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For Immediate Release
Press Release November 28th 2022:


IRREGULAR PAYMENTS of €4.1 million to Kerry County Council by Shannon LNG raise very serious ethical questions
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County Development Plan compromised and tainted by payments which Fine Gael Councillor Jim Finucane says were "good faith contributions made by a company that was committed to the area"

Controversial Shannon LNG's payments of millions of euros to Kerry County Council before it lodged its planning application compromises and taints the Kerry County Development Plan, local activists fear. 'Safety Before LNG' says that the highly irregular payments need to be fully and independently investigated.

Shannon LNG has paid €4,103,625 to date to Kerry County Council as possible development contributions for road widening in Tarbert. A question mark is hanging over the Council on whether or not it will have to pay that more-than €4 million back to Shannon LNG if the development does not go ahead?

Kerry County Council requested and was paid over €2.4 million by Shannon LNG after its planning permission for an onshore LNG terminal expired in 2018 and before it lodged a new planning application for a floating LNG terminal and 600 MW Power Station in Tarbert in 2021.

We are extremely concerned about the implications and consequences of Shannon LNG paying millions of euros to Kerry County Council at a point in time when it was not obliged to do so and before it lodged a new planning application.

Fine Gael Councillor Jim Finucane told the Irish Independent Newspaper that these payments were "good faith" contributions made by a company that was committed to the area. This defence by a Fine Gael politician of irregular payments of millions of euros to the council is unacceptable in this day and age. Is he taking the people for fools, we ask?

Shannon LNG still had a valid planning permission to construct a 500 MW power station next to the onshore terminal but the power station was so intrinsically linked to the proposed terminal it was questionable if the power station could ever be built as planned if the terminal could not go ahead. But Shannon LNG paid the money anyway. All of this €2.4 million was paid after Shannon LNG held its first pre-application planning meeting with Kerry County Council, on January 24th 2020, concerning the new application for Strategic Infrastructure Status it had lodged at An Bord Pleanála on March 20th, 2019 for a Floating LNG terminal and power station.

Even after having the confirmation in the High Court in November 2020 that Shannon LNG had lost all existing planning consent for the onshore LNG terminal since 2018 Shannon LNG, nevertheless, paid €1,828,625 to Kerry County Council before it lodged a new planning application on August 27th 2021 for a floating LNG terminal and 600 MW power plant. Kerry County Council, a prescribed body, ended up supporting the planning application at An Bord Pleanála at its October 18th 2021 meeting..

Figures detailed in an AIE response from Kerry County Council have revealed that the local authority requested and was paid 7 payments totalling €4,103,625 by Shannon LNG since 2009. The latest payment of €578,625 was on August 18th, 2021 - 9 days before Shannon LNG lodged its planning application on August 27th 2021 with Kerry County Council support.

On one occasion, on January 19th 2021, Kerry County Council actually received €625,000 from Shannon LNG on the very same day it held a formal pre-application planning meeting with Shannon LNG on a planning application it had not yet lodged.

This is a summary of the payments from the AIE response:

LNG payments
Background:
In 2008 Shannon LNG obtained a 10-year planning permission which included an obligation to pay a development contribution for the widening of the L-1010 road from Tarbert village to the site. It initially paid €1.65 million in 2009 but no works were started by the Council in the 10 years during which this planning consent was valid.

On July 9th, 2013, Shannon LNG also obtained a 10-year planning permission for a 500 MW Power station adjacent to the LNG terminal. This planning consent also had an obligation to pay a development contribution for the widening of the same L-1010 road from Tarbert village. The power plant, however, was so intrinsically linked to the onshore LNG terminal that it had a condition that “The electricity generation facility shall not operate commercially prior to the commissioning of the LNG terminal”. When the onshore terminal planning expired then the power station, as applied for, could not be built as planned very easily as the onshore LNG terminal to which it was linked as planned would never be built. Planning permission for the power station, in a sense, expired de facto when the onshore terminal planning expired.


Road-widening works on the same local road from Tarbert as far as another planning project - an Eirgrid Substation - started in September/October 2020.

