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For Immediate Release
Press Release November 9th 2020: 


Shannon LNG has all permissions to build its fracked gas import terminal quashed in the Irish High Court after 13-year battle

- Conclusion of legal process opens window for an Irish ban on the importation of fracked gas as agreed in the Programme for Government. 

Local campaigners in North Kerry in the South-West of Ireland are reacting with sheer delight today at the news that the Irish High Court has quashed all developement consent for the Shannon LNG US fracked gas import terminal on the Shannon Estuary. Shannon LNG and New Fortress Energy have now lost ALL acquired rights to import fracked gas into Ireland.

The decision by the Irish High Court to quash all development consent for the Shannon LNG fracked gas import terminal has completely vindicated the 13-year campaign position that planning permission should never have been given to Shannon LNG as the environmental assessment was not legally or property completed. We thank Friends of the Irish Environment for taking the case along with their wonderful legal team of solictor Fred Logue, barrister-at-law John Kenny and Senior Counsel James Devlin.

Local campaigners in Safety Before  LNG have dedicated this victory against Shannon LNG to the memory of encouraging and  tireless activist Tom O'Donovan from Tarbert, who sadly passed away in 2016 and who we know would have been thrilled to have been here with us today to celebrate the victory he always said we would have. We miss him so much today. 

The completion of the legal process which has seen Shannon LNG lose all development consents to build a fracked gas import terminal in Ireland, has now opened up a window of opportunity for Ireland to ban the importation of fracked gas. The Programme for Government agreed in June of this year by the coalition partners in the  new Irish Government stated "we do not support the imporation of fracked gas and shall develop a policy statment to establish that approach".

The Human Rights Clinic at NUI Galway has already provided  legal opinion that legislation to ban the imporation of fracked is fully compatible with EU and International (WTO/GATT) Trade Rules.

A ban on the imporation of fracked gas would also send a clear message that Ireland will not be a market for fracked gas from Northern Ireland, where 2 companies have applied for Petroleum licences to frack Nothern Ireland.

We believe that a ban on fracked gas imports proposed as an amendment to the Climate Bill currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny, will provide the government with the perfect opportunity to be the first country in the world to ban the imporation of fracked gas.

Time now for the 3 parties in Government to step up to the plate and implement the agreed Programme for Government by inserting a ban on fracked gas imports into the upcoming Climate Bill  making an amendment to the  Petroleum And Other Minerals Development Act 1960 to make it unlawful to import fracked gas into Ireland or to sell fracked gas within Ireland.

More to follow later as we soak up this amazing news!!!
There are so many people to thank for all the work in the campaign over the 13 years. So much time and effort from so many people locally and internationally. To all the legal teams who believed in us, to all the NGOs, all the politicians, journalists, scientists, activists and especially to the local people of North Kerry who were the real victims of the powerful fossil fuel lobby which uses its money and influence to undermine the work of government and evidenced-based decision making in a transparent manner.Thank you all.

We are ready for another 13 year battle if that is what it takes to stop fracked gas imports into Ireland.

Update November 10th 2020:
While soaking up the enormity of the decision  of the High Court decision quashing planning permission for the US fracked gas import terminal by  the powerful New Fortress Energy and Shannon LNG my mind wanders back to what it was that inspired this 13 year campaign. I think it was fear.  Most people remember the story of how the Nigerian Government hung 9 activists from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOPI)  to death on trumped up murder charges 25 years ago. Ken Saro-Wiwa and the others were fighting a campaign against Shell over the massive environmental damage Shell was causing in Ogoniland. And it turned out that Shell had bribed  witnesses, many of who later recanted, to give false testimony which lead to the blatant  murder of the Ogoni 9.
And then Shell came to Ireland. And Shell ran their project to build the Corrib gas terminal in the middle of shaky bogland 5 miles inland with the same untouchable attitude like they did in Nigeria. And we all watched, from the distance as they used the might and power of oil and gas  money to get whatever they wanted. And even the Irish Government folded under the pressure of the powerful Shell Corporation. One image sticks out with me, which was of 2 Irish policemen, one holding the 2 hands and the other the 2 legs of a protester and throwing him into a ditch with a big swinging motion like he was a bag of potatotes - an object, not a person. And it frightened me. And we watched while Shell got 5 local landowners - the Rossport 5 - sent to jail in Mayo because they  refused to allow Shell access their lands. And we watched while Shell had a security firm protect their interests in Mayo like an untouchable local militia. We watched as we saw how one of the former security guards who worked for Shell in the Corrib project ended up getting murdered in Bolivia. And it frightened us.

