Belfast, Northern Ireland to be Fracked? Press release by Dawn Bourke, April 4, 2013, Belfast Not for $hale
Just over a week ago a tiny, nondescript ad appeared in some local newspapers. As you can read DETI proposes to grant a petroleum prospecting license in a large and heavily populated area of NI, from Belfast city center to the shores of Lough Neagh. As part of the conditions of this license it is my understanding that if oil and gas is found the company may proceed to ask for planning permission to drill. It is highly likely to utilize unconventional techniques commonly known as Fracking. I am not a lawyer but it is my understanding that if reserves are found DETI are bound to enter the next stage of the agreement. Considering the furore over the similar licenses in Fermanagh and County Antrim it is my belief that if the people of NI knew that all six counties now opened the door to Fracking there would be a public outcry. At my local council office the staff at the front desk had no idea what I was asking for and it took quite a few calls to finally get to see the map. It didn’t feel like a public engagement process.
At this point 19,500 people have seen the map detailing the area to be licensed on the No Fracking Northern Ireland Facebook page. Most have responded with shock and dismay.
This seems a surreptitious move over the Easter break effectively giving an impossibly short time for the public too respond. The area of NI now covered by these types of license is extreme and I contend that it is undemocratic to even think of issuing this without proper and through public consultation. People are concerned have serious and legitimate concerns about unconventional fossil fuel extraction. On a recent BBC Spotlight programme I heard Mike Young, head of Geological Survey of Northern Ireland said “I don’t think we know enough now to know that it is safe” With respect to the public engagement DETI may have acted legally, but morally the people of NI deserve better. The maps say it all, please print and watch the reaction as people all over NI realize Fracking is not just a Fermanagh issue any more. [Emphasis added]