland, on matters such as the integrity of Natura 2000 sites.” These sites are part of an EU-wide network of nature protection areas.
“The Board has effectively called into question the competence of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the designation of Natura 2000 sites throughout the state with this decision” said Charles Stanley-Smith, a member of the Environmental Pillar and Chair of An Taisce.
“The absence of site specific conservation objectives for the Natura 2000 sites through which the development will be constructed and will operate was compounded by the fact the Supreme Court of Justice of Ireland had decided only last summer that the matter of the definition of “site integrity” needed to be referred to the European Court of Justice for clarification following on the Galway by-pass case. It seems inconceivable that the Board appears to have set these matters aside in making this decision on the Corrib onshore pipeline, and in addressing the requirements of Article 6 of the Habitats Directive, and seemingly determined what the Supreme Courts had indicated required clarification from the European Court.”
The two Green Ministers, for Energy and the Environment have applications associated with this Corrib gas pipeline on their desks and Mr Stanley-Smith called on them to refuse those applications in light of the issues the applications raise in terms of European Law.
“Ireland  has the highest per capita level of actions and judgements by the European Court of Justice against any nation state in relation to breaches of Environmental Directives, namely Waste, Water, Environmental Impact Assessment, Birds and Habitats” said Stanley-Smith.  “It would be an admirable legacy if the Green Ministers were to ensure their last Ministerial actions did not add to Ireland’s environmental and financial liability.”
The applications cover the granting of a foreshore licence, plan of development and section 40 consents for the Corrib pipeline.
In light of the Board’s decision the Pillar notes Minister Ryan’s speech on the 24th November 2005, “Anyone who examines from the outside the process that led to a decision being made on the (planning board) appeal in this instance would agree that it was not conducted in an open and fair manner. … I have serious concerns that the Government constantly took Shell’s side, in effect, throughout this process. … I contend that he [Taoiseach Bertie Ahern] put remarkable and untold pressure on An Bord Pleanála to accept the Government’s will.”
The Environmental Pillar will be reviewing the decision and the 58 conditions in full before embarking on the necessary responses to this decision.
The position expressed in this release has been developed by members of the Environmental Pillar but is not necessarily the policy of each member group in the pillar.