Planning permission had expired on Shannon LNG's terminal on March 31st 2018, but before it expired, Shannon LNG applied for a 5-year extension of planning consent on 22nd September 2017, which was approved by An Bord Pleanála on 13th July 2018 and then appealed to the High Court on September 17th 2018. On February 15th 2019, the High Court ordered that no works be carried out and it was confirmed that Shannon LNG had lost all development consent in the High Court on November 9th, 2020.

On 25th February 2020, after the Judge had ordered all works to stop (they hadn’t even started in reality), however, and while going through the high court, Shannon LNG paid another €625,000 to Kerry County Council.

On March 20th, 2019, Shannon LNG lodged a new application for Strategic Infrastructure Status at An Bord Pleanála for a Floating LNG terminal and new Power Station. It held its first pre-application planning meeting with Kerry County Council, on January 24th 2020, concerning its new application. At that point in time, would Kerry County Council not have known that there was no intention to go ahead with any of the existing development consents for which it took development contributions totalling over €4 million anyway?

The Payments
Even after having the confirmation in the High Court in November 2020 that Shannon LNG had lost all planning consent for the LNG terminal since 2018, Shannon LNG, nevertheless, paid another €1,828,625 to Kerry County Council BEFORE it lodged a new planning application on August 27th 2021 .

On the day of one of their pre-application planning meetings with Kerry County Council, on January 19th 2021, Shannon LNG paid the Council €625,000

Pre-sonsultation meeting

It may be very difficult to objectively accept that Kerry County Council could have been neutral when it was concluded in the pre-application meeting of January 19th 2021, the same day it received the €625,000 from the applicant, that
“the proposed site is referenced in the new Listowel MD LAP 2020-2026, and also advised that the existing policies of the Kerry County Development Plan remain in place”.

The Listowel Municipal District Local Area Plan 2020-2026 was actually adopted on 21st September 2020 - stating how Shannon LNG would have a “significant positive impact” - just 8 months after the council received its first payment of €625,000 in over 10 years from Shannon LNG on the 25th February 2020.

Of most concern is the paying of millions of euros for roadworks by Shannon LNG that would benefit its future planning application to a local authority involved in all aspects of the decision-making process as a prescribed body via the local and county development plans and submissions directly to An Bord Pleanála. One question that arises is whether or not the council was entitled to receive any contribution from the developer for 2 planning developments where there was an almost-certain likelihood they would not be built as applied for and whether or not Shannon LNG should have paid over €2.4 million to the council when they would not or could not, in all likelihood, build either development as originally planned?

Another real concern is whether or not Kerry County Council could have been neutral when it updated the Kerry County Development Plan 2022-2028 to support Shannon LNG, at a time when it was against Government Policy, with this objective:

KCDP 12-3 Facilitate the expansion of the gas network, including the facilitation of a gas importation facility in the Tarbert/Ballylongford Landbank, and the expansion of the network to the Kerry Hub and Knowledge Triangle settlements of Tralee, Killarney and Killorglin.

The County Development Plan will be heavily depended upon by An Bord Pleanála as it decides on the Shannon LNG planning application.

It would be very concerning if Kerry County Council asked for and was paid €2.4 million or that Shannon LNG gave €2.4 million if they had strong doubts that the development would in all likelihood no longer be built as per the planning application and would need to go through a new planning process. The credibility of the Kerry County Development Plan in favour of Shannon LNG for the creation of a Shannon Estuary Sacrifice Zone now risks being brought into disrepute. If true, would it not represent serious corruption at a local government level?

Kerry County Council is a prescribed body for this planning application. It begs the question why it would accept any money from a planning applicant while going through the planning process?

A big concern locally is whehter this money has to be paid back to Shannon LNG if it does not get planning permission.

New Fortress Energy’s Money Offers - a trend?
Shannon LNG (owned by New Fortress Energy) also allegedly unsuccessfully offered what was described in the Dáil as a bribe essentially of €1 million to an environmental NGO as a settlement to prevent the illegal An Bord Pleanála decision giving an extension of planning to Shannon LNG being overturned in the High Court. But the NGO (Friends of the Irish Environment), it was claimed - the last man standing - apparently refused the money as a legal settlement and went on to win its case against Shannon LNG.

