Rally outside Stormont on Monday

Woodburn 220516Debate on Permitted Development

On Monday 6th at Stormont there will be a Northern Assembly debate on the drilling in Woodburn Forest.

Rally in front of Parliament Buildings 5.45 pm for show of solidarity with the Stop the Drill campaign and photo opportunity. The debate itself is scheduled to start between 6 and 8pm.  The debate can be viewed from the public gallery.

This is an opportunity for the anti-fracking campaign to show the strength of its opposition to the drilling in Carrickfergus and any future plans for extraction of oil or gas throughout the licence area. Legislation must be put in place to stop this industry. We need as many people as possible to support this campaign. Come and join our peaceful rally!

Drilling in Antrim – a Disaster!

Fracking now a distinct possibility

The oil and gas industry now have a foothold in Northern Ireland – Infrastrata has come in under the shelter of “permitted development”, which they obtained by default, and is drilling an exploratory well that could be later used for fracking in Woodburn Forest, near Carrickfergus.  They are drilling down over 6,000 feet (2 km) to look for oil or gas reserves in sandstone or shale rock underground and have already gone through the local aquifer.  The well is directional (extending horizontally as well as vertically) and its dimensions are similar to natural gas production wells in US.  The drill has operated day and night since last week and is descending into the earth at a rate of 1,000 feet per day.

‘Permitted Development’ – permission to operate without EIA
Woodburn 220516

Woodburn Drill on Sunday 22nd May 2016

“Serious failures in governance could allow Infrastrata to acquire oil and gas extraction rights over 200 sq miles in Northern Ireland. We are only days away from the company potentially securing extraction rights for all petroleum in the Larne-Lough Neagh Basin,” said Eddie Mitchell from GEAI.

“We were shocked to see the drilling site on Sunday,” said Aedín McLoughlin.  “High fences, razor wire, security with dogs, enormous police presence – this is a military-style operation.  The drilling rig is enormous and it is clear that this is far from being a simple exploratory drill.”

“The campaign against fracking is now five years old and has very successfully prevented drilling in Leitrim and Fermanagh and also caused the stalling of the EPA study on fracking being led by industry players.   In our wildest dreams we could not imagine that the industry could come on site without planning permission or Environmental Impact Assessment.  But they have.”

This project is truly bizarre – the drilling site, which is owned by NI Water, was leased to this mining company although only 400 metres from a water reservoir feeding 130,000 people (why?).  Also, to facilitate the drilling operation, the local Woodburn River has been diverted by NI Water without reference to the Habitats Directive.  It would appear that there are systemic failures in the areas of planning and regulation in Northern Ireland.”

A Dangerous Project

“This drill must be stopped now! If the first introduction of drilling shows such disregard for planning and EU regulations, what would happen if this company hit oil or gas reserves and were then granted full petroleum rights in this area?  Thousands of wells, horrendous water and air pollution, disruption of local communities and huge damage to roads and other infrastructure.  This could be the situation even if fracking was not needed to extract the oil or gas. And if the company wanted to frack, threats of enormous compensation claims could force that permission” Aedín claimed.  “Only this week, a North Yorkshire Council gave permission to frack a well that is two miles deep and was drilled some time ago.  This drilling project in Antrim is too dangerous.  It could lead to massive exploitation of the area by the oil and gas industry and to fracking, with all its attendant well-documented impacts on the environment and on human health.“

Tamboran’s licence terminated!

Good news for Fermanagh (and Leitrim) last night

The news went out at 6pm that the Minister had terminated Tamboran’s exploration licence.  Their initial licence was for three years, during which time they were to do some works, including drilling a borehole and analysing rock samples.  In March 2014 they requested a six-month extension on this licence to allow them time to do the work (until 30th September).  In July they arrived on site in Belcoo with the intention of drilling the 1,200m borehole in the Acheson and Glover quarry, setting off an extensive protest by residents, farmers and campaigners, together with a 24-hour camp at the quarry entrance.

No drilling rig arrived.  Instead, it was discovered by campaigners that the quarry did not have planning permission for activities that had already taken place – excavation, blasting, removal of rock.  Also, there were questions over the environmental impacts of these activities on a stream that runs from the quarry into Lough MacNean. An EIS was called for and many representations were made to the Minister for Environment, Mark H. Durkan.  On August 11th, the Minister made the decision that an EIS would indeed be required, given the quarry’s planning situation.

Now, time has run out for Tamboran.

On 30th September their licence expired and the Minister Arlene Foster has not allowed another extension but has terminated the licence.  GREAT NEWS FOR THE CAMPAIGN!

However, we have to strike a note of caution.  FRACKING HAS NOT GONE AWAY!  It was pointed out to us last night that

  • Tamboran are looking for a judicial review of the decisions made by the two Ministers.  It’s not over until this is completed.
  • The Minister said that someone else could apply next week – Northern Ireland is still open for business.  However, if there was a new application, it would have to include a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which includes public consultation and certainly would delay the project considerably.
AND, of course, Ballinlea and Carrickfergus are still in the line of fire.  Our attention must focus on them immediately; the campaign must get behind what the local groups are doing and give them all the support we can.

 

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