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A bird's eye view of the vineyard
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Corrib Gas pipeline route selection begins.
Wednesday February 28, 2007 23:06 by Eve - Shell to Sea
Shell to Sea criteria; no raw gas pipe in Kilcommon parish
As Shell subcontractors RPS held an information evening on the pipeline route selection process and community consultation, the message from Shell to Sea campaigners was clear; the problem is not just the pipeline but the entire project.
The Broadhaven Bay hotel in Belmullet was the venue last night for the latest act in the Corrib Gas drama with an information evening on rerouting the upstream section of pipeline. The evening was hosted by Shell subcontractors Rural Planning Services, the consultancy with the responsibility for rerouting the pipeline, and was the first step in the public consultation process to which Shell have pledged their commitment. Attendance was small with the usual cast of characters comprising the bulk of the crowd; Shell to Sea campaigners bearing placards and brandishing leaflets, a bevy of Shell and RPS pr lovelies and several plain clothes cops wandering around the lobby exchanging dirty looks with protesters.
The information evening was hosted by Rural Planning Services, “Ireland’s largest planning, engineering and environmental consultants.” RPS have been hired to choose a new route for the pipeline as part of the Engineering Management and Support Services (EMSS) contract which they won from Shell. According to their brochure the contract includes “a range of technical services to complete the rerouting, planning, environmental assessment, permitting and construction management of the onshore pipeline from the landfall to the reception terminal at Bellanaboy.”
according to RPS the information evening was a chance for the public to tell RPS what criteria were important to them in choosing the route. Feedback forms were provided a “route selection workshop” has been planned for late in March. I asked one of the pr ladies to elaborate, health and safety and environmental destruction being the primary concerns aired in the course of the last year by campaigners. She stressed how much RPS were interested in local knowledge, otter holes, wells and fairy forts for example. Good to know the otters will be taken care of.
A crowd of over twenty Shell to sea campaigners gathered outside the doors of the hotel, braving the inclement weather to hand out information and display placard to those attending the evening. The message from Shell to Sea was clear, “selection criteria; no raw gas in Kilcommon parish.” Several of the protesters went into the information session to more thoroughly underline their concerns to the “RPS team”. The lure of Shell provided tea and biscuits was shunned by some of the more hard core protesters. More willing to take up on the tea and biscuits were several plain clothes Gardai also in attendance. The cops spent most of the evening wandering around the hotel lobby, and hanging out at the protest. It was unclear whether the guards were on duty. In good cop bad cop mode, one Garda attempted to engage in small chat, extolling the virtues of Poland to a Polish protester while another (noted for depositing campaigners in drains) scowled on.
The route selection information session has signaled the re-emergence of the pipeline issue, the facet of the project that first brought the project to prominence with the jailings of the Rossport 5 in June 2005. The routing of the high pressure upstream pipeline through a village, near homes and under roads was widely condemned on account of the unacceptable risks to health and safety posed. In the aftermath of the Cassell’s report Shell announced their intention to “modify the route of the onshore section of the Corrib gas pipeline in the vicinity of Rossport to address community concerns relating to the proximity of the pipeline to housing.” The project splitting mentality that has allowed Shell to dodge the real issues surrounding the entire Corrib project continues. Preparatory work at the refinery site is ongoing in anticipation of peat removal scheduled to begin before Easter, while no pipeline route exists and a cursory glance at a map of the area reveals the severe unlikelihood of one being found.
While the original pipeline route was exempt from planning permission the new selection will undergo the planning process. Permission for the pipeline will be sought under the brand new Strategic Infrastructure signed into legislation late in 2006. The act aims “to provide, in the interests of the common good, for the making directly to An Bord Pleanála of applications for planning permission in respect of certain proposed developments of strategic importance to the State; to make provision for the expeditious determination of such applications.” In doing so the act removes vital layer of local democracy from the development consent process. It has been described as a fast tracking mechanism for unwanted projects like Corrib by its critics.