Public Meeting April 29th – Press Release


Protect Our North Coast (PONC) Public Meeting in Ballinlea on 29th April. Come along and Show Your Opposition!

Protect Our North Coast (PONC) are holding a public meeting on Wednesday 29th April at 7pm in Ballinlea Orange Hall, 76 Straid Rd to update local people, farmers and businesses on the latest developments in their campaign, and to ask for a show of community strength in opposing the proposed well.

Rathlin Energy Ltd has applied to the Planning Service to drill, and undertake testing of, an oil/gas exploration well at a depth of 2700m into the shale layer (Murlough Bay formation) at 49 Ballinlea Rd. in Co. Antrim—half-way between Ballintoy Harbour and the Dark Hedges, on Northern Ireland’s increasingly popular ‘Game of Thrones’ tourist trail.

The proposed site is only 75m from the nearest house and there are 43 houses within half a mile of it. Research has shown that people living within half a mile of gas wells are at an increased risk of health impacts such as respiratory disorders. It wouldn’t even be allowed in Fort Worth, Texas where the setback distance of wells from homes is 182m, or in Dallas Texas where it is 457m. There is no setback distance in Northern Ireland.

The licence area (onshore Rathlin Basin) covers most of the spectacular North Coast from Ballycastle in the East, to Magilligan in the West, and south to Garvagh. The proposed well site is located just 7 miles from the Giant’s Causeway, not far from Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and other designated sites.

The route for HGVs going to and from the site is along the narrow road at the top of the Dark Hedges.

The route for traffic is; A26 to Kirk Road; through Stranocum to Ballinlea Road; passing the Dark Hedges and over Dry Arch to the proposed drill  site. Paragraph 2.5 Vehicular Route Assessment states; “during the approximate 10 week construction programme, the peak increase in HGVs is week 5 resulting in an additional 6 HGVs (two way) PER HOUR”.  HGV used is 15.5metre with the “largest HGV to access the site during construction is a 24.5metre long extendible platform vehicle (not extended)” Paragraph 2.7

Site preparation is expected to last for 8 weeks, Monday to Saturday from 7am to 6pm. Drilling will be around the clock and last between 9 to 12 weeks, day and night (ES), creating noise, vibration, and light, both day and night during that period. And the waste water and sludge needs to be taken away after drilling. Then, at the company’s discretion, the extended well testing begins and this may last for months. The application is being treated as a temporary development when of course if they find what they are looking for it could become permanent.

In 2013 “Rathlin Energy 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”.

Local residents and Protect Our North Coast (PONC) members are concerned about the potential impacts this well could have on public health. Oil and gas wells are known to emit toxic, carcinogenic air emissions through the flaring and venting of gases, producing toxins with no safe limits such as benzene. Recent research has shown that people living within half a mile of gas wells are at a greater risk for health effects due to the air emissions from flaring and venting, than those who live more than half a mile away.[1]  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 the company sees no need to even monitor for possible negative health effects. The impact assessment states that: “On the basis that no detrimental health effects are predicted, no health monitoring scheme is warranted if the proposed project goes ahead.”

Local people are of the view that if Rathlin Energy Ltd really cared about what the local community thinks (as they said they did at their public meetings in 2013) then they would be more than happy to take their health concerns seriously and reassure them by proposing to undertake health impact monitoring.

One local resident, Brian Connolly, said, “This is a true insight into the nature of this company and how they regard the local community. We, or rather our public representatives, are being asked to accept the word of the company and that there will be no risks to health, nor dangers to the community, no threats to our well-being or that of the environment, just because they say so. Without proper independent monitoring we will be unable to prove that we have been adversely affected by their activities. They cannot then be regulated or shut down as no data will exist by which a decision of this nature can be taken.  It is very clear from the quote above, that they do not feel we, the local community, warrant a proper monitoring of their activities. It is worse than farcical; it is a bare faced disregard for this community and downright insulting to those who live in the vicinity.”

Residents and the Protect Our North Coast (PONC) group would urge everyone who lives in Rathlin Energy’s petroleum licence area (which covers a large area from Ballycastle, through Ballintoy, Bushmills, Portballintrae, Portrush, Portstewart, Coleraine, Castlerock to Magilligan, down to Limavady, Macosquin, Aghadowey, and Garvagh and up through Ballymoney and Dervock, Mosside, Stranocum, Ballybogy, Ballyrashane etc.) to look into the proposed exploratory well, because, they say, more wells could appear, through permitted development, anywhere in the licence area.

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Twitter @PONC_NI.  #ProtectOurNorthCoast


Notes for Editors:
[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: 7pm Wednesday 29th April 2015  Ballinlea Orange Hall, 76 Straid Road, Ballinlea Upper, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim BT54 6NW

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