FRIENDS of the Earth Northern Ireland and No Gas Caverns are taking their battle against controversial plans to construct gas caverns under the seabed at Larne Lough to the Court of Appeal. The move follows a High Court ruling in August this year that the project was lawful.

Friends of the Earth and No Gas Caverns maintain that the former Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs minister, Edwin Poots, acted unlawfully in authorising the construction of the massive fossil fuel gas development.

There are two principal grounds for mounting an appeal:

  • The failure to refer the applications to the Executive Committee.
  • The taking into account of an irrelevant consideration, namely the community fund.

An appeal has been submitted and the groups are now waiting for the Northern Ireland court to set a date for the appeal.

Under the plans, seven skyscraper-sized underground caverns would be carved out of salt layers under the Lough by a method know as solution mining. The resulting hyper saline salt solution, created by this excavation process, would then be discharged into the sea near Islandmagee creating a ‘dead zone’ where no marine life could survive.

Increased salinity would also extend for several kilometres with adverse impacts on sensitive species, including otters, dolphins and porpoises. The area near Islandmagee is designated an Area of Special Scientific Interest, and is where key scenes from the Game of Thrones series were filmed.

James Orr, Director of Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, said: “We continue to stand with the residents of Islandmagee to protect this beautiful part of Northern Ireland. It is our continued belief that the destruction caused by this mining is landscape trauma. The gas caverns project is not needed, not welcome and, in our view, unlawful.

“Let’s be in no doubt that we will not be held to ransom to the fossil fuel companies behind this project. They are on the wrong side of history if they think they can drive through new fossil fuel infrastructure in a climate emergency. On a final point, we cannot allow Ministers to return to making ‘solo runs’ and undermine the fundamental constitutional function of the Executive Committee.”

Lisa Dobbie, of No Gas Caverns, said: “We are so grateful to Friends of the Earth for continuing to stand with us, a group of ordinary people forced to take extraordinary action against a government department and former Minister who we believe have acted unlawfully in approving this nature wrecking major fossil fuel infrastructure.

“It is incredibly difficult for citizens to access environmental justice in Northern Ireland, but with the actions of a very determined group of residents, an expert legal team and the support of hundreds of people who have donated so generously we continue to fight for nature and our precious environment.”

This appeal comes after the High Court dismissed Friends of the Earth’s and No Gas Caverns joint claim in August 2023, finding that the decision to approve the gas caverns project was lawful.

* No Gas Caverns website.

* Source: Friends of the Earth UK