Extinction Rebellion Fracking protest outside DCCAE office Photo: Niall Sargent

Government faces first climate “litmus test” with fracked gas

30 July 2020

The government faces a crucial climate “litmus test” in its follow through on abandoning fracked gas terminals, climate campaigners say. 

The Programme for Government committed to withdrawing the controversial Shannon Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal from the EU Projects of Common Interest (PCI) list in 2021 and said that it would develop “a policy statement to establish that approach”. 

Activists from various campaign groups have published a roadmap for such a policy that calls on the state to inform the European Commission of the terminal’s removal from the PCI list and for the government to tighten sustainability assessment rules prior to approval for any projects to be on the bloc-wide list. 

The policy statement mentioned in the Programme for Government is also “time sensitive”, according Johnny McElligott of Safety before LNG, because “an imminent new planning application” for the terminal is set for this September would currently only be subject to local environmental impact assessment. 

If that were to happen, the terminal would be going from “a silent policy to project approval without the prior high-level strategic assessment” that an explicit energy plan statement on LNG infrastructure development would require, Mr McElligott said. 

“We want assurance”  

The swift publication of a policy statement would not only prevent the development of the terminal, but it would also make Ireland a “leader in the fight against fossil fuels and fracked gas”, the coalition stressed. 

With a recently acquired seat at the United Nations Security Council, Ireland would have an opportunity to become “a global champion” for the transition to clean energy, they added. 

Roisin Keegan O’Rourke of Love Leitrim and delegate to the Youth Climate Assembly reminded the government that ending the use of fracked gas was included in the Assembly’s recommendations and demanded “assurance that we are being listened to, and that these projects won’t go ahead”. 

Following the proposed roadmap, given the circumstances, is therefore a “matter of urgency”, Kate Ruddock of Friends of the Earth warned. 

Tony Lowes of FiE with members of Futureproof Clare at high Court Photo: Niall Sargent
Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment (c) at High Court for Shannon LNG case in Feb 2019 Photo: Niall Sargent

High Court Challenge 

The Shannon terminal itself has faced its second challenge in the High Court on the grounds that its submission to the PCI list did not have the required independent sustainability/climate and cost-benefit analysis for its consideration. 

Without doing the necessary consultation, the decision to put Shannon LNG forward for inclusion on the list was a breach of “citizen’s natural and constitutional rights”, according to Tony Lowes, a director of Friends of the Irish Environment, the group that has brought the legal challenges against the terminal. 

The terminal had been on hiatus for the past decade since planning permission was first granted in March 2008 and a five-year extension was granted in 2018 to allow for a reasonable time period for project completion.