Human rights court seeks answers on gas site risks
Victory for campaign group means government must reveal how it decided to let LNG ships to berth in Milford Haven
guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 November 2009 19.42 GMT
The European court of human rights has asked the British government to give more details of the risk assessments carried out before terminals for large tanker ships importing liquid natural gas (LNG) were built on the Welsh coast.
Members of a campaign group which fears there could be a devastating explosion if there is an accident involving a ship carrying LNG in Milford Haven have taken their fight to the court.
The group, Safe Haven, has long claimed that inadequate risk assessments were carried out before the terminals were built, meaning planners and residents were not fully aware of possible hazards involved. The port authority and the companies involved insist they carried out full, in-depth safety checks. Two terminals are now fully operational.
The imported LNG is piped across south Wales to England and is a crucial plank of the government's energy programme.
Two Safe Haven members, Alison Hardy and Rodney Maile, told the court that their right to life had been impinged by the government's failure to properly assess the risks involved in the terminals.
The court has said it wants more details. It has asked the government which bodies had responsibility for assessing the risks and advising the planning authorities, and how responsibility was divided.
In particular, the court wants to know if the relevant authorities "properly assessed the risk and consequences of a collision of LNG vessels, or other escape of LNG from a vessel in Milford Haven harbour or while berthed at the jetty", and if "relevant information on the nature and extent of the risk posed by the hazardous industrial activities has been disclosed to the public".
Hardy said: "I'm so pleased that the government has at last got to answer these important questions. Perhaps now we will get justice." Richard Buxton, a solicitor for the pair, said the court had not yet given the go-ahead for a hearing, but the fact that it was asking the questions was an important step.
A spokesman for Milford Haven Port Authority said the it was up to the government to respond, but the authority would co-operate fully, as it always had.