Ballinlea Residents Fight Local Oil/Gas Well

Article I have written for my local newspaper, The Coleraine Chronicle. Published in print and online. Link to article as it appears on their website – http://ballycastle.thechronicle.uk.com/articles/news/35105/our-health-at-risk/.

Members of the Ballinlea Residents Association are continuing an intense campaign against Rathlin Energy’s planning application to the DOE for an exploratory oil/gas well in their local area amid ongoing concerns for the health of the community. The spokesman for the group, Ivor Ramage stated when interviewed “my main concerns are the overall health of community. It seems to be common that the company says they will use VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). VOCs are considered dangerous chemicals by many and are associated with the use of solvents.

Mr Ramage whose house is no further than 200 metres from the proposed site, continued “people talk about the possibility of cheap gas and jobs but don’t realize there is no local economic benefits.

The Residents’ Association are currently attempting to collect letters of objection to submit to Moyle council. They have by the 25 July to submit their signed objections.

Despite significant opposition the argument that alternative forms of energy, such as wind power, are desirable but unrealistic in meeting future energy demand also exists. On this issue UUP councillor Joan Bird believes that if we rely on alternative energy “In another year or two there will be power cuts. People will be angry and upset”. She did however also state that we must make sure there are tight regulations in place and they are adhered to.

George Osbourne’s recent announcement of tax cuts to shale gas industry profits will almost certainly have a potential impact on the future of these ongoing opposition efforts by the local community. In response to this development Alliance spokesperson Anna Low said the plans are premature considering the persisting environmental concerns attached to the industrial process. Residents say though Rathlin Energy claim they will undertake conventional drilling targeting conventional oil and gas they also admit they will drill deeper than the area of conventional deposits into the shale layer for test samples.

At a meeting of the Residents’ Association on the 21 July members reported seeing helicopters and small aeroplanes surveying the concerned area, which are presumed to be interested business parties. They also expressed concern over the vast array of unidentified chemicals used in the pumping of pressurized water underground. Rathlin Energy claim it is the knowledge of another subcontracted company. Similar companies in the United States are not required by law to disclose similar information to the public or government.

In a letter to the DOE Dr Geralyn McCarron highlights protocols that she claims were ignored by the company including baseline measurements of air, soil and water and a health impact assessment. In addition she claims the planning application also fails to detail the effects of flaring and cold venting on quality of air. Venting can potentially bring to the atmosphere volatile and dangerous toxic chemicals previously conserved safely underground for many millions of years and radioactive gases.

Rathlin Energy has held public information meetings on the 27 and 28 June. This also followed a public meeting on the 25th Dr McCarron highlighted both the effects of pollution and the health issues in other countries including symptoms such as nose bleeds, headaches and skin irritation.

The Residents’ group hope that their objections will delay the oil/gas exploration plans.

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