Community call for Rathlin Energy to honour commitment!


For Immediate Release:

Local community call for Rathlin Energy to honour commitment made in 2012!

Local residents and North Antrim political representatives gathered at Ballinlea Hall on the 29th April for a public meeting organised by Protect Our North Coast-PONC. All the speakers were local residents from Ballinlea and Stranocum. Brian Connolly provided an update on the latest developments in the campaign. He noted that following a very successful crowdfunder PONC raised funds to engage independent consultants to respond to Rathlin Energy’s Planning Application and Environmental Statement. Ivor Ramage from the Ballinlea Residents Group who lives beside the proposed drill site focused on the key points arising from these responses.

In their response WYG (White Young Green) Consultants point to numerous inadequacies in Rathlin Energy’s Environmental Statement stating “lt is our view that this application has the potential to result in significant environmental impact, and that certain risks have not been addressed by the Environmental Statement.”

Michael Burroughs Associates concluded that to grant the application in current form would result in an ‘unlawful decision’ noting Rathlin Energy has not proven the development to be compliant with policy so it must be refused.

The consultants both noted that compliance with other Planning Policy Statements’ dealing with environmental compliance is severely lacking on the grounds that there is insufficient information to confirm that no significant impact arises from the proposal with regards to: Noise and Vibration, Air Quality and Climate Control, Lighting, Health, Visual impact, Ecology and Water Quality/Hydrology. These consultation responses were recently submitted to the Planning Department and are available to view on the Protect Our North Coast website.

Ivor Ramage updated the meeting on a report submitted by Professor Lawrence Dunne BSc, MSc, ARCS, PhD of London South Bank University for PONC.  Professor Dunne provided background information and noted longer-term considerations including:
The risk to residents living within a few hundred meters of a well pad may be very significant due to exposure to products of flaring and radon, compressors and pipe networks, when these are transported by the prevailing wind. The long-term risk to such residents, particularly the ill and elderly, the young and the not-yet-born, is likely to be serious.

The affects on the food chain, with implications for local farmers was noted by Professor Dunne in his report ‘ the risk of persistent organic chemicals/heavy metals entering the food chain is not discussed. Ballinlea is rural. Soil particularly will be contaminated with highly carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) for long periods. Bamberger and Oswald (2012 New Solutions 22 (1) 51-77) pointed out the accessibility of toxins from oil/gas fields to the human food chain, via meat and dairy produce, with implications for human health and agriculture’.

Concerns about the potential impacts this well could have on public health were discussed during the meeting. 43 homes are within half a mile of the Ballinlea well site, and residents warn that this could be the first of many across the North Coast. Of particular concern is that Rathlin Energy sees no need to even monitor for possible negative health effects.


Those in attendance voiced their opposition to the plans raising numerous concerns about the impact on the local area. People strongly opposed the threat to farming, fishing and tourism. Concerns were expressed regarding regulation noting that the company breached its Environment Agency permit at its Holderness site on 19 occasions. Increased traffic on the route passing the Dry Arch and Dark Hedges was raised. It was noted that Rathlin Energy previously confirmed that no major employment opportunities would present themselves and the programme of work they envisaged would not be labour intensive. In addition, drilling rigs and specialised crews would all be brought in from overseas to the Ballinlea site. Neither would the company be offering training to enhance the prospect of job creation within the local community.

At the end of the meeting those present including MLA’s Jim Alllister, Daithi McKay and Councillor Darryl Wilson on behalf of Robin Swann MLA unanimously passed four votes.

1) The local residents and Ballinlea Community present at this meeting object to the current Rathlin Energy Planning Application for Oil & Gas Exploration at Ballinlea 2 Drill Site.

2) The local residents & Ballinlea Community present at this meeting, request that Rathlin Energy Ltd. withdraw their Planning Application as the community reject their proposed Oil & Gas Exploration at Ballinlea Drill Site.

3) The local residents and Ballinlea Community present at this meeting, object to the Proposed Oil & Gas Exploration at Ballinlea Drill Site 2 and request that the Strategic Planning Service/DOE reject the current Rathlin Energy ltd. Planning Application.

4) The Local residents and Ballinlea Community object to the proposed Oil & Gas Exploration within the Licence Area, (North Coast), and request that a Moratorium on all future Oil & Gas Exploration in Northern Ireland is implemented by Northern Irish Assembly.

Following the votes the meeting called for David Montagu-Smith Chairman of the Board of Directors, Rathlin Energy Limited and Rathlin Energy (UK) Ltd. to honour the commitment he made in June 2012 in Ballinlea when he stated the following:

“Our ability to function profitably or commercially in Northern Ireland will depend more heavily on one thing than on any other and that is the support of the local communities in which we work. We also would not be able to function, nor would we try and function, if we are at odds with the local communities.”


