European Parliament cements EU support for dozens of new gas projects

Published by Niall Sargent on

January 22nd, 2020

The European Parliament’s Energy Committee today voted down a motion to reject the EU’s list of priority energy projects that includes dozens of gas schemes critics say are incompatible with the bloc’s climate ambitions.

Inclusion on the Projects of Commons Interest (PCI) list gives large-scale energy projects access to a streamlined planning and permitting process, as well as making them eligible for access to a multi-billion euro funding.

Dozens of gas projects, including liquefied natural gas (LNGs) terminals, are included on the latest list despite the EU’s commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

The defeated motion brought by Green MEP Marie Toussaint and co-signed by Irish Green MEP Ciarán Cuffe, called for the rejection of the entire list and a rapid revision of the regulation underpinning the PCI process.

Natural gas pipeline USA Photo: Bilfinger

Potential over-investment in the billions

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.

According to Frida Kieninger of Food and Water Europe, a gas roll out on this scale is “incompatible with the fossil free future promised in the European Green Deal”. The lasting legacy of the projects, she warned, will be that they become stranded asset with citizens and the climate paying the price.

Colin Roche of Friends of the Earth Europe echoed the warning that a net-zero future is unattainable if the “vast list of mega-pipelines and other new fossil fuel projects” go ahead. “They are not compatible with the climate emergency and tarnish the credibility of any European Green Deal.”

Last month, activist groups from across Irish, Europe and the US called on the Commission’s energy division to carry out a review of the decision to approve the inclusion of LNG terminals on the list.

The groups, including Food & Water Europe and Friends of the Earth Ireland, argue that the Commission broke its own rules by failing to consider the climate or sustainability impacts of the proposed projects in its decision-making process as mandated under EU regulations.

It is unclear at this time if a wider vote on the PCI list will be brought before the full Parliament when it meets for the next plenary session in February. 

Extinction Rebellion anti-fracking protest at DCCAE offices Photo: Niall Sargent
Extinction Rebellion anti-fracking protest at DCCAE offices Photo: Niall Sargent

Shannon LNG an ‘unnecessary joke’

Shannon LNG, the only Irish project on the list, 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-supported 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.

The project is currently caught up in a legal challenge referred to the European Court of Justice over a number of environmental and planning concerns.

Independent MEP Mick Wallace, who sits on the Parliament’s environment committee, said that it “is a joke” that the Fine Gael-led Government pushed forward with support for Shannon LNG in light of climate science and the findings in the new report from Artelys.

“It was an unfunny joke before this [Artelys] report was released but this just cements how deranged the Government’s decision was to lock us in to this expensive, environmentally damaging project in the middle of a climate crisis,” Mr Wallace said.

“Infrastructure decisions create path dependencies and these gas infrastructure projects will create fossil fuel lock-in for decades. This is also a complete waste of EU taxpayer’s more.

“Investing in gas infrastructure makes no financial or environmental sense.  It’s pretty simple – to keep global warming below 1.5°C, coal, oil and gas all need to stay in the ground to avert the deadliest impacts of climate change,” Mr Wallace warned.

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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