Shell to Sea

The Shell to Sea campaign illustrates environmental governance in that different actors are seeking to resolve conflicts over environmental interests: local homeowners are interacting with the government and businesses, and environmental NGOs are involved as well.

A brief history shows how complicated things can be:

  • Enterprise Oil discovered a natural gas reserve off the coast of Mayo and sought to build a refinery on shore.
  • Local homeowners have attempted to block this refinery because of safety concerns due to risks of explosion and potential contamination of water sources.
  • The government sold some land to the businesses for the refinery site, has regulatory powers to approve/decline planning permission, and has legal responsibility to protect the environment and people living in Ireland.
  • An Taisce, an environmental NGO, has posed a judicial review of the government’s decision to grant planning permission.

Main points relevant to governance:

  • Private companies (businesses) are extracting natural resources where there a questions about local people’s rights and who will derive profits from the enterprise.
  • The government is involved in at three different levels: Mayo County Council has local responsibility for all planning permissions, the national government oversees planning practices and management of natural resources, and the European Commission has issued directives related to energy, EU Habitats, Birds and Environmental Impact Assessments.
  • The local homeowners have protested against the development to try to influence the outcome.
  • NGOs (such as An Taisce, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth) have taken a critical view of the companies seeking to extract the natural gas.
  • The interactions between the different parties, and how they resolve their conflicting interests, highlight the complex nature of setting goals regarding the environment and how they are resolved.


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