An appeal has been lodged by environmental and social justice organisations with Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy against the Environmental Authorisation (EA) granted to the Karpowership Richards Bay project.
Karpowership aims to generate 450 megawatts for the Eskom grid via its powership based at the Richards Bay port on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.
The organisations – groundWork and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance – are represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights, which lodged the appeal on their behalf and said it had received acknowledgement of receipt from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) on Tuesday.
In response to the appeal, Karpowership SA said it acknowledged the challenge from civil society groups regarding the EA for its Richards Bay project.
Karpowership SA said the continuous challenges made by the groups failed to substantively counter the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) methodology, which was based on “comprehensive research and enhanced public participation”.
“The quality of our EA was recognised by the DFFE’s decision to grant approval. As announced publicly in September, Karpowership SA reached a landmark biodiversity offset agreement with a governmental organisation responsible for maintaining wildlife conservation areas and biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal.
“Our LNG-to-Power projects will play an important role in South Africa’s energy crisis, paving the way for further integration of renewable energy while stabilising the grid and providing much needed base-load power.”
Karpowership SA said the DFFE has issued the Provisional Atmospheric Emission Licence for its project in Richards Bay in terms of section 41(1) of the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act 2004, providing “unequivocal evidence” of its adherence to required environmental laws and standards.
“Our focus remains on finalising agreements to reach financial close and to contribute to eliminating load shedding and promoting economic growth in South Africa.”
A joint statement by the environmental organisations said the project has encountered numerous obstacles over the past three years.
“The appeal automatically suspends the EA, in terms of law,” said the statement.
The organisations said the appeal raises numerous points about the defectiveness of the prescribed public participation process, including lack of adequate consultation with local fishing communities, whose livelihoods, cultural ways of life and food security may be impacted.
“There has also been lack of consultation around the controversial biodiversity offset, which has been shrouded in secrecy and brought in at a very late stage, with no consultation held to explain what this entails.”
The statement said the project would result in biodiversity loss of the sensitive estuarine ecosystem in and around the port, and in turn would devastate critical fish nurseries that stock at least 300km of coastline.
“Despite being located in a high risk area in terms of the scientifically forecast storm surges and increased cyclone risk brought about by global warming, the assessment is practically silent on how these risks are quantified or to be managed.”
Other reports such as the avifauna report, noise report and marine estuary and socio-economic impact reports are also challenged in the appeal.
“The appellants (organisations) argue that the Karpowership is a flawed and expensive approach to addressing the electricity crisis, and has the potential to lock the country into an exorbitant contract for many years to come.
“Should the appeal be dismissed, the appellants would be able to approach the High Court in a review application.”