Tensions over carbon emission measures intensified further last night as a Fianna Fáil minister came out in support of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant which a US firm wants to build on the southern tip of the Shannon Estuary.
An Bord Pleanála is due to give a decision on the application by New Fortress Energy (NFE) to build a €650m LNG facility on a 600-acre Kerry site it acquired in 2018 from former state agency Shannon Developmment.
The company applied directly for planning to An Bord Pleanála under provisions of the Planning & Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006.
A decision is due in the first two weeks of September.
A document agreed with the Green Party ahead of the Government being formed pledged not to support the project. However, last week Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government was considering an LNG terminal as an energy source for the future.
Mr Martin said LNG “simply has to be considered” in the context of the energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine.
“The Programme for Government allows for LNG but without fracking. In that context, I think we will have to give consideration to LNG, given the energy security issue that has arisen from the war,” he added.
Junior minister for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins said current international fuel demands mean a change of direction is now needed.
He said: “I support the LNG plan and I feel the Government must now reconsider the whole strategy in light of the geopolitical changes which have suddenly gripped Europe arising out of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The new circumstances arising from Russia’s dominant position with regard to control of gas supplies into Europe need urgent action to secure our supplies of gas. The Department of Energy says half our electricity comes from gas-powered stations.”
He added that all across Europe, governments are looking to liquefied natural gas.
“We must grasp this opportunity presented by New Fortress. Everything is in place once the planning is given the green light,” Mr Collins said.
“The agreement by government was not to support a LNG facility on the Shannon Estuary. That does not mean we should block or hinder such a facility.”
As well as helping with the fuel crisis, a new LNG facility near Ballylongford would enhance the Shannon Estuary’s position as a shipping hub, as designated by the EU.
Last week environmentalists set up a protest camp near the LNG site with further pickets expected to be held.
Sam Abdalla of NFE said: “The proposed development would create approximately 70 long-term direct jobs and an average of approximately 270 construction jobs over a three-year construction period.”