Department confirms support for gas terminal

Published by Niall Sargent on

October 7th, 2019

The Government has confirmed that it has put the Shannon LNG gas terminal forward for inclusion on a special EU energy list that critics warn will encourage the importation of fracked US gas into the bloc.

In a statement released to The Green News, the Department of Climate Action (DCCAE) confirmed that the Government “maintained its position” for the inclusion of the yet to be built terminal on the Project of Common Interest (PCI) list at a high-level meeting in Brussels last Friday.

The Department said that the Irish government is of the view that the terminal would enhance energy security by “increasing import route diversity”.

The PCI list – updated every two years – includes cross-border infrastructure projects linking energy systems across EU states that it says will help the bloc achieve long-term decarbonisation in line with Paris Agreement targets.

Projects on the list can gain access to a €5.35 billion fund and go through a fast-track planning and permit granting process owing to their overriding strategic and public interest significance.

While the PCI list is said to support EU climate goals by offering cheap, sustainable energy, over 100 gas projects are on the list, including those in the Southern Gas Corridor project that is linked to human rights violations in Azerbaijan.

The Shannon LNG terminal, which would be built in the Shannon Estuary, was put forward by the Government for inclusion on the list since 2013 as part of north-south gas interconnector scheme from Scotland to Malta. 

Critics, including environmental NGOs, opposition groups, Irish MEPs and US actor Mark Ruffalo, argued last week that the terminal would lock both Ireland and the EU into using fracked gas for decades to come.

A recent filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by New Fortress Energy, the US owner of Shannon LNG, states that it receives gas supply from hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

New Fortress also plans to build a gas facility in Pennsylvania close to what US activities have described as the “fracking fields” of the state where there are increasing cases of rare cancers, as well as other health, social and environmental issues.

Shale Gas Drilling Rig Photo: Max Pixel
Shale Gas Drilling Rig Photo: Max Pixel

Environmental safeguards

Critics have also argued that the streamlined planning and permit granting process afforded to PCI projects will allow Shannon LNG to bypass environmental assessment even where it cannot be guaranteed that they will not impact on protected nature areas.

The Shannon LNG project – located close to a protected coastal wetland area – has been on hiatus for the past decade since planning permission was first granted in March 2008. The project is currently caught up in a legal challenge that was recently referred to the European Court of Justice over a number of environmental and planning concerns.

According to DCCAE, European regulations on PCIs “do not override the requirement to comply with environmental law or to obtain the necessary permits or consents”. 

“Compliance with any legal and regulatory requirements in relation to consents or permits, including environmental assessment, are the responsibility of the project promoter. Decisions on consents for the construction of an LNG plant would be a matter for the relevant consenting authorities,” the Department said.

The Department added that the Government has now asked the Commission – if it has not already done so – to carry out a review of the implications of importing LNG “in terms of a sustainable, secure and competitive European energy policy”.

“Ireland also made the point that future applications for EU Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding would only be supported if these projects are consistent with national and EU climate policy objectives,” the Department said.

On Wednesday, the Climate Action Committee will hear from US experts on the issue of fracking and potential impacts from exports to Europe.

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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