'Gas plant is in keeping with policy'
Judgement in the environmental challenge to the Shannon LNG gas plan will be delivered in little over a week. Judge Garret Simons is expected to deliver his judgement on the matter at 10.30am on Friday, February 15, next.
The judgement will pave the way for either the development of a €500-million terminal supporters hail as the answer to all the region's economic woes - or a major victory for environmental interests concerned over what they see as a threat to the State policy of fossil fuel divestment; pending further challenge.
The latter point formed the brunt of the Friends of the Irish Environment judicial review challenge of the Bord Pleanála decision last week. But the Shannon LNG legal team mounted a comprehensive argument as to how the plant is - as they put it -fully 'in keeping' with national energy policy.
Friends of the Irish Environment succeeded in securing the review, and argued in the hearing which got underway last week that the Bord should not have granted the planning extension due to the Climate Change Act of 2015.
FIE maintain that all public bodies would have regard to both the National Mitigation Plan and National Transition Objectives; government policies steering the move to a low carbon economy.
FIE counsel James Devlin SC said the Act was a major development since planning was originally granted by An Bord back in 2008. In its submission to the review, Shannon LNG's legal team said the gas plant is fully in keeping with national energy policy.
Shannon LNG counsel Jarlath Fitzsimons SC said the development of the plant is fully supported by a number of draft and ratified State policies:
• The draft National Energy and Climate Plan 2021 - 2030; finding the development of an LNG terminal would 'improve energy security' through direct access to the global market
• The National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan which hold the development of gas infrastructure as key to achieving energy security for the State, and
• A study by Gas Networks Ireland proposing a floating LNG terminal as the most economic measure towards attaining security and diversification of gas supply.
The Government is supportive of the gas industry in general with Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton saying as recently as last month that gas has the 'potential' to seriously empower the State in meeting its low-carbon economy targets - by replacing more intensive CO2 fuels.