Planning board gives green light to LNG pipeline

DÓNAL NOLAN dnolan@kerryman.ie

A NEW chapter in the history of energy supply in north Kerry is set to begin after last week's decision by An Bord Pleanála to greenlight a 26km gas pipeline that would connect the proposed Shannon LNG gas plant to the national grid.

The second major hurdle for Shannon LNG in constructing their proposed €500million gas plant on the landbank, the permission for the pipeline was welcomed by most in North Kerry — many seeing it as the only positive development in the region's economic circumstance of late.

With new Tarbert-Island owners, Endesa, committed to building a new gas-powered plant alongside the existing one and with an Bord Gáis committed to running the national gas grid southward through Listowel and Tralee towards Killarney, it is the region's only economic hope for many.

However, local protest groups — under the umbrella of Safety Before LNG — say the Bord's decision is a 'corruption of the planning process' due to the splitting of the gas terminal and gas pipeline in that process. They claim this was done to 'circumvent a cumulative impact assessment' of the entire project and have made a new challenge on the legality of the project. This has already been accepted by the Bord as a valid appeal and a decision on the matter is expected before May 11.

The pipeline would exit the gas terminal at Ralappane and travel the 26km underground as far as the nearest grid access at Leahy's near Foynes. For Tarbert Development Association, this week's news is very welcome. "We're relieved and delighted, though we're not surprised seeing that it's only 26km of 2,000 nationally," PRO John Fox told The Kerryman.

"With Endesa's plans to build a gas-powered electricity plant within the next three years, this could be the catalyst for the survival of North Kerry in this difficult times. Between all projects, up to 1,000 people could be employed here letting us ride out the recession. The only fly in the ointment is the appeal by the Safety Before LNG group, but the good news is that the decision on that will be known by May and we hope that will be the last of it," he said.

North Kerry TD, Jimmy Deenihan — who has called for a green energy park to be created in the area — said that Kerry could now become leaders in clean fuel.

"North Kerry can take the lead on green energy now and we will have to ensure the lead is not taken from us by our own lethargy or anything else.

"Importantly, this could also see Bord Gáis bringing gas into Listowel, through local villages, and it would be important to have customers there for them. Kerry Ingredients might see fit to convert to gas to incentivise this possibility," Deputy Deenihan said.

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