There are also claims emanating from the US that New Fortress Energy, which was awarded two special permits by the Trump Administration to haul hazardous liquified natural gas (LNG), including by rail, along Florida’s east coast, apparently forgave more than $100 million in debt owed by President Trump. The claims continue that although New Fortress Energy owner Wes Edens’ modest political contributions skew mostly to Democrats, Fortress also loaned $57 million in October 2017 to the Kushner Companies, run by Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. We expect, however, that those claims could not possibly be true because the consequences would be enormous.

Previous owner of Shannon LNG, Paddy Power, from Tralee - now living in Dublin - and his family are reported to have received over US $16.7 million in a buyout deal from New Fortress Energy in 2020 and are due to receive another $9.9 million once the first gas is supplied to the proposed LNG terminal.

In May 2022, Wes Edens lied to the Taoiseach in an open letter posted to every house in North Kerry when he wrote "Planning approval for the 26 km gas pipeline to connect to the GNI Grid has been secured". The pipeline consent expired in 2014!

Most disgraceful of all, locally is the fact that the entire 600-acre site of the proposed LNG terminal strategic public land in North Kerry (under the control of Shannon Group State Body) were sold to Wes Edens’ Shannon LNG for €25 million in late 2021 after the new planning application for theLNG terminal was lodged in August 2021 by Shannon LNG, contrary to the official government policy on the importation of fracked gas published on May 18th, 2021 in place at the time.

The policy statement declares that "Ireland imports much of its natural gas via the two
interconnector pipelines from Moffat in Scotland, which provide the majority of natural gas currently used in Ireland. Given the level of fracked gas in the imports from Scotland is considered very low, the highest risk of fracked gas being imported into Ireland on a large-scale would be via liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, if any were to be constructed". The policy statement concludes that “pending the outcome of the review of the security of energy supply of Ireland’s electricity and natural gas systems, it would not be appropriate for the development of any LNG terminals in Ireland to be permitted or proceeded with”.


Kerry County Council Budget
There is no easily-identifiable mention in the 2021 Adopted Budget for Kerry Council for 2020 or 2021 of the monies received from Shannon LNG
KCC Budget

€11 million investment by Shannon LNG
Councillor Mike Kennelly claimed on June 23rd 2021

“€11 million investment by New Fortress Energy to construct 4.5KM of new road, footpath, public lighting, from Tarbert Comprehensive School to the entrance to the Tarbert-Ballylongford landbank. €3 million first phase which will be finished in July. The public need to be informed of the investment by this company who have confirmed that they are going back looking for planning permission to bring jobs and an energy supply not just to North Kerry but to Ireland of a clean gas supply with 100s of jobs at construction and unlimited jobs with 8 data bases. Please show your support for this project that will be transformative for North Kerry”.

Mike Kennelly


Timeline

31st March 2008 Shannon LNG get planning permission Condition 8 obliges the payment of a development contribution for roadworks
22/06/2009 Shannon LNG pays Kerry County Council
€150,000
Land Acquisition and Road Widening
08/12/2009 Shannon LNG pays Kerry County Council
€1,500,000
Land Acquisition and Road Widening
09/07/2013 Permission granted for a CHP power plant adjacent to the LNG terminal

