Strategic Development of the Shannon
On January 22nd, 2010, the EU Commission found that the Shannon
LNG project should
have been subjected to a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) (see Interim EU Commission findings on EU
Petition number 0013 of 2008 page 4 )
These findings by the EU Commission and Parliament is an official
acceptance that the LNG tankers pose a danger on both the Estuary
waters and adjoining coastlands throughout the entire shipping route of
the LNG tankers from the moment they approach the Estuary from the
Atlantic Ocean and that an SEA was therefore required.
A Strategic Assessment is required because LNG ships, by their own
standards, require a one-mile exclusion zone on safety grounds from
ships travelling in front of them and therefore the Shannon LNG project
could sterlise the entire Estuary and prevent other developments such
as a transhipment hub from being implemented.
The Commission went on to criticise the lack of an SEA for the Shannon
LNG project even more directly as follows:
Commission is also concerned by the discrepancy in the approach of the
Irish authorities in dealing with the development under fast track
legislation for 'strategic projects' whilst not requiring an SEA.“
The EU Commission further went on to critiscise the EIA for the Shannon
LNG project in stating:
EIA has been duly carried out on this project (the Liquefied Natural
Gas) and public opinion sought. However, the petitioner presents
arguments according to which the project has been sliced (LNG storage,
pipeline, road and electricity supply). Project slicing implies the
breaking up of one project into different parts. The EIA Directive
requires that cumulative (indirect) impacts with other projects have to
be identified in the course of the respective impact assessments to
ensure that the overall impact of the projects concerned can be
assessed. On the basis of the information received, it is not clear
whether the cumulative effects have been taken into account in this
The conclusion that the EU Commission came to was:
the basis of the further information provided, the Commission has
decided to raise the above-mentioned issues with the Irish
'Safety Before LNG', vindicated by the EU Commission findings, is now
of the opinion that if the Irish Government is to show even token
respect for EU Directives requiring comprehensive Strategic and
Environmental Assessments then an LNG Marine Risk Assessment must be
undertaken along with an SEA before any Foreshore Licence is given. It
is impossible to ascertain the cumulative effects of the project if no
such assessment is completed.
A Foreshore Licence is a permit to construct the marine aspect of the
enitre proposed LNG Teminal covering 25 acres on SAC waters. In January
2010, following the enactment of the Foreshore and Dumping at Sea
(Amendment) Act 2009, the Minister of the Environment, Mr. John
Gormley, took over responsiblity for issuing Foreshore Licences from
the Minister for Agriculture.
We believe that following the EU Commission's interim findings it will
be next to impossible for Minister Gormley to issue a Foreshore Licence
without the proper assessments as required under EU Directives.
'Safety Before LNG' also believes that Shannon Development deliberately
cut corners in the assessment of this project in promotiing the LNG
project without any strategic assessment. We now, therefore, fully
support the proposals of the McCarthy Report which recommended the
discontinuation of an independent Shannon Development at an annual
saving of €2 million to the Exchequer.
There are currently at least 4 conflicting Plans proposed for the
development of the Shannon Estuary:
Shannon Development does not receive any government funding and
operates entirely from the rental and sales income from its properties.
It owns the land on which the terminal would be built.
It obtained €493,000 from Shannon LNG before the land was even rezoned
without any Strategic Assessment (with its director John Brassil voting
to rezone the land 'Industrial' at Kerry County Council without
declaring any interest in Shannon Development).
We believe it even misrepresented its strategic role as a regional
development agency at the An Bord Pleanála Oral Hearing into the LNG
terminal by stating that:
“the company's brief
is to drive regional economic development in the wider Shannon area,
known as the Shannon Region ” .
This project, if it succeeds, will be the largest money-spinner for
Shannon Development, ensuring its economic survival as an organisation.
Shannon Development, as a property developer and landlord, with the
institutionalised culture of an estate agent, has
therefore lost its credibility in our eyes. Shannon Development’s level
of understanding and awareness of the strategic issues were highlighted
at Kerry County Council last Monday when it stated that Shannon LNG
We now fully support the proposals of the McCarthy Report which
recommended the discontinuation of an independent Shannon Development
at an annual saving of €2 million to the Exchequer. (see the McCarthy
Report Page 81-85)
To reinforce our point on mismanagement of state money by Shannon
Development, the agency has just developed a so-called “E-town” project
at Tarbert which is basically 8 houses with broadband connectivity at a
cost of €3 million euros. These
8 houses are now being sold for a total of €2,196,000
(4 at €239,000 and 4 at €310,000 ). An €800,000 loss of tax-payers'
money before any property is even sold has just evaporated into what is
an outdated concept of people working from houses with access to the
internet but possibly with the added charge of commercial rates on
those properties when they can do the exact same from their own homes.
All this is with the raw sewage outflow pipe to the Estuary nearby
because there is no sewage treatment plant in Tarbert.
Cork port, in 2001, commissioned a study to assess what the port
needed to provide in order to become a transhipment hub (Report on the
Establishment of the Port of Cork as a Transatlantic
Container and Trans-shipment Hub”, Nautical Enterprise Centre, Cork,
This is a relevant example of a port and region thinking strategically.
In other words, it was studying the physical conditions necessary to
have a transhipment hub, not the marketing conditions (which change
If any equivalent report has been undertaken by Shannon Development or
Shannon Foynes Port Company, then it has been kept very quiet.
According to the Commissioner of Irish lights, the navigable waters at the mouth of the Shannon
Estuary are only 315 metres wide.
At Christmas, a ship got caught in a buoy chain in this area for
several days. Shannon Foynes Port Company undertook a marine
navigational assessment to prove that ships could travel the Estuary
but did not undertake any marine LNG risk assessment to ascertain the
sterilising effect exclusion zones around LNG tankers would have on the
development of the Estuary as a whole or the cumulative impacts of such
It is impossible to assess the 4 different Plans for the Estuary in
order to realise the full potential of the Shannon Estuary Ports
- an independent marine LNG risk assessment
of the dangers and
effects of LNG spills on water (as supported by the European Court of
Human Rights for the Milford Haven LNG Plants) and
- an independent Strategic Environmental
Assessment (SEA) of the
cumulative impacts of the various Plans for the Shannon Estuary (as
supported by the European Commission).
Irreversible Strategic Projects should not be developed by cutting
corners or without any strategic planning.