Bill calls for removal of oil and gas projects from fast-track planning process

Published by Niall Sargent on

May 21st, 2019

People Before Profit will introduce a Bill today seeking to remove liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other fossil fuel projects from access to fast-track planning approval.

The party is raising the Bill in what it describes as a response to a number of proposed LNG projects that campaigners fear will result in Ireland becoming a hub for fracked US gas.

There has been recent concern from environmental groups over the planned €500 million Shannon LNG project in Co Kerry.

The project has been on hiatus for the past decade since planning permission was first granted in March 2008. A five-year extension was granted last year to allow a reasonable period for the completion of the project according to An Bord Pleanála.

The project was only the second in the country to be granted Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID) status by the Board and is the first SID project to be granted planning extension.

Unlike normal planning permission, there is no appeal process once the board makes a decision on an SID application. Any objection must be made via an application for judicial review through the High Court, a timely and expensive process.

There is an eight-week window to make an application to the court for leave to judicially review planning decisions for SID projects.

Within this period, an individual or group must get a copy of the planning decision, determine the exact legal issues at play, find legal representation and also request information which may be required to inform the decision to challenge.

Friends of the Irish Environment (FiE) recently challenged the Board’s decision to extend permission for the Shannon LNG project.

FiE argues that the Board’s decision to grant an extension for the proposed terminal in North Kerry ignores the State’s climate obligations and nature protections afforded to the site where the terminal would be built.

The High Court deferred a number of questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the case in February.

Tony Lowes of FiE with members of Futureproof Clare at high Court Photo: Niall Sargent
Tony Lowes (c) at High Court for FiE case challenging Shannon LNG Photo: Niall Sargent

According to an article in The Sunday Timeslast weekend, Friends of the Irish Environment were offered a sum in the region of €1 million to drop their objections to the Shannon LNG project by the developer behind the project.

Tony Lowes, the director of FiE, told the paper that any offer to settle the case was legally privileged and that the group would continue to challenge the project.

A second potential project in Cork is in the early stages of development. In 2017, the Port of Cork Company signed an agreement with US energy company NextDecade to explore the importation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the US.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, who will introduce the Bill this afternoon, said that the Government should support the proposed legislation if it is serious about climate action following the recent declaration of a climate emergency in the Dail.

“We have less than 12 years to move rapidly away from fossil fuels and we know that means gas as well as oil and coal,” he said.

“Facilitating LNGs and other large scale fossil fuel infrastructure is lunacy given the facts about climate change and the change needed to prevent climate and ecological breakdown.”

Richard Boyd Barrett TD will introduce the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Climate Measures) Amendment Bill after today’s Order of Business in the Dáil.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London