Group of people on a beach with banners that say No Gas Caverns

No Gas Caverns under Larne Lough

We're supporting the No Gas Caverns campaign group to try and stop huge gas storage caves being dug under Larne Lough, as well as prevent brine from creating a dead zone in a marine protected area.
  Published:  25 Apr 2023    |      Last updated:  31 Aug 2023    |      2 minute read

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 judgement 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 judgement 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 judgement 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.

A beach and a rocky headlane
Islandmagee in Northern Ireland

The Islandmagee coast is home to many protected species, including harbour porpoises.

The development will take about 12 years to be fully operational, and the huge amount of energy it'll use wasn't considered in its approval. At a time of climate emergency, efforts should be focused on moving away from fossil fuels and reaching our net zero targets.

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.

You can donate directly to the No Gas Caverns campaign group on their Crowdfunder page.