The Irish government has announced it is withdrawing support for a gas import terminal at Shannon on the south west coast.
A draft programme for government, released today, said ministers opposed the import of fracked gas. It added that the Shannon terminal would be removed from a key list giving access to EU funding.
The 139-page document was drawn up after talks between Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party over the weekend.
“As Ireland moves towards carbon neutrality, we do not believe that it makes sense to develop LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] 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.”
Ireland has banned fracking but last year the government approved the Shannon LNG terminal as an EU project of common interest. This meant it would have access to a streamlined planning and permitting process, as well as a multi-billion euro funding pot.
The terminal, at Ballylongford, County Kerry, proposed to import gas from the US and Middle East. Supporters said the project was needed for Irish energy security.
It would have a gas send-out capacity of up to 28.3 million standard cubic metres per day. There were plans for four storage tanks, each with a capacity of 200,000 cubic metres, and a jetty capable of receiving the largest LNG tankers.
Critics, including opposition parties, local groups and celebrities, Mark Ruffalo and Cher, argued that most of the US gas would be extracted by fracking.
They described the terminal as “Ireland’s biggest and most urgent environmental threat” and feared the country would be locked into decades of fracked shale gas. The terminal would, they said, threaten local communities, industries and wildlife in the Shannon Estuary.
Andy Gheorghiu, anti-fracking policy advisor and campaigner for Food & Water Action Europe, said today:
“After the co-initiation of this campaign and constant support for the cause, I’m more than happy with this major step forward.
“With an import ban of climate hostile and environmentally destructive fracked gas, the Irish Government shows true global climate leadership by creating a decisive legal precedent that could truly shake up markets and pave the way for the much-needed clean energy transition.”
The draft programme for government was agreed between the leadership of the three parties today. The parliamentary parties are due to be briefed this afternoon. The programme will then go to their memberships for a final decision.