PONC requests action from Stormont Committee

Additional Information for ETI Committee

ETI Committee meeting paper

Protect Our North Coast has made a written submission to the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee following a meeting with some of its representatives. The submission outlines some of the key concerns people have with the proposed well at Ballinlea and its implications for the whole North Coast area.
Action sought:

Protect Our North Coast (PONC) ask that the ETI Committee:
Conventional and Unconventional
1. Seek clarification from DETI as to why DETI is not acknowledging Rathlin Energy Ltd’s proposed exploratory well at Ballinlea (planning application E/2013/0093/F) as including exploration for unconventional shale gas, when, as outlined in this paper, it involves drilling into and testing the unconventional shale layer.

2. Seek advice from DETI as to the implications for Northern Ireland of acknowledging that Rathlin Energy Ltd’s proposed exploratory well at Ballinlea (planning application E/2013/0093/F) includes exploration for unconventional shale gas.

3. Seek advice and documentation from DETI about what agreement exists between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in relation to postponing shale gas developments until the joint NIEA/EPA research has been completed.

4. Call for a joint ETI, Environment and Health Committee inquiry into unconventional hydrocarbon exploration and extraction policy in Northern Ireland, including:
4.1. Investigating/establishing Northern Ireland’s policy on proceeding with unconventional oil and gas exploration and extraction in Northern Ireland, particularly in relation to its impact on the environment and public health, and on the joint NIEA/EPA research currently underway.

5. Note that it is our view that because this planning application includes exploration for unconventional shale gas, it should not be allowed to proceed through the planning process until at least the joint North-South (NIEA/EPA) research into the impacts of unconventional gas exploration and extraction has been completed and the results considered.
Licencing and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
6. Seek clarification and documentation from DETI as to the legality of the licence (P3/10) granted to Rathlin Energy Ltd, and the process through which it was granted, following the enactment of the Hydrocarbons Licensing Directive Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 and the associated revocation of their previous licences.

7. Call for a joint ETI and Environment Committee inquiry into petroleum licencing in Northern Ireland, including:
7.1. examining the factors/circumstances which led to petroleum licencing in Northern Ireland not being subject to Strategic Environmental Assessment, determining the role of SEA in the granting of future licences, and what the implications are for Ballinlea and the North Coast.
7.2. examining the legality of, and due diligence undertaken, in regards to all petroleum licences granted since the year 2000, beginning with the current licences.

8. Note that it is our view that if Rathlin Energy’s proposed exploratory well is allowed to proceed at this point in time, as proposed, a great disservice will have been done to the people of Northern Ireland.
Public health concerns
9. Support a precautionary moratorium on unconventional hydrocarbon exploration and extraction, in line with colleagues in the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies, in order to safeguard public health in Ballinlea and the North Coast.

10. Seek advice from DETI on best practice guidance relating to buffer zones or set-back distances from onshore oil and gas wells from dwellings in order to ensure public safety.
Negative impact on tourism and agriculture industries
11. Note that it is our view that ANY FORM of oil or gas extractive industry on the North Coast, near to key tourist attractions and key agricultural/food producing industries would seriously undermine these industries.
11.1. Sustainable, long term, economies and livelihoods for local people, would suffer, whether or not there was any proof of contamination.
11.2. Local people, in the main, would not benefit from the oil or gas industry being there.

Some additional information was also provided to the Committee relating to concerns about problems experienced by Rathlin Energy’s well at West Newton in Yorkshire, and the implications of those experiences for the North Coast area.
The ETI Committee has referred the submission to both DETI and the Environment Committee for their response.

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