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An Bord Pleanála must explain why Government Policy on LNG infrastructure was seemingly ignored

15 Sep 2021

An Bord Pleanála designated Shannon LNG as “strategic infrastructure” a week after new Government Policy Statement introduced a moratorium on LNG development

An Bord Pleanála designated Shannon LNG as “strategic infrastructure” a week after new Government Policy Statement introduced a moratorium on LNG development

Friends of the Earth has written to An Bord Pleanála [1] seeking an explanation as to why the planning authority took a decision to designate Shannon LNG as strategic infrastructure one week after receiving notification of a new Government Policy Statement which specifically stated “it would not be appropriate for the development of any LNG terminals in Ireland to be permitted or proceeded with”. The environmental organization has also written to the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien TD [2], who has responsibility for planning, and to the Minister for Environment, Eamon Ryan TD [3], who has responsibility for the Government Policy Statement.

Documents released to local campaigners under AIE, a FOI-style process for environmental information [4], show that the Department of Housing notified the Bord of the new policy on Wednesday 26th May. Yet at a meeting a week later, on Wednesday 2nd June, the Bord went ahead and took a decision to designate Shannon LNG as strategic infrastructure, allowing the company to bypass the local council and apply directly to the Bord. Moreover, according to an email from the Department of Housing to the Department of the Environment on 27th May, the Chairperson of the Bord appears to have effectively informed the Department that he intended to not consider the policy until a full planning application was received.

These revelations come as the Minister for the Environment plans to address the Energy Ireland conference tomorrow, 15th September, on the topic of “towards a net zero carbon future”.

Commenting, Jerry Mac Evilly, Head of Policy at Friends of the Earth, said:

“At best there is a complete lack of transparency about how An Bord Pleanála had regard to Government policy in making its decision on Shannon LNG, something it is obliged to do by law. At worst the Bord decided to ignore Government Policy by deciding to not consider it in this case.

“It is now imperative that An Bord Pleanála clarify how they applied Government Policy in making their decision on Shannon LNG. Did the Chairperson tell the rest of the Bord that he had been notified of a new Policy Statement? Did the Bord decide not to consider it?

“The Chairperson or the Bord may be of the view that this was only a procedural decision and not on the merits of the application. But the criteria used to determine whether a projects qualifies as strategic, and the material presented to the Bord by Shannon LNG seeking that designation, go to the heart of the issues covered by the Policy Statement on fracked gas and LNG approved by Government on 18th May. “It is simply not good enough that the Bord would decide to designate Shannon LNG without considering relevant government policy. Equally, if they did consider the Policy Statement on fracked gas, it is not good enough that they granted the designation without explaining the basis for that decision given the clarity of government policy.

“The lack of any explanation, let alone a satisfactory one, is an invitation for someone to take a judicial review to examine the basis of their decision. “Equally, it is essential that Ministers O’Brien and Ryan clarify what steps they intend to take to ensure that An Bord Pleanála has due regard to Government Policy, as it is obliged to do under the Planning Acts.”

ENDS

Notes:

  1. Friends of the Earth’s letter to An Bord Pleanála is available at this link: https://www.foe.ie/assets/files/pdf/letter_to_abp_re_application_of_government_policy_statement_on_fracked_gas_and_strategic_infrastructure_designation.pdf
  2. Friends of the Earth’s letter to Minister O’Brien is available at this link: https://www.foe.ie/assets/files/pdf/20210903_minister_obrien_-_abp_and_policy_statement_on_fracked_gas_imports_-_letter_-_for_submission.pdf
  3. Friends of the Earth’s letter to Minister Ryan is available at this link: https://www.foe.ie/assets/files/pdf/20210907_minister_ryan__-_abp_and_policy_statement_on_fracked_gas_imports_-_letter_-_for_submission.pdf
  4. The information released under AIE to the campaign group Safety Before LNG can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1um2MLkqjzi37bUF3oAcpCHd2hJOvLASBgLOJOJ6Fq1c/edit?usp=sharing

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