Planning permission for Shannon LNG quashed

9 November 2020 

Planning permission for the controversial Shannon LNG terminal has been quashed by the High Court. 

Following a twelve year-long battle, the High Court ruled today that new planning legislation is required for the extended permission of the Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminal, which lapsed in 2018. 

The terminal had been on hiatus for the past decade since planning permission was first granted in March 2008.

A five-year extension was then granted in 2018 when its permission lapsed to allow for a reasonable time period of project completion, according to An Bord Pleanála. 

Friends of the Irish Environment challenged the extension, and argued that both Ireland and the European Union failed to conduct independent sustainability, climate and cost-benefit analysis of the terminal before putting it forward on the Fourth Project of Common Interest (PCI) list, as required by EU law. 

Its presence on the list would allow for a streamlined planning process and would allow the project to avail of a multi-billion euro funding pot, despite the EU’s commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies. 

“There are probably few things more frustrating in life than knowing you are right and being unable to prove it – the situation we have been in for the last 12 years,” Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment said in response to the High Court’s decision. 

“We owe a great debt to our legal representatives and to the European Court of Justice,” he added. 

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 2019 Photo: Niall Sargent

A far-reaching decision

The High Court’s ruling will have “wide implications” for projects both at home and across Europe that require similar renewals, Friends of the Irish Environment note. 

The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) ruled in September that extending the terminal’s permission requires a new permit for purpose under the Habitats Directive, and it is for the “competent authority” to decide if Appropriate Assessment is needed.

The permitting process for the extension can take into account previous environmental assessments, but it must also account for changes in relevant data, changes to the project itself and the existence of other plans or projects. 

The problem with fracked gas 

Critics of the terminal have long argued that then-government who approved the initial permission was well-aware that the site would import US gas acquired through fracking, a practice that is banned in Ireland due to environmental and health concerns. 

Through injecting sand, pressurised water and various chemicals into shale rock, gas is forced out of the ground. 

Numerous studies have linked it to health issues, earth tremours, and large carbon and methane emissions. 

The previous government called it a “transition fuel”, however a 2019 report from Oil Change International referred to its production and use as a “bridge to climate disaster”. 

In their Programme for Government, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party pledged to withdraw the terminal from the PCI list in 2021 and said that the development of such terminals does not “make sense” as the country “moves towards carbon neutrality”. 

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