And we learned.

And then Shannon LNG came to Kerry, with promises of hundreds of jobs, and an economic boom and spending over 60 million Euros spinning great reports, paying big money to legal firms and engineering companies and environmental NGOs and oiling the wheels of public opinion in their favour and making it almost impossible for anybody to say anything. The privately-owned local media couldn't say enough great things about the project. They would pay lip service to concerns, but almost always finish up with the positive spin at the end of most reports or follow-up stories that undermined the general and well-founded issues of concerns raised. The company paid for trips for locals abroad to Spain and elsewhere on fact-finding tours which were nothing more than another way to buy off any local opposition. When my elderly aunt died here in Tarbert, I got a lovely mass card of condolence from a lady, while the same evening her husband was telling people in the local pub that there was now one less objector alive to worry about. And that did hurt - how normally gentle people could suddenly consider their neighbours as objects with labels rather than people and think that was an acceptable thing to say. And to say that if we challenged them in the courts that Shannon LNG would clean us out for every penny we had and that I should be burned out. And that made us wary and fearful and careful.

But we had learned from what happened with Shell in Mayo and Nigeria. That the oil and gas lobby can use its power and influence to undermine the work of government and turn normally wonderful people against their neighbours.

And then the frackers came to Ireland to frack for gas and tell us we were sitting on gas basins that could bring us untold riches. And once again we saw the same tactics being attempted by the powerful and untouchable oil and gas lobby.

But then we noticed a group in Leitrim called 'Love Leitrim', who with other wonderful campaigners throughout Ireland started making progress against the untouchable fossil fuel giants. And we learned from the affected communities in what we considered rich Pennsylvania, USA who were being killed from fracking in their own country, and how powerless they felt against the frackers. But the underdogs won against all the odds in Ireland.

And they got a ban on fracking into law in Ireland in 2017.

And we realised that they were being carried on the shoulders of the people of Nigeria and  Mayo  and Pennsylvania who went before them and that the country had finally woken up to the defence of affected communities and it brought us hope that the government would live up to its responsibilities.

One 'Love Leitrim' activist even had the courage to tell a full European commission Energy meeting in Brussels in May 2019 that New Fortress Energy had offered what was later referred to in the Irish parliament as a "bribe" to the Environmental NGO 'Friends of the Irish Environment' of one million euros cash to pull its case against the planning permission for Shannon LNG's fracked gas import terminal which the European Commission had put on its special 'Projects of Common Interest List'. But the Friends of the Irish Environment refused the money and won its case yesterday with the help of the wonderful legal team of Fred and James and John after a campaign lasting 12 years when first taken up by O Connell Clarke solicitor and the wonderful barrister Oisin Collins. And Oisin and Aoife O Connell were also completely vindicated yesterday by the High Court.  And they have inspired us all. And I was there in Brussels to witness that revelation and it was powerful and it was a message which did hit home with the European officials - because it was the truth, they knew it and they knew how even the European Commission was being played by the oil and gas lobby.