Condition 5: The electricity generation facility shall not operate commercially prior to the commissioning of the LNG terminal
Condition 27:
The developer shall pay to the planning authority a financial contribution as a special contribution under section 48(2)(c) of the Planning and Development Act 2000 in respect of: (a) Upgrading the public water infrastructure serving the site to a 200-millimetre diameter Class C watermain. (b) Upgrading and widening the L1010 Coast Road to the standard required to facilitate the project. (c) Parking restrictions along Bridewell Street in the vicinity of the junction with the N67(Ferry Port Road) and N69 (Listowel to Tarbert Road). The amount of the contribution shall be agreed between the planning authority and the developer or, in default of such agreement, the matter shall be referred to the Board for determination. The contribution shall be paid prior to the commencement of the development or in such phased payments as the planning authority may facilitate and shall be updated at the time of payment in accordance with changes in the Wholesale Price Index – Building and Construction (Capital Goods), published by the Central Statistics Office. (In the event of the specified infrastructure benefiting subsequent developments, contributions arising shall be apportioned to each development. While the entire contribution is payable, as the works are immediately required for the current development, on completion of subsequent developments, the current developer shall receive the benefit of development contributions as apportioned).
22nd September 2017 Shannon LNG applies for extension of 10-year planning permission
31st March 2018 Original Shannon LNG planning expires €1,650,000 paid by Shannon LNG to Kerry County Council to date for road widening works never completed in the 10 years since planning had been given
13th July 2018 An Bord Pleanála gives 5 year extension to the planning permission
September 17th 2018 An Bord Pleanála decision to extend planning permission is appealed to the High Court
Sometime in 2019 or 2020 Shannon LNG (owned by New Fortress Energy) also allegedly unsuccessfully offered what was described in the Dáil as a bribe of €1 million to an environmental NGO as a settlement to prevent the illegal An Bord Pleanála decision giving an extension of planning to Shannon LNG being overturned in the High Court
February 15th 2019 February 15th 2019, the High Court ordered that no works be carried out
March 20th, 2019 Shannon LNG lodges new application at An Bord Pleanála seeking Strategic infrastructure status in order to be able to apply directly to An Bord Pleanála instead of applying via the County Council in the first instance for a Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU, an offshore LNG terminal) and a new Power Plant
January 24th 2020 Shannon LNG holds pre-application planning meeting with Kerry County Council, on January 24th 2020 Shannon LNG should have known at this stage that their new planning application would be for both an FSRU and a different power station to the one they had planning for as per their application for Strategic Infrastructure Status to An Bord Pleanála. A large power station qualifies for Strategic Infrastructure Status - An offshore LNG does not (only onshore LNG terminals qualify).
25/02/2020 Shannon LNG pays Kerry County Council
€625,000
Partial Road Upgrade works
21st September 2020 Listowel Municipal District Local Area Plan 2020-2026 adopted
September/October 2020 Kerry County Council starts road-widening works as far as entrance to another site - an Eirgrid substation on the same road
November 9th, 2020 Confirmed that Shannon LNG had lost all development consent in the High Court
19/01/2021 Shannon LNG pays Kerry County Council
€125,000
Partial Road Upgrade work
19/01/2021 Shannon LNG pays Kerry County Council
€500,000
Partial Road Upgrade work
January 19th 2021 Shannon LNG holds pre-application planning meeting with Kerry County Council, on January 19th 2021
06/05/2021 Shannon LNG pays Kerry County Council
€625,000
Partial Road Upgrade work
May 18th, 2021 Official government policy on the importation of fracked gas published The policy statement concludes that “pending the outcome of the review of the security of energy supply of Ireland’s electricity and natural gas systems, it would not be appropriate for the development of any LNG terminals in Ireland to be permitted or proceeded with”.
2nd June 2021 An Bord Pleanála accords Strategic infrastructure status to Shannon LNG for a Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) and new Power Plant
23rd June 2021 Kerry Councillor Mike Kennelly publishes details of the Shannon LNG monies on Facebook
18/08/2021 Shannon LNG pays Kerry County Council
€578,625
Partial Road Upgrade work
27/08/2021 Shannon LNG lodges new planning application €2,453,625 paid by Shannon LNG to Kerry County Council since it lost planning permission in 2018 and before it lodged a new planning application

€1,828,625 paid by Shannon LNG since it lost in November 2020 the high court challenge to the extension of its old planning permission
18/10/2021 Council backs LNG planning application at An Bord Pleanála at a council meeting
December 6th 2021 Kerry County Council publishes Draft County Development Plan 2022-28 Includes objective KCDP 12-3Facilitate the expansion of the gas network, including the facilitation of a gas importation facility in the Tarbert/Ballylongford Landbank
December 2021 (or before) Entire 600-acre site of the proposed LNG terminal strategic public land in North Kerry (under the control of Shannon Group State Body) were sold to Wes Edens’ Shannon LNG for €25 million




Red flags should have started flying when Shannon LNG handed over more than half a million euros to the council on the same day it got support for its fracked gas import terminal at its pre-planning meeting with Kerry County Council officials.


Our confidence in the planning process at Kerry County Council is now seriously undermined. We think this money should be relinquished or confiscated and that, in the interest of transparency and good governance, all decisions made supporting LNG in the Local and Draft County Development Plans which were contrary to the current government policy against LNG terminals should be independently reviewed and overturned with urgency.

