US firm to submit new bid for Shannon liquefied natural gas project
The US company behind Shannon LNG is preparing a fresh planning application for the project as it awaits a High Court verdict on the validity of its existing permission.
New Fortress Energy has told US authorities that regardless of the outcome, it is pushing ahead with plans to develop the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Ballylongford in the Shannon Estuary.
In filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates the US stock market, New Fortress Energy acknowledges it faces a number of legal challenges here.
But it indicates it is undeterred, adding bullishly it is already working on a new planning application.
“We intend to file for a new planning permission that, if approved, would replace the permission whose extension is currently under challenge,” it states. “We intend to begin construction of the Ireland Terminal after we have obtained a replacement planning permission.”
It adds that construction will begin earlier if the current permission is allowed to stand.
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) is challenging the €500m project on two fronts. One case centres on the decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant an extension of the original planning permission granted for the project in 2008.
Development stalled during the downturn and construction did not commence, but permission was extended in 2018, due to expire in 2023.
FIE is arguing an environmental impact assessment was needed before the extension was granted to take account of strengthened environmental protections that took effect in the interim.
The High Court referred the matter to the European Court of Justice for advice. In an opinion delivered two weeks ago, Advocate General Juliane Kokott said that environmental assessment was needed and the current planning permission was invalid. She also threw doubt over the grounds on which the original permission was granted.
The High Court has yet to finalise its position.A second challenge centres on the inclusion of the development in the EU’s projects of common interest (PCI) list which provides financial aid to infrastructure projects deemed of Europe-wide importance.
FIE is arguing the Government’s decision to back the inclusion of the project on the list is contrary to the stated aims of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and protecting the environment. That case, which is opposed by the State, is due to be heard next month.
The project is politically divisive. New Fortress Energy intends shipping gas in liquid form to Ireland from a fracked gas field in Pennsylvania, USA.
Fracking is illegal on health and environmental grounds here, and the Green Party has sought assurances in government formation talks that the new government will take a stand against the project.
Supporters of the terminal say it will provide jobs and additional security of energy supply.