An Taisce has lodged an objection with An Bord Pleanála against a multi-million euro plan to create a plant in north Cork which will inject farm-produced gas into the national network.
Bord Gas Networks (GNI) was recently granted planning permission for the plant near Mitchelstown. It is planning to collaborate with around 20 farmers on the project, using anaerobic digesters to break down pig and cattle slurry into biomethane.
The gas will then be taken by tanker to the plant and injected directly into the national grid.
An Taisce head of advocacy, Ian Lumley, said the Commission For Regulation of Utilities (CRU) “is uncritically allowing the expansion of fossil gas use through GNI's 10-year strategy which provides for pipeline extensions, and extending the customer base.” He said GNI proposes to address the greenhouse gas emission impact by the progressive injection of agricultural biomethane into the fossil gas pipeline system, on the basis that it will be certified as "renewable" and with the longer-term promise of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).
“The fossil gas industry both globally and in Ireland through the State-owned company GNI is greenwashing fossil gas as 'clean' or even 'green' on the basis that a small injection of agricultural sourced biomethane can be progressively injected into the fossil gas pipeline system on a phased basis with a 20% target by 2030,” Mr Lumley said.
He said An Taisce had submitted a 90-plus page objection to An Bord Pleanála, claiming the GNI plan “does not stand up to sustainability analysis.”
“There are inputs into agri-biomethane production that do not make it carbon neutral or renewable. Agri-biomethane production is being used to 'greenwash' unsustainable dairy expansion, and does not address the human health impact of ammonia air pollution,” Mr Lumley said.
He said that Irish ammonia air pollution is 98% caused by agriculture and Ireland has been in increasing annual breach of EU emission ceiling limits on agri-ammonia since 2016.
Any sustainably-produced agricultural biomethane, if it can be, would be better used for full fossil energy substitution like urban buses or delivery vehicles.
Meanwhile, a construction company which had its plans to build 95 houses in Mallow turned down by Cork County Council has also lodged an appeal on the decision with An Bord Pleanála.
County councillors will be watching the outcome with keen interest because a number of them had expressed shock that the Taramount Construction plan was turned down.
That was because of a new decree which protects the Freshwater Pearl Mussel along the entire length of the River Blackwater from the Kerry border down to Youghal bridge.
Some years ago the council managed to get this protection overturned on the river and it only remained in place on one of its tributaries, the River Allow.
However, a case was taken to the High Court some months ago by an environmentalist and it was not contested by the government, so it reverted back to the original full protection along the entire length of the river.
Fine Gael councillor Gerard Murphy was the first to raise the issue with his colleagues, who expressed serious concern that it would hamper development all along the valley in terms of badly-need housing, new industry and agricultural expansion.
The Pearl Water Mussel can only live in very pure water and many of the wastewater treatment plants in the region are at capacity.