Posted by Peter Rolinson
With the vast majority of people being very busy over the past few weeks, perhaps the oil and gas exploration programme happening at Crawberry Hill on the outskirts of the village has been forgotten about.
Rathlin have not gone away over the Christmas period, and it is highly likely that the Crawberry Hill site will see a resurgence in activity over the next few weeks as the next phase of the exploration programme begins. We can expect to see a return of the oil rig and a consequent upturn in traffic movement as work gets underway.
Rathlin continue to strongly deny that they have any intention, either now or in the future, of using the controversial method of ‘fracking’ to extract oil or more likely gas from this or any other site in East Yorkshire, but it is undeniable that our current government continue to see shale gas as a potentially huge benefit to the economy, and it is likely that if the exploration shows commercially viable deposits of fossil fuel to be present, then Rathlin will understandably want to exploit this natural resource by whatever means available.
Personally, I have no concerns over conventional oil and gas extraction – it has happened in the UK for many years and has caused no significant environmental impact, even in areas of outstanding natural beauty such as Crawberry Hill. However, undisputed evidence from the US and Australia shows that fracking causes devastation to the environment, with well documented risks to both drinking water sources and air quality.
In this area the vast majority of our drinking water comes from one very large underground aquifer, and even very minor contamination to this precious and irreplaceable resource could prove devastating to many local communities and prove very costly to put right. Admittedly, the risk is very low, but the risk remains and the people of East Yorkshire have to make the decision between the benefits of cheaper fuel sources – if indeed the local population see any of these supposed benefits – and the potential health risks and long lasting damage to the environment.
Latterly, falling oil prices have made fracking far less financially rewarding, and world markets may cause Rathlin to think twice about continuing their exploration programme, but as they have a 50 year lease on the Crawberry Hill site, and they have already invested considerable sums I suspect that they are here to stay.