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For Immediate Release
Press Release April 14th 2021: 

Fears Policy Statement against Fracked Gas Imports is being delayed deliberately until after Shannon LNG reapplies for planning

On March 25th we learned that the Government is ready to publish its policy statement against the importation of fracked gas within the next six weeks but now fear that it is being deliberately delayed until after Shannon LNG reapplies for planning permission following a ruling today that a ban on construction has no effect if a planning permission has already been applied for.

An Bord Pleanala today gave planning permission to a co-living scheme, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien had banned because the ban was implemented AFTER planning permission was applied for. Its inspector noted while Mr O’Brien’s department had issued a circular to planning authorities advising of plans to end co-living, prior to the application being made, the change did not come into effect until after the application was received by the board, therefore the scheme was “assessed on its merits”. This decision sets a very serious precedent for Shannon LNG and we question if this is the motivation behind Minister Ryan delaying the publication of a poicy statement agreed in the Programme for Government  almost 10 months ago.

 
We now have a nail-biting race against the clock with a short window of opportunity to ban fracked gas imports after predatorial New Fortress Energy dramatically informed investors on an earnings call the day before Saint Patrick's Day that Shannon LNG intends to file a new planning application for a US fracked gas import terminal on the Shannon Estuary in Ireland, with a final investment decision (FID) due in July/August. In November the High Court quashed development consent for Shannon LNG to construct a fracked gas import terminal on the Shannon Estuary.  There is now no choice but to take advantage of this ideal short window of opportunity before any new application is submitted and assessed to ban the imporation of  fracked gas into Ireland, once and for all.

 

So why the delay?

 

In June 2020, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party, in the Programme for Government  reached a consensus policy position against fracked gas imports which stated that "As Ireland moves towards carbon neutrality, we do not believe that it makes sense to develop LNG gas import terminals importing fracked gas, accordingly we shall withdraw the Shannon LNG terminal from the EU Projects of Common Interest  list in 2021. We do not support the importation of fracked gas and shall develop a policy statement to establish that approach [...] We are conscious of the limitations of examining greenhouse gas emissions solely on a production basis. We will conduct a review of greenhouse gas emissions on a consumption basis, with a goal of ensuring that Irish and EU action to reduce emissions supports emission reductions globally, as well as on our own territories”. The Security of Energy Supply review currently being undertaken by the Government has also been updated to declare that fracked gas imports cannot be considered as a gas supply option following the commitments made in the Programme for Government. 

 

What we need in a Policy Statement establishing the approach that the Government does not support the importation of fracked gas:


  1. It must be stated explicitly in writing that “Ireland does not support the importation of fracked gas”.


  1. We need the Minister to issue a written policy against fracked gas imports and LNG terminals as guidelines to both An Bord Pleanala and all Planning Authorities under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 which states“The Minister may, at any time, issue guidelines to planning authorities regarding any of their functions under this Act and planning authorities shall have regard to those guidelines in the performance of their functions”.

 

The urgency with which this must now be dealt with is clear because under Section 30(1) the  “Minister shall not exercise any power or control in relation to any particular case with which a planning authority or the Board is or may be concerned”. New Fortress Energy dramatically informed investors on an earnings call the day before Saint Patrick's Day that Shannon LNG intends to file a new planning application for a US fracked gas import terminal on the Shannon Estuary in Ireland, with a final investment decision (FID) due in July/August. In November the High Court quashed development consent for Shannon LNG to construct a fracked gas import terminal on the Shannon Estuary.

This policy statement must therefore be published before any new planning application is lodged by Shannon LNG in order for the Minister’s powers are limited by Section 30(1). 

 

The importance of a section 28 guideline statement to An Bord Pleanala and all planning authorities because under Section 28(1)(b) each planning authority “shall append to the draft development plan and the development plan” the Minister’s guidelines. This will ensure that the fracked gas import policy will live beyond the life of the current government. 



  1. That the government will engage positively with any proposed amendments in the Climate Bill on implementing a legislative ban on fracked gas imports following a new ground-breaking report completed in April 2021 by the Irish Centre for Human Rights into the International Human Rights Implications of unconventional oil and gas extraction which concluded that “Fracking, through its emission of greenhouse gases and contribution to climate change and the immediate environmental, social and public health impacts it causes for surrounding communities, poses numerous threats for the enjoyment and exercise of human rights. As underlined in this report,the human rights impacted include the right to life, the right to health, the right to water, the right to food, the right to housing, the right to access to information, the right to public participation, the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, with violations of these rights having disproportionate impacts on marginalized and vulnerable communities and groups.”

 

  1. There must be an explicit statement confirming that Ireland will engage proactively on the international stage to promote the policy against fracked gas and fracked gas imports ensuring that “action to reduce emissions supports emission reductions globally, as well as on our own territories” as agreed in the Programme for Government  e.g. at DG Energy level at the European Commission, at the United Nations. 
We note that  Ireland already demonstrated global climate leadership when 
  • Ireland became one of the first countries in the world to ban fracking in 2017 on public-health, environmental and climate grounds
  • Ireland became the first country in the world to commit to withdrawing public money invested in fossil fuels, the industry which is contributing most to climate change
  • The Taoiseach declared in September 2019 that there would be no new licences for offshore exploration in Ireland for oil and this policy update was then published in December 2019 by the Irish government
  • The Programme for Government said that this ban would be expanded to gas "We will End the issue of new licenses for the exploration and extraction of gas, on the same basis as the recent decision in relation to oil exploration and extraction." The government subsequently declared that there would be a statutory underpinning of the Programme for Government exploration ban on gas and this would be reflected in its intention to progress such a ban via amendments at the committee stage of the Climate bill. It is also interesting that the government publication says "This commitment will be provided for in legislation at the Committee Stage of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021" which is where we will be proposing our amendments for a legislative fracked gas import ban.

 




Contact:
John McElligott
Safety Before LNG
(087-2804474)
SafetyBeforeLNG@hotmail.com