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DÓNAL NOLAN dnolan@kerryman.ie

A make or break decision on the Shannon LNG project due in the next week from the Commission for Energy Regulation.

A DECISION that could make or break the entire Shannon LNG project is to be made by the end of the week when the Commission for Energy Regulation is expected to announce its plans for levies on the use of gas pipes between the UK and Ireland.

Hundreds of jobs will be created if the project is given the go ahead in what could lead to a transformation in the economy of north Kerry. Locals are waiting with bated breath this week for the announcement as the entire future of the LNG project hangs on the word of the regulator.

If Shannon LNG are forced to pay a large tarriff towards the upkeep of the gas pipes, the company will simply walk away from its plans for the landbank, The Kerryman understands. However, if faced with a relatively modest tarriff or none at all, the company will then decide whether or not to commit to a final investment that would see the gas plant taking shape.

The CER'S announcement at the end of the week, however, is a preliminary step and will be followed by a month-long public consultation period after which it may be revised, if necessary, CER spokesperson Denis Cagney said.

Meanwhile, locals say the Government still has the power to help Shannon LNG make its final decision to invest in the project here.

While Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte is of the view that he cannot bring his influence to bear on the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) as it is an independent body, the agency told The Kerryman that there is a legislative basis for it to accept direction on policy.

"This is a policy matter and the government has the power to make it happen if it is so minded, as the CER has told us," Tarbert Development Association's John Fox said. "The delays in the project's delivery from the state wouldn't be acceptable even in a climate of full employment. We have over 17,000 people unemployed in the county now making these delays totally unacceptable, not to mention inexplicable.

"If there is not a decision that is favourable to all parties, the CER, the taxpayer, Shannon LNG it will be a source of major disappointment. It will mean that more people will leave this country from Kerry as there just isn't employment here," Mr Fox said.

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