Families feel betrayed by bureaucracy

Dnal Nolan

BETRAYAL is the overiding feeling among people living in the area of the Ballylongford landbank over the delay in the LNG gas terminal project as they issue an urgent appeal for action from politicians on the matter.

Members the newly formed Kilcolgan and District Residents' Association group say the vast majority of people living in the area of the landbank feel deeply let down over the latest, energy-regulation obstacle to gas plant project that promises to revitalise the local economy.

Young people from the area have put plans to emigrate on hold in the hope of positive news on the development of the gas plant and the prospect of the construction jobs it would bring, but they cannot wait much longer, they say.

"We feel betrayed by the CER decision," Kilcolgan and District Resident's Association Chairperson Teresa Parkinson said. "Nobody was ever told about this €50 million charge until 2011. It seems as if it came out of nowhere at the last minute and we are urgently asking our politicians and the State now to reverse this decision for the good of jobs which we're crying out for here."

Most families have been hit by emigration in the area, with Teresa's own son on the point of returning to the US for seasonal work. "Our young adults simply aren't around anymore and those who remain can't hold on much longer as there is nothing here for them. I know of another man who has left his family behind this week to go to Australia, a man who had been waiting and waiting for some good news on the LNG plant," she said.

What is causing most bitterness over the ongoing delays is the Commission for Energy Regulation's requirement that Shannon LNG would pay annual tarrifs in the region of €50 million towards the cost of gas pipelines between Ireland and the UK. The decision was announced in 2011 just as it appeared work on the plant might finally begin following a number of protracted bureaucratic delays.

Shannon LNG say the tarrif is unfair as they would never use the pipelines with the UK. The company now awaits the outcome of a High Court judicial review they recently initiated over the CER's decision.

However, the CER maintains its first concern is the protection of Irish energy consumers. It is argued that the price of gas could be pushed up if LNG imports gas through Ballylongford because the cost of operating the gas pipeline from the UK would still have to be borne by existing gas suppliers such as Bord Gais, who would then have to pass a higher cost penalty on to their customers.