A High Court challenge has been brought against the EPA's decision to grant Shell E&P Ireland an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Licence in respect of a gas refinery in Co Mayo.

Last October, the EPA granted the IPPC licence in respect of a facility known as the Bellanaboy Bridge gas terminal, which is a gas refinery and large combustion plant designed to process 9.9 million cubic metres of natural gas per day.

When operational the refinery will treat gas transported, via a 65km pipeline from the offshore Corrib gas field, before it is discharged, also via a pipeline into the existing Bord Gais gas network.

The refinery is part of a controversial project that has resulted in protests and several complex court actions involving local people, campaigners and Shell. 

In proceedings opened before the High Court on today, four local residents say the decision to grant the license is flawed and should be set aside.

The action is against the Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland and the Attorney General has been brought by Martin and Maura Harrington of Doohoma, Ballina, Co Mayo and Monica Muller and Peter Sweetman of Rossport South, Ballina Co Mayo.

'Controversial development'

Michael O'Donnell Bl for the four told the court that the challenge was being brought in respect of what has been "quite a controversial development" over the last number of years.

He said his clients they all reside close to and say they will effected by the gas refinery, which is expected to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The action has been brought in grounds including the EPA failed to have an adequate regard to the Habitats Directive in its decision granting a license.

The EPA, it is claimed also failed to carry out an appropriate assessment  for the purposes of the Habitats Directive.

In addition it is claimed certain steps, required under the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, have not been complied with.

Counsel said that the requirements under the directives must be complied with before the EPA can grant the IPPC licence.

Counsel said his clients in judicial review proceedings now seek various orders and declarations including an order quashing the EPA's decision last October to grant Shell E&P a IPPC licence in respect of the refinery and an order requiring the EPA and the State to carry out an EIA in respect of the refinery to include all elements of the development.

They also seek declarations including no EIA that complies with EU Directives in respect of the granting of such a licence in respect of a refinery was carried out.

Such an assessment must be carried out in order to comply with the requirements of the EU directive, the applicants submit.

They further seek declarations that both the EPA and the State must take all measures to fix any past failures to carry out an assessment of the environmental impact and effect a project such as a refinery as provided for under the EIA directive.

Shell E&P Ireland, is a notice party to the action.

The application, which was made on an ex-parte basis, came before Mr Justice Richard Humphreys who adjourned the matter to a date later this month.