We see how fracking is now being attempted in Northern  Ireland in spite of all the irrefutable scientific evidence of the adverse public health and climate impacts of fracking; how even the current Minister for Infrastructure can have her husband working as the main public-facing PR liaison officer for one of the companies applying for a licence to frack Northern Ireland and not consider it a conflict of interest when she has to make political decisions on Fracking in the coming months;  and how we do not see even one politician in Northern Ireland question that possible conflict of interest.  'Fracking a fractured community' is how one campaigner referred to the plan to frack Northern Ireland and we know from what has gone before with Shell that the oil and gas lobby has the power and influence to undermine the work of government anywhere. But times are changing for the better. And the fear is lifting and we will not go quietly into the night. And we have our right to speak against injustices caused by frackers in Northern Ireland and anywhere else for that matter. And this is a position supported by the 2018 findings of  the Permanent People's Tribunal on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change.

We now know that yesterday's decision by the High Court to quash planning permission for the fracked gas import terminal in Kerry is only a first step. We know that fracking is accelerating global warming and that if we are to have any chance of mitigating climate change we must stop fracking everywhere. We want Ireland to lead the way now  in true climate leadership and become the first country in the world to ban the importation of fracked gas as was promised in the Irish Programme for Government.





Friends of the Irish Environment Press Release is as follows:

PRESS RELEASE
FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT
MONDAY 9 NOVEMBER, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

12-year legal battle quashes planning permission for Shannon LNG terminal
New planning legislation now required for extensions of permissions for major projects

Twelve years after losing their original case against the planning permission for a LNG terminal on the Shannon River, Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] today received a High Court order quashing An Bord Pleanala’s grant of permission and awarding costs in their favour. The proposed terminal was due to process Liquid Natural Gas [LNG] from the USA for consumption in Ireland and to be distributed throughout the EU.

While FIE’s 2008 High Court challenge was unsuccessful, that ten-year planning permission lapsed and the decision by An Bord Pleanala to renew the permission in 2018 was again challenged by FIE. The environmental charity argued that the extension of the period of a planning permission where development had not commenced triggered the requirement for assessment under the Habitats Directive and must allow for public consultation.

Decision ‘far reaching’
The decision has wide implications for major projects across Europe that require similar renewals and justifies the charity’s failed High Court case against the renewal of the planning permission for Dublin Airport’s third runway in 2017.

The State argued that any decision to extend the duration of a planning permission is part of a ‘single, uniform measure’ that was previously permitted in 2008, thus having legal certainty and so cannot now be the subject of a ‘collateral attack’.

A Preliminary Reference to the European Court of Justice [ECJ] was made by Irish High Court Justice Garret Simons on 1 February 2019 after a Judicial Review was brought by FIE. A Preliminary References is a decision of the European Court of Justice on the interpretation of European Union law given in response to a request from a Court of an EU Member State. It is the final arbiter in these matters.
In a 29 page submissions to the ECJ An Bord Pleanala had argued that ‘the duration of a planning permission—and the grant of an extension of the duration of a planning permission—is a matter for national law alone, within the discretion and procedural autonomy of Member State’ and that the developer had the right to rely on his or hers original planning permission.

Irish planning law will need revision
Ireland’s failure to implement the Court of Justice’s 2007 decision condemning our planning legislation was cited in the Reference, dated 9 September 2020, as leading to a situation whereby ‘the original consent was not preceded by an assessment containing complete, precise and definitive conclusions capable of removing all reasonable scientific doubt as to the effects of the proposed works on those sites’.
FIE’s Tony Lowes said that ‘The State has spent significant funding on defending a fracked gas terminal that would have locked Ireland into a dead-end investment in fossil fuels for another generation. That money that could usefully have been spent on ‘stimulating economic activity for those areas which were expecting economic development arising from new fossil fuel infrastructure’, as promised in the Program for Government.

The group has written to the Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan, offering to meet with him ‘to examine the lessons of the case and ways to avoid such long and protracted legal battles in the future.’
Mr Lowes pointed out that ‘There is now an urgent need for new legislation to bring Ireland’s planning code into compliance with this judgment so that extensions of duration are properly assessed and the public can make observations on extensions and if necessary challenge them if they believe they have not been done correctly. We hope Ireland has learned its lesson and this time around will act swiftly to implement the decision’.

