Protect Our North Coast (PONC) public meeting votes for a ban on fracking and demands meeting with Stormont Committee.

North coast says no!

Campaigners lobbying to protect the North Coast from fracking held a public meeting in Portballintrae last Thursday night.

At a packed meeting people from across the North Coast from Ballycastle to Limavady voted overwhelmingly to stop exploratory drilling and fracking in the area or anywhere in Northern Ireland.

Melanie Brown, a former policy adviser and researcher for the New Zealand government and resident of Ballycastle, presented a detailed analysis of the dangers of fracking on the North Coast. Melanie exploded many myths around fracking such as the economic benefits of jobs and cheaper energy.

Rathlin Energy – the licencee on the north coast – have admitted in a meeting in Ballycastle in 2013 that fracking will bring very few local jobs as most of the workers are specialist technicians brought in from around the world. This is in stark contrast to 5,000 direct jobs coming from Tourism across the Causeway Coast and Glens council areas that will be at risk should fracking proceed. Lord Browne – former Chief executive of oil giant, BP and Chair of British fracking company, Cuadrilla has said, “Fracking will not lower gas prices”.’

Moving on to the issue of energy security, Melanie said: “The gas will not belong to Northern Ireland or local people, but to the companies who extract it, and will be sold on the open global market for the highest prices.

“Research is only now emerging from America which shows serious damage to health and the environment from fracking. In Pennsylvania there have been 243 cases of water contamination and similar occurrences elsewhere such as in Wyoming. Recent health studies have shown that these toxins can cause respiratory, reproductive, neurological and endocrine conditions and cancer, in animals and humans.

“Increased risk of congenital heart defects and neural tube defects in babies born to mothers living within a 10 mile radius of gas wells.”

Brian Connolly states, “As a Ballinlea Concerned Resident I have great worries over the health and environmental impacts that the proposed Oil & Gas Exploration well will have for my family and other local residents. Of particular immediate concern is the venting and flaring of gasses during the exploration and testing phases of the proposed development. Millions of cubic metres of gasses including methane, benzene and other volatile compounds, some of which have no safe limit of exposure for human health, will be flared or vented 24 hours per day, for weeks. Many families live in close proximity to this proposed well, (the closest house is a mere 75m. from the proposed well), and will be directly effected by these toxic emissions. It has been documented in other countries that exposure to the flared and vented gasses has caused a series of health effects including disruption of brain development, birth defects, cancer, respiratory effects and breathing difficulties, nausea, severe headaches, etc. Not something that any of us want to experience or expose our children to! People can’t sell their houses in the area, it has affected my household insurance and we do not know what the future holds for us and our children.

“Should the DOE/Strategic Planning allow this well to proceed, despite the severe local health impacts, then I really fear the longer term industrialization of the North Coast as a direct consequence. Once one exploration well is permitted others will follow on the same basis! Therefore it is vital that we oppose this application from the outset.

“The Oil & Gas Industry acknowledge that approx 6% of it’s Oil & Gas Wells leak after the first year and this figure increases year on year. There are no guarantees that any of the current exploration wells in Northern Ireland or in North Antrim will remain sealed and intact. Due to the extreme pressures and corrosive chemicals employed within the proposed Hydraulic Fracturing processes a leaking well could enable polluted water, methane and other toxic materials to come back up into aquifers and into the water table where it could emerge and enter water supplies and local rivers. Goodbye livestock and goodbye salmon!

“Furthermore, The proposed processes will produce tons of polluted materials and water contaminated with naturally occurring radiation. None of this material can be safely treated in Northern Ireland. There is a growing international trend for industrial companies to pump this material back underground to get rid of it. This process is now considered to have directly resulted in earthquakes and pollution incidents in the USA. No one knows where this material may go and there is no way to control it if it finds fissures or cracks in the strata underground. It may therefore migrate under ground and emerge somewhere else due both to the pressures involved and the nature of the geology in the area.

“The risks are real and the dangers are well documented in other countries. Communities in the USA have been devastated by Hydraulic Fracturing. The information is there if you look for it! If fracking is allowed to proceed In this area both farming and tourism will be directly effected.  Is this what we really want to happen?

“The Oil & Gas Industry is a very powerful lobbying body. They continually promote the idea that Shale Gas and the modern methods of recovering unconventional fuel presents no harm, risks or dangers to public or environment. They promote it as  a safe method of recovery and that it will provide jobs and secure cheaper fuel supply for the UK.  However, they have admitted that jobs will be very limited and temporary. The gas will be sold on the open market with no local benefit. The only benefit of the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas is to the companies involved and the London exchequer, but at what cost for us here? Is it worth the health of one of our children our our livelihoods? Is it worth the potential effects on the farming community, is it worth the detrimental effects on tourism? These are questions that we should be asking our public representatives at this time!

“In my opinion the risks are too high and outweigh the benefits ten to one. I urge you to find out about this industry for yourself, before it is too late and act to make a positive future for our area.”

Brian appealed to residents of the North Coast to come together to stop fracking of any kind in the area by lobbying the NI Executive, their MPs and MLAs, councillors and by contacting the media.

A show of hands at the end of the meeting demonstrated that the meeting was overwhelmingly opposed to fracking on the north coast. In addition those present demanded that the Stormont Assembly committee responsible for overseeing the Dept Of Enterprise, Trade & Investment (DETI) – the department that has issued the licences – come to the north coast to meet with the community to hear at first hand the people’s enormous concerns over the prospect of fracking.

Local resident, William Methven of campaign group Protect Our North Coast (PONC) said: “It is very clear from this meeting that people in the north coast area do not want fracking under any conditions. It will ruin their environment, their health and their economy as it has done elsewhere. Northern Ireland is not North America. We do not have the wide open spaces. It will bring disaster to us. There is no upside to fracking for anyone except the fracking companies. Renewables are the future and must be invested in urgently.

“In spite of the enormous concerns evident in the meeting and among the wider community, it was very disappointing to see that no MLAs were in attendance from North Antrim, the area most affected.

“PONC will be making direct contact with the Assembly Committee for DETI to arrange a suitable time and place for such a meeting.”

References:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/29/browne-fracking-not-reduce-uk-gas-prices-shale-energy-bills

Mobbs, P. (2014). Shale gas and public health – the whitewash exposed. The Ecologist, http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2385900/shale_gas_and_public_health_the_whitewash_exposed.html

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/08/29/3477184/pennsylvania-fracking-water-contamination/

http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2014/10/07/dep-seeks-record-fine-against-gas-driller-as-ag-files-criminal-charges/

http://www.npr.org/2011/12/08/143386908/epa-connects-fracking-with-water-contamination

http://www.protectournorthcoast.com/jobs-local-community-rathlin-energy/

Michelle Bamberger and Robert E. Oswald, ‘Impacts of gas drilling on human and animal health’, Scientific Solutions, New Solutions, Vol. 22(1) 51-77, 2012.

McKenzie LM, Guo R, Witter RZ, Savitz DA, Newman LS, Adgate JL. Birth outcomes and maternal residential proximity to natural gas development in rural Colorado. Environ Health Perspect 2014; 122: 412-417.

Press coverage

BallymoneyTimes front page 22 Oct 14

Ballymoney Times 22 Oct 14

Ballymoney Chronicle

Ballymoney Chronicle

 

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