Those present unanimously agreed that Rathlin Energy are at odds with the local communities of Ballinlea and the North Coast and called for them to respect the local community, honour their commitment and abandon their plans to drill.

Protect Our North Coast has released a film supporting this call. PONC notes the approx 2000 objection letters to the Ballinlea 2 well application, the local multi-party support local UUP, SF, TUV and DUP MLAs opposed to the drilling proposal. The group recently met with Mervyn Storey MLA who has stated that he is opposed to the drill at Ballinlea. PONC noted the £10,090 raised in a two week period by 213 community members through crowdfunder to help oppose the Ballinlea 2 well application and the Hundreds of people at local meetings asking MLAs to intervene.

The group also highlighted their ongoing community survey and called on the 1400 residents who will have received a survey card recently to go online and complete it. Each card has a unique code and the survey is being conducted by an independent company on PONC’s behalf. PONC would also encourage people to continue sending objection letters to Planning. More information is available via a link on the PONC website.

For further information or to arrange an interview with any of the speakers, please contact Melanie on 07835 403339/Fiona 07740 911827

Facebook ProtectOurNorthCoast (PONC)
Twitter @PONC_NI.  #ProtectOurNorthCoast



Notes for Editors:

Michael Burroughs Associates

White Young Green (WYG)

[1] McKenzie LM, Witter RZ, Newman LS, Adgate JL. Human health risk assessment of air emissions from development of unconventional natural gas resources. Sci Total Environ 2012; 424: 79-87.

Protect Our North Coast (PONC) is a campaigning group based on the North Coast of Northern Ireland raising awareness of Petroleum License PL3/10 which is held by Rathlin Energy Limited. The license areas covers Rathlin Basin which includes parts of Counties Antrim and Londonderry/Derry.

Public Meeting took place on 7pm Wednesday 29th April 2015  Ballinlea Orange Hall, 76 Straid Road, Ballinlea Upper, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim BT54 6NW

Other concerns noted by Professor Dunne include:
• No long-term study has been done anywhere in the world on the health effects of chronic exposure of human populations to the emissions from  gas/oil extraction.  Hence, the long-term risk is not known. However, it is known that extended exposure to the radioactive and chemical emissions typically associated with  gas/oil operations poses a serious mortality and morbidity risk.

• The atmospheric concentration of highly carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) measured across a natural gas patch in Colorado (taken to represent a typical  gas field) was 15.5 ng/m3, 60 times that allowed in UK. This is likely to be the level of PAHs over onshore  oil/gas field anywhere and can be expected to have clinical significance. A number of investigations reviewed by Colborn et al (Human and Ecological Risk 2011 vol.17 (5) p 1039-1056) highlight the health risk particularly cancers for those exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Babies prenatally exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons with a total concentration at much less than 15.5 ng/m3  suffered developmentally. (Vandenberg L, Colborn T, Hayes T, et al. 2012. Endocrine Rev 33(3):378-455). The proposed regulatory regime at Ballinlea would not detect such emissions or control them.

• The cumulative effects or synergy of components in emissions needs to be  taken into account. Laboratory investigations to determine safety limits typically measure exposure to one chemical at a time, while real-life conditions entail simultaneous exposure to a number of volatile chemicals, with interactions that cannot be predicted. Government standards are typically based on the exposure of a grown man encountering relatively high concentrations of a chemical over a brief time period, for example, during occupational exposure. They do not address the issue of  exposure to many chemicals simultaneously which is precisely what a flare emits.

• Extended low-level pollution from a wide range of chemicals is known to cause a variety of chronic illnesses – skin irritation, severe headache, eye irritation, sinus problems etc (Steinzor et al. New Solutions 2011 Vol 23(1) p55-88). Common illnesses induced by  emissions,with likely prevalence in the neighbourhood of well pads have been documents. McKenzie, Witter, Newman, & Adgate (2012, Science of the Total Environment DOI: 10.1016/j/sciotenv.2012.02.018) examined neurological, respiratory, hematologic and developmental effects in relation to proximity to a gas well and their findings are not consistent with an evaluation of ‘low risk’.

• Endocrine disruption through chronic exposure to airborne emissions is being urgently discussed worldwide. National emissions standards do not apply to exposure faced by individuals (including pregnant women, children, and the elderly) experiencing chronic, low-level exposure, 24 hours a day 7 days a week in natural gas/oil neighbourhoods. Emission limits do not take account of an atmospheric cocktail of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which can be particularly harmful during prenatal development and childhood (Colborn et al (Human and Ecological Risk 2011 vol.17 (5) p 1039-1056), Dejmek J, Solansky´ I, Benes I, et al.2000.  Environ Health Perspect 108:1159-64).

• Emissions and associated smog induced by ozone formed in the hydrocarbon/Nox- rich atmosphere over an  oil/gas field may critically affect those already ill with a chronic condition such as respiratory or cardiovascular disease.

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