POLITICAL NEWS - The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DEFF’s) decision to refuse environmental authorisation of three applicants to sign off on the controversial Karpowerships is a rare win for the planet.
But for how long this decision will delay the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE’s) plans to develop gas to power using powerships is yet to be determined.
The DEFF’s decision on Thursday did, however, catch environmental organisations lobbying against the project by pleasant surprise.
In a statement, the DEFF said after due consideration of all three applications to authorise environmental impact assessments (EIA) on the project, it found these authorisations would no longer be suited in terms of the National Environmental Management Act and sections of the EIA regulations.
amaBhungane earlier this month said allegations that environmental consultants could be providing misleading information required to secure the project was being investigated by the Environmental Management Inspectorate, also known as the Green Scorpions.
As per the deal made with Karpowership, South Africa would have been locked into another toxic fossil fuel deal, as liquefied natural gas (LNG) is made of methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide, Centre of Environmental Rights (CER) executive director Tracey Davies and climate change engagement director Robyn Hugo told The Citizen in March.
The country would also have been locked into the deal until the 2040s.
The ships would have lingered on the shores of Coega, Saldanha Bay and Richards Bay.
Organisations speak up
The Green Connection alleged on 31 May that the assessment application for Saldanha Bay was riddled with possible non-compliance in terms of Regulation 13 of the EIA.
DFFE then suspended the application to look at “the veracity of the allegations”, which suspension was later lifted.
CER also applied for the suspension of two other applications, but these were not suspended.
However, the allegations seem to have vindicated both organisations, with the latest refusal by the DEFF to go ahead.
Not the end of the fight
Dr Roland Ngam, programme manager for climate justice and socioecological transformation at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, said although the DEFF’s decision was a win for the environment, it definitely was not the end of the road for the Karpowerships project.
“I am very certain they will try and come back. There will be lobbying… in the background now, with different levels of government to either do a different set of EIA studies, or to get people to come lobby and get their deal through. This is certainly not the end.”
He said the decision to implement powerships was based on a lack of adequate public consultation, lack of noise pollution levels assessment, and the introduction of “significant new information” in studies that were not made public, as well as complaints from South African National Parks and BirdLife.
He added that Karpowerships’ statement after the EIA studies wee made public implied environmental activists were “trying to scupper a deal that would have provided electricity to 800,000 homes”.
“I believe that the activists have a right to complain about the potential sea heating levels [and] significant degradation of the ocean coastline.”
DFFE’s decision ‘noted’ by DMRE
The DMRE said it noted the decision made by the DFFE to reject three of the eleven preferred bidder projects’ environmental authorisations.
They said the projects were part of the DMRE’s Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.
“The Department will await formal communication by the Preferred Bidder on the decision by DFFE before making any further pronouncements,” the DMRE’s statement read.