That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Planning and Development Act 2000 in order to restrict certain developments in oil, gas (including liquefied natural gas terminals) or other fossil fuels from certain strategic development infrastructure projects, to revise the procedure for making applications directly to An Bord Pleanála and to ensure that regard be given to the State’s climate goals and to provide for related matters.
This Bill proposes to remove any application for fossil fuel related infrastructure, such as gas, oil or other fossil fuel related infrastructure, from the provisions of the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act that allow fast-track planning for what is called strategic infrastructure development.
If we are serious about the climate emergency that was declared, it is simply unacceptable that fossil fuel companies seeking to profit from the destruction of the environment could develop infrastructure to lock us into further dependency on fossil fuels, which are choking and poisoning the climate, under a fast-track process whereby they essentially pay €100,000 to go straight to An Bord Pleanála and bypass the normal planning process.
There is a great deal at stake. In the past ten days or so, we had the Dáil declare a climate emergency, and rightly so. That was done as a result of the agitation of school students who went on strike, the extinction rebellion and the growing mass movement demanding that the political establishment take emergency measures to address the climate emergency. The Government did not oppose that but while its representatives were paying lip service to dealing with the climate emergency, others were busy in Europe at the European Commission adding the Shannon liquefied natural gas facility to the list of projects of common interest within the European Union. The Government was seeking to add to that list, in other words backing further fossil fuel related infrastructure to import US fracked gas into Ireland and, in doing so, lock Ireland further into dependency on fossil fuels for decades. A better example of climate hypocrisy and of a Government speaking out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to the issue of climate change could not be more evident. Such hypocrisy also extends to the European Union, which is now supporting €1.3 billion worth of gas-related infrastructure projects. The EU is fast-tracking these projects to the benefit of fossil fuel companies.
Sometimes the Government will try to justify this by suggesting that gas is transitional and better than coal or oil. All the bodies seriously looking at this have made it absolutely clear that gas is every bit as bad as coal and oil. It is a fossil fuel. Moreover, fracked gas from the US has significant methane leakage and the net impact of fracked gas on the environment and climate is every bit as bad that of coal or oil. It is simply nonsense, hypocrisy and dishonesty on the part of the Government to maintain that gas is transitional. Such infrastructure is tying up resources and crowding out the investment that should be going into developing renewable energy. It will lock us into dependency on highly expensive infrastructure that promotes and continues the use of fossil fuels.
I want to say something important, which may be news to some. The High Court action taken by Friends of the Irish Environment is the only reason the Shannon facility is currently blocked. That action is blocking the application for the time being. It may be worth noting that New Fortress Energy, the company behind the facility, essentially offered to bribe the organisation with €1 million to drop the case. Thankfully, because those involved are principled environmentalists they refused the money and are maintaining their High Court action to block the Shannon LNG facility.
The Bill is about saying that we should not give favoured planning status to this kind of fossil fuel infrastructure. This infrastructure will continue to poison our environment as long as the Government continues to support it. This position exposes the Government's complete dishonesty in claiming it wants to deal with the climate emergency.