Alliance prospective candidate for North Antrim Jayne Dunlop has said that opposition to the proposed lignite mine in Ballymoney now extends as far as Scotland.
Ms Dunlop said: “North Antrim and the West Coast of Scotland have many close ties, so it is no surprise to find that opposition there to the lignite mine is so strong.
“Not only would the landscape in Northern Ireland suffer because of the mining, but the beautiful, clean environment on the Scottish coastline and western isles could also be badly affected.
“Opposition to this huge project is growing in Argyll and the Isle of Islay, and residents there have major concerns. They share our concerns that pollution, environmental destruction and health problems, such as respiratory illnesses caused by the toxic emissions from lignite, will affect their lives.
“Of course, that is likely to be dwarfed by the massive detrimental effect the open cast mine would have on North Antrim. Up to 80 farms could be destroyed in the area, and the pollution would create an environmental disaster.
“It would be a catastrophe if this lignite mine were to go ahead, particularly when the Government had the chance to reduce our power costs a few weeks ago when they passed the Energy Bill.
“Instead of dealing with the issue of long-term power contracts, the Government ignored it. Instead of looking at the long-term environmental effects a lignite mine would have, the Government is now hoping the issue will blow over.
“Unfortunately, if the mine goes ahead, the only thing blowing over us and the people of Western Scotland will be dirty air and pollution. The amount of carbon dioxide released by lignite per unit of energy produced is nearly twice that of natural gas. It also produces much higher levels of sulphur dioxide, the main cause of acid rain.
“That is why I have written to Environment Minister Angela Smith asking her to refuse planning permission for this blight on our landscape.”
Ms Dunlop added: “After the Assembly election, Alliance will seek to establish an independent Environmental Protection Agency. This body will have the power to enforce environmental legislation, and would be a powerful force in ensuring that Northern Ireland is looked after properly in future.”