The Mayor of Kerry has described as “incomprehensible” a decision by An Bord Pleanála to refuse planning permission for the construction of a €650 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on Shannon estuary near Ballylongford, Co Kerry, with the planning authorities stating that the refusal was based on the proposal being contrary to government policy.
It had been proposed that LNG would be shipped to Ireland to enable it to be re-gasified at a terminal that would be built on the Shannon estuary in Co Kerry. Permission to build a 600MW power plant was also sought by an Irish unit of US firm New Fortress Energy.
However, An Bord Pleanála said that government policy – as set out in Policy Statement on the Importation of Fracked Gas (may 2021) – would not permit the build to go ahead, while a review of energy security was still ongoing.
“In the absence of such policy support, such development would be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area,” the board said.
The Mayor of Kerry, Jim Finucane, who is chair of Kerry County Council said that there was “total shock and dismay” in the county after the decision was announced.
“We have a company that has been involved in trying to develop the Tarbart Ballylongford landline going back well over ten years,” he told News at 1, slamming the decision as nonsensical, and criticising the Minister for writing to an Bord Pleanála to say a decision could not be made without the review on the security of energy supply being completed.
“It’s nonsensical. I can say that there is a huge amount of anger,” he said. “This project is being supported by 98% of the people of North Kerry.”
He described the “whole process” as a “farce”, saying that the Greens were trying to “score a point” on the “backs of the people” of the area.
“This is going on for four years. This will impact on the economy of the whole country. It is the sole responsibility of Eamon Ryan,” Mr Finucane told the Irish Times.
Commentators have pointed out that since the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine the issue of the security of energy supply for Ireland had become more pressing, but the Green Party, which is headed by Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan, opposes any LNG terminal in Ireland.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at 1, Economics Correspondent Robert Short, said that energy security was an “urgent issue” and that the refusal of planning permission for the LNG terminal would impact that.
He pointed out that Ireland currently met 30% or less of gas requirements from the Corrib field but that was expected to run out by the end of this decade, which would leave Ireland completely dependent on the Moffat pipeline for gas coming from Scotland – but that the UK itself was also reliant on imports for 50% of its gas needs, and that the Norwegian gas fields were the last big gas fields in Europe, so that there was increasing pressure on remaining supplies.
“LNG was seen as an option to balance those risks,” he said, adding that, last summer, The Irish Academy of Engineers had said in a paper that opposition to the construction of facilities like the Shannon terminal seemed “remarkably foolhardy to say the least.”
“A report published last year by Cambridge Economic Policy Associates recommended that LNG storage facilities be considered in Ireland to provide additional energy security,” the Irish Independent also reported.
Economist Dan O’Brien, of the Institute of International and European Affairs, said that LNG had “saved Europe from a real energy crisis last winter.”
“It will play a central role in the process of getting to net zero emissions smoothly. If this report proves correct, it amounts to a disaster for Irish energy security,” he said.
LNG saved Europe from a real energy crisis last winter. It will play a central role in the process of getting to net zero emissions smoothly.
If this report proves correct, it amounts to a disaster for Irish energy security. https://t.co/38BEq4CUvO
— Dan O'Brien (@danobrien20) September 15, 2023
Local TD, Michael Healy-Rae, said that the people of North Kerry had been “left high and dry” and that energy security had also “been left high and dry.
The people of North Kerry have been left high and dry and energy security has been left high and dry.
In 2016 I ensured this project was a priority for the Government, but, since the Green Party came to power they have ensured that both FG and FF bowed down to them on this. pic.twitter.com/PZOsfGY3fa
— Michael Healy-Rae (@MHealyRae) September 15, 2023
“And remember it’s not too long ago that Micheál Martin walked around North Kerry canvassing stating he was in support of this project, where did his support go ? Very unfortunate news today for North Kerry and the Shannon Estuary,” Mr Healy-Rae said.
However, environmentalists welcomed the decision, with Friends of the Earth chief executive Oisín Coghlan saying “the real future is in jobs in retrofitting and in solar technology and wind, of which that region is rich”.