Micheál Martin outlines party support for Shannon LNG

February 3rd, 2020

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has outlined his party’s support of the proposed Shannon LNG gas terminal in direct contradiction to earlier comments by the party’s environment spokesperson.

Speaking on Kerry Today this morning, Micheál Martin said that gas will be needed as a transition fuel and supports the progression of the gas terminal in Co Kerry that critics argue will see Ireland become a key location for the importation of fracked US gas into Europe.

“My sense is there is no question we will need gas as a transition gas and I think the terminal may not have to use fracked gas, it can use other gases, so we are supportive of that,” Mr Martin said.

Fracking – banned in Ireland – is a process for extracting gas by drilling into rock and injecting pressurised water, sand and chemicals to force out the gas. Many studies in the US have linked fracking to low birth weights, preterm births, birth defects, asthma, and neurological development issues.

New Fortress Energy, the American owner of Shannon LNG, receives gas supply from fracking and also plans to build a terminal on the Marcellus shale basin, a fracking hotspot in the state in Pennsylvania.

Natural gas pipeline USA Photo: Bilfinger

Contradictory messages

Mr Martin’s comments are in clear contradiction of comments made by the party’s environment and natural resources spokesperson Jack Chambers earlier this month.

When asked on the Week in Politics on 22nd January if Fianna Fáil would stop the Shannon LNG project if in power, Mr Chambers said that the party is clear that “it shouldn’t progress and we are against any fracked gas in Ireland”.

“We’ve said there should be no progress on that terminal and we’ve supported the proposed independent energy security review so that we can provide a trajectory for Ireland’s independent energy security,” he added.

Mr Chambers comments had already been contradicted by party deputy leader Dara Calleary on Radio Kerry last week, who stated that the party has “continued to support that project in terms of energy supply”.

“We have to build up our own sources and we’ve identified the LNG plant in Tarbert as part of our own response,” Mr Calleary added.   

William Hederman of the climate campaign group Futureproof Clare told The Green News that it is “shocking that Fianna Fail politicians who hope or expect to be ministers within weeks are contradicting each other on an issue as important as Shannon LNG”.

“It’s clear the party has not bothered to agree a policy on what is one of the major climate threats in Europe – the importation of fracked gas… Fianna Fáil really needs to be clear with the electorate before the election about what they would do in Government about Shannon LNG and the proposed LNG import terminal at the Port of Cork.”

LNG Tanker Photo: Joachim Kohler Bremen
LNG Tanker Photo: Joachim Kohler Bremen

Position ‘all over the place’

In a statement to The Green News send prior to Mr Martin’s comments, a Fianna Fáil spokesperson said that the party has been clear in its opposition to fracking in Ireland.

They said that the party’s stance on potential gas imports is balanced on recent Climate Change Advisory Council advice on energy security and the levels of emissions associated with the “production, compression, distribution and storage of natural gas”.

“On the basis of the advice and the potential pitfalls, Fianna Fáil called on the government to undertake a review of energy security and sustainability including that of gas…. Fianna Fáil’s ongoing support for Shannon LNG would be contingent on the results of this assessment,” the spokesperson added.

According to John McElligott of Safety Before LNG, a group has that opposed the terminal plans for over a decade now, Fianna Fáil policy on fracked gas imports “is all over the place”.

“Evidence-based decision making in a transparent manner should not be too much to ask for from the people who aspire to rule the country,” he told The Green News.

Criticism of Shannon LNG

The Shannon LNG project has been criticised by scientists, activists and even Hollywood star Mark Ruffalo over the likelihood that the project will see Ireland become a key entry point for US fracked gas into the EU.

The Government-backed project – that would be 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.

A recent analysis by energy consultants Artelys found that the gas projects, including Shannon LNG in Ireland, are “unnecessary” as existing EU gas infrastructure is “sufficiently capable of meeting a variety of future gas demand scenarios” even in the event of extreme supply disruption.

The report, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, found that the EU risks a potential over-investment of tens of billions in the 32 gas projects on the PCI list that will cost €29 billion to roll out in full.

About the Author

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

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