Thursday, 5 April 2012

‘Wildlife’s at risk’ if drilling allowed near Newport Wetlands

A PLAN to search for oil and gas could risk irreversible damage to the Gwent Levels, according to a conservation body.
Last month it emerged that Sonorex, a firm proposing to perform test drilling for oil and gas and applying for planning permission, had chosen a farmland site just 200 metres away from the Newport Wetlands.
Now the Gwent Wildlife Trust has written to Newport council, objecting to the plan, saying it could harm local wildlife and criticising the firm’s claims about the site.
Newport council's planning committee is due to make a decision on the application later this year.
In the letter the Trust expresses concerns that ‘drilling mud’ – which it says is a water- or oil-based mixture of clays and chemicals – could leak into the water table.
It says if hydrocarbons are produced for 90 days, then gas flaring associated with the work would disturb species.
“Some of these impacts may have a low probability of occurring; however, the resulting impacts are likely to be very severe,” wrote conservation officer Gabrielle Horup.
She disagreed with the firm’s claims that no rare or endangered species are known in the area, listing a number of rare invertebrates, including the great silver water beetle.
She also argued against claims birds are “largely” confined to the wetlands, saying legally protected birds such as lapwing use the surrounding farmland.
Ms Horup told the Argus: “We think it’s inappropriate for the Gwent Levels – it’s an industrial development.”
● Drilling mud used by Sonorex would be a water-based substance used in gardening, said the firm’s MD, David Barker, who stressed its environmental statement addressed concerns raised by Newport council, the Environment Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales.
He said the firm’s environmental statement addressed the proposed site and the surrounding hedgerows, while the letter refers to a much wider area.

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