So Rathlin Energy has gone…for now. They did leave things nicely open for themselves, or someone else, to return. They didn’t leave as a result of a refused planning application. They might have, if they’d hung in there a bit longer.
Their retreating statement saying, “We submitted a planning application for the second well in June 2013 and, regrettably, we have no sense of knowing when there will be a determination of the application” makes it sound as though they’d heard nothing for over two years!
The fact is that they left when the ball was firmly in their court. The planners had sent them a list of questions (in August) to answer about their Environmental Impact Assessment, and they had until 25th November to answer them. (This was not the first list of questions they’d had to answer in this application process.) They chose to leave instead.
What are we to take from this? Why did they not just answer the questions? It is understood their licence would have required an extension in order for them to do the work, as it was due to expire early in 2016, but why not just apply for an extension?
Perhaps they were concerned that an extension would not be granted…based perhaps on the previous DETI minister’s decision to refuse an extension to Tamboran’s licence in 2014 for Fermanagh…
We can only speculate.
The timing of their withdrawal is interesting. It comes only a few weeks after the Environment Minister’s announcement that there would be a presumption against unconventional hydrocarbon extraction in Northern Ireland until there is sufficient and robust evidence on all environmental impacts.
Regardless of their motivations, Rathlin Energy Ltd has been quite clever. A planning refusal now would make it difficult to come back later. They have left the site free for future planning applications. The community will need to keep watch.