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Major setback for DAERA in legal challenge over highly damaging Larne Gas project

The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs [DAERA] has accepted that it has a case to answer on all 10 grounds of a legal challenge brought jointly by local campaigning group No Gas Caverns and Friends of the Earth.

Together, the groups have issued legal proceedings against the Department (DAERA) over plans for a controversial and destructive gas storage project under Larne Lough.

They warn that the scheme would have a significant detrimental impact on the local environment and sea life, as well as undermining efforts to counter the climate crisis.

Under the proposals, seven 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 will also extend for several kilometres with adverse impacts on sensitive species, including otters, dolphins and porpoises. The area, near Islandmagee, is where much of the Game of Thrones series was filmed.

In this latest development, the Department has accepted that the 10 grounds on which the legal challenge is based, are worthy of a full hearing before the High Court. This is now set to take place in winter 2022.

James Orr, Director of Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland welcomed this recent development and praised the work of fellow co-applicant No Gas Caverns for its work in bringing many of the project’s key issues to light. He said:

“For the Department to concede on all grounds is a major first step in stopping this unwelcome and unnecessary project. It’s great news there is no need for an initial hearing to set out why this legal case has merit. We can now get straight to the High Court so the folly of this project can be aired. The science is clear: we want to protect our atmosphere from greenhouse gases and we need to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Lisa Dobbie, from No Gas Caverns, said:

“We are delighted that DAERA has conceded that we have a case worth bringing to court on all 10 of our grounds, challenging the Department’s decision to issue marine licences for this highly destructive gas storage project. The court has now given us permission to take our claim to a full Judicial Review, which is likely to be heard this winter.”


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