THE Friends of the Irish Environment have welcomed the High Court ruling which will oblige Shannon LNG to pay towards the maintenance of the Ireland-UK gas interconnector.
The company, which has plans to open a natural liquid gas processing plant in Tarbert Ballylongford, had sought a judicial review, asserting that it did not intend to use the gas interconnector and therefore should not be obliged to pay tariffs. The company also argued that the tariff was anti-competitive and would cost between €50m and €85m a year.
However in his ruling last week, Mr Justice John Cooke found that the interconnector was an integral part of the gas grid network and the Commission for Energy Regulator (CER) was entitled to levy tariffs.
The Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) however, pointed out that, had a Strategic Environmental Assessment been carried out in the first place, the current debacle could have been avoided. FIE were highly critical that planning permission was given to Shannon LNG without a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and sought a judicial review on the matter before they were forced to abandon it on the grounds of costs.
“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,” they said in a statement.
A local lobby group, Safety Before LNG, has also welcomed the High Court ruling.
“In a David-and-Goliath battle and to the sheer delight of many locals the outlawing of a price-distortion loophole will likely stop the proposed Shannon LNG project in its tracks because the company behind it will no longer have a monopoly advantage from a weakness in the Irish gas pricing system,” their statement says.
The unnamed spokesman points out that Bord Gais Networks, the ESRI, ESB Energy International, the National Energy Association of Ireland (NEAI) and even the owners of the local power station at Tarbert (Endesa), all supported the Regulator’s decision on tariffs. “The ESB EI even went so far as to accuse new entrants (like Shannon LNG and Shell) of “free-riding” on the services that the gas interconnector provides. It would seem that the local pro-LNG media and narrowly-focussed local campaigning lobby will, in all probability, never be able to grasp the full consequences of their short-term mind set,” he says.
Meanwhile, the company itself has still not reacted to the latest development. A spokesman for Shannon LNG said last week they would examine the ruling in detail. However, he was unable to add anything this week.
Local organisations, such as Tarbert Development Association and Ballylongford Enterprise Association as well as a group of residents in Kilcolgan, have backed the gas project, which was anticipated to involve an investment of some €600m and create up to 450 jobs, 400 of these during construction. The estuary is designated as an energy hub in the