‘There are probably few things more frustrating in life than knowing you are right and being unable to prove it – the situation we have been in for the last 12 years. We owe a great debt to our legal representatives– and to the European Court of Justice.’

Comment: Fred Logue , FP Logue Solicitors, 353 (0)87 1316023
Tony Lowes, Friends of the Irish Environment 353 (0)87 2176316

Friends of the Irish Environment were represented by F. Logue, Solicitor, J. Kenny, Barrister-at-Law, and J. Devlin, Senior Counsel.
The 2008 Judicial Review was taken by O’Connell Clarke, represented by Oisin Collins, Barrister- at Law. No: 2008 597 JR
Irish Courts: Friends of the Irish Environment v An Bord Pleanala and Shannon LNG High Court Record No: 2018/734 JR
ECJ: Court of Justice C 254/19, 9 September 2020






End.
Contact:
John McElligott
Safety Before LNG
(087-2804474)
SafetyBeforeLNG@hotmail.com



Notes for Editor:

            The relevant wording in the Programme for Government is as follows:

“We will:...

Support the tightening of the sustainability assessment rules prior to the approval of any projects on the EU PCI list

As Ireland moves towards carbon neutrality, we do not believe that it makes sense to develop LNG gas import terminals importing fracked gas, accordingly we shall withdraw the Shannon LNG terminal from the EU Projects of Common Interest  list in 2021.

We do not support the importation of fracked gas and shall develop a policy statement to establish that approach.  

We will ensure that local development plans are developed to stimulate economic activity for those areas which were expecting economic development arising from new fossil fuel infrastructure. As part of that we will consider the potential of the Shannon Estuary in terms of regional economic development across transport and logistics, manufacturing, renewable energy and tourism, and develop a strategy to achieve that potential with support from the Exchequer. 

We are conscious of the limitations of examining greenhouse gas emissions solely on a production basis. We will conduct a review of greenhouse gas emissions on a consumption basis, with a goal of ensuring that Irish and EU action to reduce emissions supports emission reductions globally, as well as on our own territories” 

In a sign of growing national consensus around the issue, it was revealed in April that almost half of the TDs elected to the Dail have signed a pledge stating that they were "opposed to the importation of US fracked Gas into Ireland via LNG import terminals".

Before the election, in its #Pledge4Climate campaign environmental  NGOS, 'Love Leitrim' , 'Friends of the Earth' and 'Safety Before LNG' obtained support from at least 193  candidates for the General election held on February 8th, 2020, for the pledge which stated:

 
"I am opposed to the importation of US fracked Gas into Ireland via LNG import terminals. If elected, I, as a T.D., will work to find a way in the next Dail to prevent fracked Gas from entering the Irish energy mix via fixed or floating LNG terminals. I am opposed to fracking in Northern Ireland .If elected, I, as a T.D., will work constructively in the next Dail to prevent fracking from taking place in Northern Ireland".

 74 of those candidates got elected and this included all the elected T.D.s from the Labour Party, The Social Democrats,  People Before Profit, The Green Party, Independents for Change, and Sinn Fein,  along with leading elected Fianna Fail and Fine Gael T.D.s Eamon O'Cuiv, Marc McSharry and Frank Feighan.

The Fine Gael Deputy Leader, Tanaiste Simon Coveney stated on June 20th 2020: 

“We have banned fracking in Ireland and we are not going to have fracked gas produced in Ireland as part of our energy mix and so  the thinking in relation to Shannon LNG which is largely being proposed as a storage mechanism for fracked gas to be imported from the US is something that wasn't consistent with that policy direction. But I can assure you energy security is very much a part of our policy discussion and I think we can be really ambitious in terms of  a shift to renewables, while at the same time continuing to have a reliance on gas as we move to a new energy future which clearly the rest of the world also needs to move to but Ireland can be a world leader on, given the natural resources we have, particularly in wind  offshore and onshore"”

 These numbers were boosted by the clear positions against Fracking taken by Fianna Fail in the Dail on October 3rd, 2019 "in recognition of the health and climate impacts of exploiting shale gas reserves".

