The Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) has welcomed the decision of the High Court to back the energy regulator’s insistence that the US energy giant Hess’s proposed Liquid Natural Gas terminal in the Shannon Estuary pay its share of the national pipeline system.
The company, which wants to ship cheap liquefied gas from the US to a proposed site in Kerry, had argued it should not have to pay the charges because it won’t be using part of the gas transmission network – the interconnectors with the UK. Some 99 per cent of the total Irish supply is imported from the UK through the two undersea interconnectors.
The judge pointed out that all natural gas currently distributed within the State for supply originates off–shore and the supplies are distributed over an on–shore pipeline network. Consequently, the regulator was entitled to regard the interconnectors as an integral part of this transmission infrastructure and to charge an appropriate fee.
Friends of the Irish Environment, who had taken a Judicial Review of the planning appeals board’s decision to give consent to the €600m project without a Strategic Environmental Assessment in 2008, issued a statement welcoming the Court ruling.
The Statement said that “This issue is just what the Strategic Environmental Assessment process was intended to address. An SEA deals with where in the country is the best place for key industrial activities and how to best fit them into the national infrastructure. The refusal of the authorities to do this and under pressure from local politicians has seen more than €51m spent on a project whose future is very now much in doubt. Hess has previously argued that annual fees of €75 million could accrue through what it termed this ‘price–distortion loophole”.
“SEAs are critical for Ireland’s development” the statement said “especially in the vital energy sector. Both fossil fuels and renewable energy – such as the haphazard development of wind farms – need a long–term national vision which can not be provided through assessing a single project through an Environmental Impact Assessment.”
FIE withdrew its case after four days in the High Court in 2011. Director Tony Lowes said “We simply didn’t have the resources to take on the State and an international company like Hess in the prohibitively expensive Irish courts. We would have needed an army of barristers.”
LNG World News Staff, December 20, 2013; Image: Shannon LNG