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Relevant OECD Guidelines: Chapter II (General Policies), Chapter V (Environment).
The Corrib gas project comprises a gas processing plant and a pipeline to transport untreated gas from the sea to the processing plant. The Corrib gas field is located in North West County Mayo, Ireland, and is controlled by a consortium consisting of Shell E&P Ireland (45%), Statoil Exploration Ireland (36.5%) and Vermilion, (18.5%), which bought out Marathon Oil’s share in 2009. According to the complaint, the following issues have arisen regarding the project:
Safety and Health issues The pipeline would pass too close to populated areas and go through an area prone to landslides. Pipe failure may be increased due to the instability of peat in some areas couples with very high gas pressures in the pipeline.
Environmental issues The location of the refinery poses a risk to the only source of potable water for 10,000 people in the region. Moreover, the route of the pipeline would pass through three ecologically sensitive areas and may threaten wildlife.
Human Rights issues The Corrib Gas development would allegedly violate many human rights adopted by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
As the operating company is headquartered in the Netherlands, the Dutch NCP was duly contacted. On the 19th of February 2009, following close work between the Irish and Dutch NCP, the case was deemed to be admissible. However, in an unrelated initiative the Irish Government undertook active mediation with the Community Groups and the concerned Consortium. The NCPs suspended their process for fear of compromising the mediation but in April 2009, the two NCPs resumed their work on the case as the Ministerial efforts stalled.
When these direct discussions between Shell and the Complainants facilitated by the Irish government collapsed in early April 2009, the NCP took up its mediation role again and engaged in separate discussions with Shell and the Complainants. The Irish and Dutch NCPs wrote to the parties summarising their findings in September 2009, and asked the parties to provide their reactions to the findings before the end of November.
In their findings, the NCPs estimated that mediation in the case would be extremely difficult given the irreconcilable positions of the parties on the main issue - relocation of the planned processing plant. Shell E&P has refused to discuss the relocation, claiming that it received all necessary government permits for the plant.
Other NCPs Involved: USA, Norway, Netherlands
In mid-January 2010, the Complainants wrote a letter to the Irish NCP agreeing with the NCPs’ assessment that mediation appeared impossible and requesting that the NCP close the procedure with a Final Statement.
Update: The Irish NCP, in cooperation with the Dutch NCP have issued their Final Statement on the complaint filed by Pobal Chill Chomain Community against a consortium of oil companies led by Shell. In August 2008 the complainants have filed a complaint against the consortium for health & safety and environmental issues, as well as human rights violations related to the Corrib gas project located in Ireland.
The Irish NCP, in cooperation with the Dutch NCP, conducted an initial assessment and jointly declared the case admissible as a specific instance. Considering the involvement of Statoil and Marathon Oil (later Vermilion) in the consortium the Norwegian, US and later Canadian NCPs were informed about the process. After a failed mediation attempt by the Irish government several talks of the NCPs with the complainants and the consortium, the NCP had to conclude that mediation appeared impossible.
Upon request by the complainants the NCP thus issued a Final Statement on 30 July 2010. As it was beyond the NCPs competence and mandate to draw conclusions on the validity of location of the processing facility, the NCPs Final Statement focused on the issue of due dilligence by the consortium. The NCPs concluded that in the early stages of the project dialogue with stakeholders was not in accordance with the spirit of the Guidelines. However, since 2005 the consortium has improved its practice and has shown willingness to address health and safety concerns. Complainants are disappointed that the NCPs failed to undertake fact finding to consult with residents before coming to this conclusion.
In more general recommendations, the NCPs further recommended that in principle enterprises have a responsibility to respect the rights of people on which their activities have an impact. Companies are therefore expected to exercise due dilligence in the broad sense of the concept and have a responsibility to consider going beyond what is legally required from them when it comes to consulting local communities.