Only one person spoke out against the Kerry County Council support for the Shannon LNG plan - Councillor Cathal Foley at the Kerry County Council Meeting of October 18th, 2021
“Cllr. Cathal Foley said not everyone in the county supports this application. He referred to page 51 of the report which states “The source of the imported gas is not mentioned as far as I can make out. Should the source of this gas align with government policy as to how it is sourced/harvested?” and said he believes this question has not been answered. The county should have no association with harvesting gas. There is no guarantee that fracked gas will not be imported. The Department of Climate Action says that pending the outcome of the review of security of energy supply, it would not be appropriate for development of any LNG terminals to be permitted within Ireland. Section 34 of the Planning and Development Act requires a planning authority to consider the proper planning and sustainable development of an area with regard being had to relevant government policies. He said he believes this planning application is premature and we should not get people's hopes up when it looks like the government policy is against LNG terminals. He reiterated that Kerry should have no association with bringing fracked gas into Ireland.”

Regarding Councillor Jim Finucane:
“Cllr. Jim Finucane said he can understand concerns raised. This company is committed to not using fracked gas. It is a matter for the Minister to ban fracked gas. While most of the country’s gas supply is coming via Scotland there is no control over our supply”

We have no record of Shannon LNG stating that it is “committed to not using fracked gas”.

“The Chief Executive said the report presented is the planning view and this will be submitted to An Bord Pleanála. The views of the members will be minuted and sent with the report. Clarification of the Government statement in respect of LNG will be a matter for An Bord Pleanála to consider; it is not a matter for this Council. It is the opinion of the planning authority that the proposal is compliant with the local plans, RSES, the County Development Plan, The Shannon Integrated Framework and the LECP. The area has been designated for energy use and for gas use. It is the view of the planning authority that the application complies strongly with the local plans of the county. In relation to any other matter, it is a matter for An Bord Pleanála.”


Kerry County Council gave the following statement to Radio Kerry on September 21st:
"The works that Kerry County Council has carried out as a road authority in this instance are not connected to, and are independent to the outcome of any planning application that is currently before An Bord Pleanala in respect of proposed development at the Tarbert-Ballylongford Landbank.


The works on the L1010 have been carried out as part of a planning condition which applied to a 2008 planning approval (PL08.PA0002) for an LNG plant and a subsequent planning condition which applies to a 2013 planning approval (08.PA0028) granted by An Bord Pleanala for the purposes of a combined heat and power plant in the Landbank. Both planning applications were granted by An Bórd Pleanala under the Strategic Infrastructure Development Act and as such Kerry County Council had no role in the decision-making process.


Any monies received by Kerry County Council relate to the L1010 road improvement works referenced in the 2008 and 2013 planning conditions, are non-refundable, and have been fully expended on the project".



However, Kerry County Council did in fact have a very important "role in the decision-making process" in the original planning permission granted for the LNG terminal in 2008 which had a condition that Kerry County Council was to be awarded €43,076 by An Bord Pleanála "towards reasonable costs incurred in consideration of the application".


Development Contribution Scheme

Section 48 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 as amended, makes provision for the reimbursement of Contributions if the specified works are not commenced within 5 or completed within 7 years of the payment. The Development Contribution Scheme 2017 drawn up by Kerry County Council notes that “when a commencement notice is received by the Planning Authority an invoice is then issued for development contributions”. The Statutory Audit Report to the Members of Kerry County Council for the Year Ended 31 December 2019 includes a response from the Chief Executive of Kerry County Council stating that “it is important to note that payment of development contributions falls due upon commencement of development”.

However, according to the AIE response, Kerry County Council has revealed that the local authority `requested” and was paid 7 payments totalling €4,103,625 by Shannon LNG since 2009. It is difficult to therefore understand why Kerry County Council could request payments that were not yet due from developments it knew were not proceeding, which the High Court had already ordered were not to proceed, for road-widening works that had not yet started until after the planning for the LNG terminal had expired.

It is reasonable to fear that there could be a legitimate expectation by the developer for the return of these funds if planning permission for the new application is refused. Kerry County Council would seem to be financially exposed to relinquishing €4.1 million.





Notes:

Twitter link to this story: https://twitter.com/SafetyBeforeLng/status/1572500262887264256

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






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