While Karpowership SA has welcomed the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment’s (DFFE) decision to grant environmental authorisation for its Richards Bay Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) application, the Good party has called on Minister Barbara Creecy to explain her decision.
Karpowership said the granting of the EIA represented a critical milestone in its participation in the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) “that will lead up to reaching financial close”.
“The decision not only vindicates Karpowership SA’s thorough EIA methodology and process that included comprehensive and inclusive public participation processes in Richards Bay, but also demonstrates the department’s willingness to objectively evaluate the information at hand.
“The outcome represents a meaningful turning point in this extensive process as all parties involved including our stakeholders and various other interested and affected parties (IAPs) have worked cohesively and supported Karpowership SA to showcase that our LNG-to-Power projects will make an important contribution to combatting South Africa’s energy crisis through a stable, cleaner, and reliable electricity supply to the businesses and communities that so urgently need it,” said Karpowership SA.
Karpowership added that approximately R6 billion would be dedicated to economic development for the life of the project.
Good party secretary-general and MP, Brett Herron however said the project looked like an “unlawful tradeoff” while the state calls it an offset.
The decision comes after Karpowership SA said they had reached a “landmark biodiversity offset agreement” with Ezemvelo Wildlife in KwaZulu Natal which they insist is “not an exchange but implementation of a Biodiversity Offset in keeping with the Mitigation Hierarchy principles”.
Herron said: “Provision is made in environmental law for like-for-like biodiversity offsets, where proposed developments threaten critical habitat.
What this means, in simple language, is that if it is proposed to construct a mine on a wetland where a species of threatened birds nests, for example, it is possible to go ahead with the mining by investing in the protection of a similar site where the birds nest, elsewhere.
“The National Biodiversity Offset Guideline clearly distinguishes between the integrity of biodiversity ‘offsets’, and ‘trade-offs’, which are not an acceptable form of mitigation ...“Judging from (the) announcement by Karpowership that it had been granted environmental authorisation to proceed with its Richards Bay plant, South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment regards this move as an offset. From where we sit, however, it has the appearance of a trade-off.
“The species of wildlife that are threatened by Karpowership’s proposed operations in Richard’s Bay are not present on the offset game farm.
Creecy must explain the rationale for her department’s decision,” said Herron.
In Creecy’s decision granting the EIA, she noted that key factors which were considered in making the decision included “the need for the project stems from the provision of electricity to the national grid” and that “the methodology used in assessing the potential impacts identified in the final EIA...have been adequately indicated” and that a “sufficient public participation process was undertaken”.
Meanwhile community outreach coordinator at the Green Connection, Neville van Rooy, said they were disappointed by the granting of the application.
“We remain opposed to this gas to-power ships in our oceans as it comes with a lot of complications.
Environmental concerns have already been raised. We are disappointed at the minister’s approval and will consult our legal teams,” said Van Rooy.