October 22nd, 2019
The Government has confirmed that it will not change its position on supporting the Shannon LNG project for inclusion on the EU’s priority energy list despite growing pressure over the project’s links to fracking in the US.
At the start of the month, the Government put the US-owned gas terminal project forward for re-inclusion on the European Commission’s fourth 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 gas entering the terminal would come from the US fracking industry as the company behind the project, New Fortress Energy, currently receives gas from the industry and also plans to expand its operation into the fracking hotbed of Pennsylvania.
Fracking – banned in Ireland over environmental and health concerns – involves the injection of pressurised water, sand, and various chemicals into shale rock to force the gas out. Numerous studies have linked fracking to health issues, earth tremors, and large carbon and methane emissions.
Despite the Government’s previous claims that the final decision on the project’s inclusion on the PCI list rested with the EU, the Commission confirmed last week that Member States have the final word on national projects, with a deadline set for tomorrow for any final comments.
Responding to a request from The Green News for details on its final position this evening, the Department of Climate Action said that its “position has not changed” and that Shannon LNG will go forward as the only standalone Irish project on the list.
Two other linked projects that would have seen a reverse interconnector pipeline between Ireland and Moffat in Scotland were removed from the list after the EU’s Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) found that they “did not prove that their overall benefits outweigh costs”.
The Shannon LNG 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 that was recently referred to the European Court of Justice over a number of environmental and planning concerns.
Opponents, including the US actor and fracking activist Mark Ruffalo, argue that inclusion on the PCI list will allow projects to avoid stringent environmental assessment even where it cannot be guaranteed that they will not impact on protected nature areas.
Both the Government and the Commission have stressed that inclusion on the list will not allow the project to bypass the need to comply with environmental, planning or regulatory requirements.
It was revealed last week, however, that no environmental or sustainability assessment of energy projects on the list was carried out by the Commission, despite its obligation to do so under EU regulations.
Critics have questioned why the Government would risk approving the project for the list after recognising the potential sustainability issues surrounding US gas imports.
The Government has now asked the Commission to carry out a sustainability review of LNG imports if it has not already done so.
The Department of Climate Action has said that any future applications for funding will only be supported if projects are consistent with national and EU climate policy objectives.