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Campaigners Celebrate as Court of Appeal Rules Against ‘Irrational’ Decision to Approve Larne Lough Gas Storage Project

17th June 2024
Protestors from local campaign coalition No Gas Caverns on the shore of Larne Lough
Protestors from local campaign coalition No Gas Caverns on the shore of Larne Lough Credit: No Gas Caverns/Facebook

Local campaigners shed “tears of joy”, as Belfast Live reports, after the Court of Appeal in Belfast ruled that Edwin Poots acted “irrationally” in approving unilaterally a major gas storage project under Larne Lough.

Under the banner of No Gas Caverns, the coalition of concerned locals joined with Friends of the Earth NI to take their case to the appeals court after their application for judicial review was dismissed last August.

Judgment was reserved in their legal bid in February, but on Monday (17 June) a panel of three judges upheld both points: that Edwin Poots, as then DAERA Minister, had failed to refer the application to the Northern Ireland Executive as it was “cross-cutting, controversial and significant”; and that Poots had taken into account “an irrelevant consideration” in the form of a community fund to mitigate impacts of the development.

Counsel for DEARA, however, had insisted that Poots had legal authority to act unilaterally in his decision to award the marine licence to Islandmagee Energy, a subsidiary of Infrastrata-owned Harland and Wolff, for the excavation of seven 1,350m-deep caverns with an intended storage lifespan of 40 years.

But the project has faced stiff opposition from local residents who claim, among other things, that hyper-saline discharges from the excavation process would create a marine wildlife “dead zone” in the lough.

Lady Chief Justice, Dame Siobhan Keegan told the court: “The Ministerial decision as it stands, effectively means this gas storage proposal is not deemed a significant and controversial project.

“This is a decision which we find to be irrational for reasons… including the interface with climate commitments in Northern Ireland.”

Responding to the verdict, Lisa Dobbie from No Gas Caverns told Belfast Live: “I am absolutely amazed … It’s not every Monday you change the way environmental decision making works in Northern Ireland.”

Belfast Live has much more on the story HERE.

MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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