The Green Connection and Natural Justice say the decision of the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment (DFFE) Barbara Creecy to allow Karpowership to submit a Generic Environmental Management Programme (GEMPr) for Saldanha Bay is unlawful.
According to the DFFE, the objective of the GEMPr is to prescribe and pre-approve generally accepted impact management outcomes and impact management actions.
The eco-justice organisations said that the minister’s decision was unlawful because she did not consider or address their arguments against Karpowership’s appeal of the chief director’s decision.
According to the two organisations, the DFFE has confirmed that the minister never received their responding statement to Karpowership’s appeal document due to an administrative error. They believe that if their statement had been before the minister, it would have materially affected her appeal decision.
The Green Connection’s community outreach co-ordinator, Neville van Rooy, said: “We believe that Minister Creecy’s decision to now allow for the late submission of Karpowership’s Generic Environmental Management Programme report (GEMPr) is incorrect, since she did not consider all the information that should have been available to her. So, in the spirit of fairness and because of the department’s admitted error, we believe that the minister must approach the courts herself to get her decision overturned.”
DFFE acting chief director of communication Peter Mbelengwa said Karpowership (SA) lodged an appeal against the decision that was taken by the competent authority to refuse their application for condonation of the period to submit their generic GEMPr in the process for environmental authorisation.
He said the Directorate of Appeals and Legal Review within the DFFE is responsible for the processing and administration of appeals. At the time of preparing the file and recommendations on the appeal to the minister, the Appeals Directorate was not aware of the responses and comments that had been submitted by Adrian Pole Attorneys on behalf of The Green Connection and Natural Justice in opposition to the appeal due to an administrative error.
"The Appeals Directorate became aware of these comments upon receiving correspondence from attorney Adrian Pole, acting on behalf of those I&APs, on July 27, 2023, enquiring whether their clients’ comments were considered in the minister’s appeal decision. At that point in time, the minister’s appeal decision had already been published on July 24.
“Considering the above facts, Minister Creecy will not be able to revisit her appeal decision as the minister has been rendered functus officio (final in her function) in relation thereto,” said Mbelengwa.
Karpowership SA said it will remain fully co-operative with all relevant authorities throughout this process and is committed to ensuring all projects meet the country’s environmental protection legislative standards.
It said it has followed strict regulatory frameworks, and dismissed all allegations by The Green Connection and Natural Justice.
“In light of this, we will continue to work on engaging with the DFFE to finalise our final environmental impact assessment report (FEIAr). Successfully delivering the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme remains a priority, and we are committed to contributing towards a solution that will help eliminate load shedding and enable inclusive economic growth,” said Karpowership.