Tuesday, 24 February 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
103. Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether the dangers of landslides impacting upon the proposed Corrib gas pipeline were ignored in a report previously made by a company (details supplied) in view of the report submitted to Mayo County Council by a person (details supplied). [5968/04]
Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (Mr. Browne): It is understood from Deputy Ferris’s office that the report to which the Deputy refers is the plan of development for the Corrib gas field submitted by Shell E & P Ireland Limited, formerly Enterprise Energy Ireland, in December 2001. The plan of development describes the route of the onshore pipeline which starts approximately 500 metres from the toe of Barnachuille Hill and which will be trenched to a depth of 1.2 metres along the full length of the route.
As stated in a previous reply to the Deputy in October 2003 to a question raised about the landslides on the slopes of Barnachuille Hill at Pollathomais, the proposed pipeline route, which will be located in the floodplain of the Glenamoy river, will be unaffected by any potential instability on the slopes of Barnachuille Hill.
As the Deputy is aware, a report has been carried out for Mayo County Council on the causes of the landslides. This report, entitled Report on the Landslides at Dooncarton, Glengad, Barnachuille and Pollathomais, County Mayo, on 19 September 2003, states: “The primary cause of the event at Pollathomais was exceptional rainfall of such an intensity as to overwhelm natural drainage systems in the peat and weathered rock, thereby mobilising sections of overburden through buoyancy and gravitational forces.”
The report proposes three broad classes of necessary protection works which should be carried out to public infrastructure and adjacent properties. Substantial progress has been made with protection works. Reinstatement of berms and culverts has been completed while works on bridges and roads is forecast for completion later this year.
In addition to the exceptional factors, it should be noted that, while the rain fell on the pipeline route, the landslides had no impact on the route. I am advised that the pipeline route is not affected by the uncompleted protection works.
As part of its examination of the developers’ pipeline proposals, my Department commissioned an evaluation of the onshore pipeline design code. This study addressed design methodology, operating conditions, pipeline corrosion, public safety, welding and testing, pipeline material quality and protection from interference. The recommendations of this evaluation were incorporated in the consent to construct the pipeline decision. On 30 April 2003, An Bord Pleanála refused planning permission for the proposed terminal. While a small amount of work was carried out in the offshore in 2002, the project has essentially been parked since October 2002.
A new application was submitted by the developers, Shell E & P Ireland Limited, on 17 December 2003 to Mayo County Council. The major change in the new application related to the proposal for the removal of the peat surrounding the terminal to a Bord na Móna bog at Srahmore some 11 kilometres away. On 17 February 2004, Mayo County Council requested further information from the developers.
The report submitted to Mayo County Council by a person whose details are supplied is from a Mr. Brian Coyle and is an objection submission to the proposed terminal development planning application. The majority of Mr Coyle’s submission relates to planning issues which are for Mayo County Council to address. While he also raises onshore pipeline issues, I am satisfied that all petroleum developmental aspects relating to the Corrib gas field have been and will continue to be addressed.
Mr. Ferris: When I asked the Minister on 7 October to state his view on whether the landslide at Dooncarton would have impacted on the Corrib gas pipeline if it had been in place, he said it would not have done so in any way. In reply to a further question on 21 October in which I pointed out the proposed landfall for the pipeline on the south side of Sruwadacon Bay below Dooncarton Hill where the landslide took place, the Minister stated that Shell or Enterprise Energy Ireland had told him that the route would not have been impacted by the landslide.
Does the Minister of State agree, as is clear from the detailed report submitted to Mayo County Council by Brian Coyle, a chartered consultant, civil and structural engineer, that if the pipeline had been in place, it would have come under impact from the landslide at landfall with the high possibility of it being severed resulting in extreme human and environmental catastrophic disaster? Mr. Coyle goes further and points to the failure of Shell to comply with the Seveso II directive, which is designed to prevent the consequences of major accidents.
Mr. Ferris: Does the Minister of State agree that the Department has been overly reliant on reports made by Shell and that the company has not conducted a sufficiently rigorous investigation of all possible dangers connected with the proposed Corrib gas field project? Will he agree that, until all aspects of this project are independently examined, it should not proceed?
Mr. Browne: We are quite satisfied that the landslide did not impact on the pipeline route and would not be expected to. Mr. Coyle’s report is in the domain of Mayo County Council to which the planning application by Shell E & P Ireland Limited was submitted. I am sure the report will be dealt with by the council when it makes a final decision on planning permission. The application for permission by Shell E & P Ireland Limited was submitted to Mayo County Council on 17 December 2003. It is still pending decision and I understand that Mayo County Council has written to the company seeking further information. Therefore, Mr. Coyle's report or survey is with Mayo County Council and I am sure it will be dealt with by it.
Mr. Ferris: With regard to the report from Mayo County Council of which the Minister of State is in possession, is he satisfied that it clarifies the position regarding the dangers and the over-reliance by the Department on Enterprise Energy Ireland or Shell?
Mr. Browne: We have no over-reliance on Shell E & P Ireland Limited. The matter is being dealt with as a planning application by Mayo County Council. It is pending a decision and it is best left in the hands of the council to make that decision.
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