Pressure grows on State to drop support for gas terminal project

Published by Niall Sargent on

October 21st, 2019

The Lord Mayor of Dublin has joined climate activists, environmental groups and Hollywood stars in calling for the State to drop support for a gas terminal that critics argue will make Ireland a hub for fracked gas imports.

Writing yesterday to the Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton TD, Paul McAuliffe said that he is “concerned” that support for the planned Shannon LNG terminal doesn’t sit well with the State’s climate ambition.

The Government recently put the project forward for re-inclusion on the European Commission’s projects of common interest (PCI) list that would give it access to a multi-billion euro funding pot and a streamlined planning and permit process.

Critics argue that the Government is well aware that the majority of the gas that would enter the terminal would come from the fracking industry in the US.

The company that owns Shannon LNG receives gas from fracking and wants to expand its operation into areas of Pennsylvania where fracking is the main method of gas extraction.

Fracking – banned in Ireland – is a process for extracting gas by drilling into shale rock and injecting pressurised water, sand and various chemicals to force out the gas. Many studies in the US have linked fracking to health and neurological issues, as well as large carbon and methane emissions.

“This technology will almost certainly be both out of date and out of favour by the time it is constructed and therefore will make a just transition more difficult for those people and communities who become dependent on it,” Mr McAuliffe added in his letter.

In his letter, Mr McAuliffe states that the issue was brought to his attention by Extinction Rebellion activists that he met during the movement’s week of action earlier this month.

The group will hold a protest outside the Dail at lunchtime tomorrow calling on the Government to remove support for Shannon LNG before Wednesday’s deadline from the Commission for any final comment by national governments on the PCI list.  

Member states in the hotseat

The Government indicated last month that the final decision on projects on the list rests with the European Commission. Last week, however, the Deputy Director-General of the Commission’s energy division Klaus-Dieter Borchardt confirmed that the PCI decision-making process takes a “bottom-up” approach where states choose the projects that they want on the list.

“We have to follow some clear rules, we cannot keep a project on the list if one member state opposes it and we have had these cases,” Mr Borchardt confirmed at the European Parliament’s energy committee last Wednesday.

Mr Borchardt also confirmed that no environmental or sustainability impact assessment of projects has been carried out to date. Under EU regulations, the Commission is obliged to carrying out a sustainability assessment of projects put forward for the list.

Numerous MEPs outlined their discontent at the committee hearing that they were not provided proper time to examine the projects on the list, including the Green Party’s Ciarán Cuffe who said that the fact that no environmental impact assessment has been carried out is “utterly unacceptable”.

“I believe that this project will lock Ireland into continued fossil fuel use just as we desperately need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels if we are to stand any chance of meeting our international obligations and mitigating the onset of climate breakdown,” he said.

Critics have also accused the Government of keeping the process surrounding the PCI list shrouded in secrecy. Mr Bruton failed to respond to a previous request from People Before Profit’s Brid Smith to inform the Dail of the date of the PCI meetings held by the Commission earlier this month.

Time to show real leadership

Earlier this month, the Swedish government refused permission for an LNG plant at the Port of Gothenburg that was put forward for the PCI list due to climate concerns.

Speaking to Irish media today, actor and anti-fracking campaigner Mark Ruffalo called on the Irish government to follow Sweden’s lead and “show what real climate leadership looks like”.

Mr Ruffalo, who supported the grassroots movement to ban fracking in Ireland, recently signed a letter together with health professionals, NGOs and advocates calling on the Taoiseach to block the Shannon LNG project.

He said that it is “particularly distressing” to hear that the Government still wants to support the project that is “not going to be looked upon kindly” by communities in the US affected by fracking.

“There is no such thing as gas coming out of America that isn’t fracked. The reason we are having a booming natural gas industry now is because of fracking,” he said.

“You’re sending all of your energy dollars outside of Ireland and the continent of Europe… when you could be creating your own energy through approved climate-safe ventures such as wind,” he added.

“I implore you to think of the future, for the children and for people who are being immediately harmed [by fracking] here in the US.”

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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