 Already, on October 3rd 2019, the Majority of Ireland's MEPs had told the European Commission not to allow fracked gas into Ireland via the Projects of Common Interest list. The Irish MEPs were supporting a motion co-signed by 44 TDs initiated by Brid Smith of 'People Before Profit', submitted to the Dail on September 26th, 2019 calling on the Irish Government:

 
"to remove any project from the proposed list of Projects of Common Interest that could support the building of an LNG facility in Ireland that will act as a gateway for fracked gas entering the Irish energy mix; and − to build support in Europe to prioritise sustainability criteria in the assessment of candidate PCI projects, that will address fossil fuel lock in and the long-term impacts of fracked gas in the European energy mix, given the expected change in climatic conditions."

On November 15th, 2019, at  the Youth Assembly on Climate Change held in Dail Eireann, Roisin Keegan-O'Rourke  made an appeal to the Irish public on behalf of communities in America and said it was "a justice as well as a climate issue" The ban is currently now one of 10 recommendations included in Ireland’s First Youth Proclamation on Climate. A ban in the Programme For Government means justice for those communities, that their words have been heard and it is an acknowledgement of the work of Ireland’s youth movement, including it's Youth Assembly and climate strikers. Roisin Keegan-O’Rourke informed the House that the Youth Assembly was proposing:

 
"for Ireland to ban the importation of fracked gas and invest solely in renewables

 On November 27th, 2019, in a signal of Government softening on the issue, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, speaking in the Dail stated:

 
"The Government banned fracking in Ireland, through a Private Members' Bill introduced by my colleague, Deputy McLoughlin. I am not sure whether we are in a position to ban the import of fracked  gas from other jurisdictions. I will have to check it out"

 On February 12th, 2020  the majority of Irish MEPs (including Fine Gael's Maria Walsh) voted against the 4th PCI list which included the proposed Shannon LNG fracked gas import project.

 The Department of Environment  announced a major review into the security and sustainability of Ireland's energy supply but under the outdated presumption that gas is considered  "as the lowest CO2 emitting fossil fuel" which is pre-judging the outcome and runs contrary to the accepted scientific testimony at the Climate Committee meeting last year that importing fracked gas from the US has a carbon-equivalent footprint 44% greater than that of the coal of Moneypoint (without even considering the emissions from the LNG transport itself) . This is because the future review proposed by the Department does not consider the most potent emissions from leaked methane upstream - the  non-territorial emissions - from fracking and is only comparing the emissions released when coal and gas are burned. That is called gaming the system by setting the parameters of the study to get the outcome the Department wants and that is why political oversight of climate assessments are necessary in order to have evidence-based decision making in a transparent manner.

 The assessment of Methane Emissions promised by the European Commission for the 5th PCI list of projects in two years time is also gaming the system and pre-judging the assessment of fracked gas imports by only assessing the emissions taking place in the European Union and not the full life-cycle, non-territorial emissions from US fracked gas imports.

 Over 150 NGOS and academics have so far supported our proposed LNG energy policy statement wording to be included in the Programme for Government which is:

 
"Liquefied Natural Gas

The new Government is not supportive of new fossil fuel infrastructure in the form of LNG import terminals that could facilitate the entry of unconventional liquefied natural gas into the Irish energy mix. Such imports may create a functional interdependence between Irish energy consumption and global warming due to the high levels of non-territorial methane emissions linked to the exploitation of global shale gas resources."

 
A national consensus is building that there is no longer any tolerance for the importation of fracked gas into Ireland, given that we have already banned fracking in Ireland due to the negative health and climate impacts.

Shannon LNG now has no valid planning permission after today's ruling  by the Irish  High Court. It's permission for the pipeline from Tarbert to Foynes expired after 5 years.