Judge rules yes to destructive gas caverns
The High Court of Northern Ireland has ruled, on 31 August 2023, against a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth and campaign group No Gas Caverns, over plans to dig 7 huge caverns under Larne Lough, to store gas and create what the developers call a "dead-zone" in the sea.
This is an incredibly disappointing judgment for our environment and the local community who have fought so tirelessly against this hugely destructive scheme.
This project will have a devastating impact on the local environment and wildlife, and significantly increased Northern Ireland’s contribution to the climate crisis.
But the campaign against these gas caverns is far from over.James Orr, Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland director.
Our legal teams will examine the judgment in detail and then decide on our next steps against this reckless development, standing with the local community around Larne Lough and Islandmagee.
What's at risk from the "dead-zone" planned for Larne Lough
If you could peak beneath the waves where Larne Lough sweeps out to sea from behind Islandmagee in Northern Ireland, you'd see wildlife everywhere. Seals, porpoises and dolphins gliding through the water, with lobsters, crabs and starfish scuttling among the rocky floor and seaweed fronds.
The area is home to 2 nature reserves, 4 Areas of Special Scientific Interest... and possibly 7 enormous underground chambers to store gas, as well as a "dead-zone" created by the poisonous brine dug out to make these caverns, just 450 m from the shore.
But the community is saying no. No Gas Caverns is a local community group who've crowdfunded money to go to court to defend the area's wildlife and stop this planned fossil fuel project. In this video, they share the incredible marine environment they're trying to protect, and explain why they're having to fight this development themselves.
Poisonous to wildlife and not in line with net zero
Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland is supporting No Gas Caverns. Together, we went to the High Court in Belfast for a judicial review into the decision by the former Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) minister Edwin Poots to approve this fossil fuel development. Our case was turned down, so we will reflect on the judgment and then decide our next steps, we still hope that we can protect this special area.
The caverns dug 1 mile under the lough would produce a hypersaline solution, poisonous to sea life, and discharge it into a marine protected area near Islandmagee, creating a "dead-zone" where no plants or animals could survive.
There are 11 Northern Ireland Priority Species living within 100 m of the discharge point, which are legally protected. And the poisonous salty water will extend for several kilometres, causing harm to the whole local environment.
We are a group of ordinary people forced to take extraordinary action.Lisa Dobbie, No Gas Caverns.
This is the first case of its kind in Northern Ireland, where the courts were asked to grapple with the implications of climate change and how developments relate to the Northern Ireland Climate Change Act 2022.
Together with No Gas Caverns, we're arguing that developments that drastically impact the local environment and climate change goals should be subject to the highest degree of decision-making, and that this application should have been referred to the Executive Committee.