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Canada Pension Plan invests in controversial offshore gas project that threatens Irish community’s drinking water

Photo by Shell to Sea.

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) has invested heavily in a controversial fossil fuel project off the coast of Ireland that worsens the climate crisis and could pollute a local community’s drinking water supply.

The Canadian Press reports, “The CPPIB will pay nearly $1.4 billion to become the largest partner in the Corrib offshore natural gas field, 83 kilometres off the coast of Ireland. The Toronto-based fund manager will initially buy a 45-per-cent interest in the project from a unit of the Shell energy business for £830 million.”

The article adds, “After that deal closes, CPPIB plans to transfer a 1.5-per-cent interest in the project to Calgary-based Vermilion Energy Inc. for £19.4 million ($32.2 million). Following the transactions, Vermilion will have a 20-per-cent interest in Corrib and be its operator. Norway’s Statoil ASA would continue to have a 36.5-per-cent interest in Corrib and CPPIB will have the remaining 43.5 per cent.”

The news report also notes, “Corrib will be managed by CPPIB’s natural resources group, which had investments worth $4.3 billion as of March 31.”

Reuters highlights, “The development of the Corrib gas field, discovered in 1996, has faced protests since 2005 by residents concerned that the laying of a high-pressure pipeline to bring gas onshore could pollute their water supply.”

In terms of background, a reserve of gas was found offshore of Erris Head in County Mayo in north-western Ireland in 1996. A major stake in that find was bought by Shell in 2002. The gas is to be brought to shore via a pipeline to a refinery in Ballinaboy, near the Sruwaddacon estuary. The pipe is to come ashore at Broadhaven Bay and traverse farmland (a plan vehemently opposed by local farmers). Broadhaven Bay and nearby Carrowmore Lake are European Union-designated Special Protection Areas. The lake, near the refinery, provides drinking water for the community.

Shell’s website says, “The offshore sub-sea infrastructure, the offshore pipeline, and the terminal at Bellanaboy are substantially completed. Construction of the onshore pipeline, which includes a tunnel under Sruwaddacon Bay is now well under way.” In December 2015, RTE reported, “Shell has confirmed that gas has started to flow from the Corrib field off the west coast for the first time. The gas is being processed at an onshore terminal at Bellanaboy, in north Mayo, some 85km away from the six well heads.”

The 2010 documentary ‘The Pipe’ tells the story of community resistance to this project. To see the trailer for the film, please click here.

The CPPIB is a Crown corporation that manages over $316 billion in investment assets on behalf of 19 million Canadians.

The Council of Canadians calls on the CPPIB to divest from projects that harm drinking water and the climate and to commit to the human right to water and to achieving a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050.