The West Coast Black Business Alliance (WCBBA) has come on board alongside other organisations to appeal the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s (DFFE’s) decision to not approve Karpowership South Africa’s environmental-impact assessments (EIAs) for three powership gas-to-power projects.
The WCBBA on July 7 said it would launch an independent appeal against the decision, adding to that of the Eastern Cape Maritime Business Chamber (ECMBC) and the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
This follows after the DFFE declined three environmental authorisation applications submitted by Karpowership for the development of the gas-to-power projects at the ports of Richards Bay, Ngqura and Saldanha Bay to supply power to the national grid from natural gas.
Karpowership had been awarded the contracts under the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP).
On March 18, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe named eight preferred bidders under the 20-year RMIPPPP, including three fully imported Karpowership floating gas-fired power plants, which collectively account for 1 220 MW of the 2 000 MW on offer.
The reasons for the DFFE’s decision related to Karpowership’s failure to comply with the prescribed National Environmental Management Act (Nema) requirements relating to public consultation, with the draft EIA reports having been subjected to public review for a period of less than 30 days and the final reports submitted containing significant new information not canvassed during the public participation process.
The competent authority also indicates that the actual and potential impacts on the environment, as well as socioeconomic impacts, particularly on small-scale fisheries, could not be fully evaluated, owing to an absence of proper underwater noise impact studies.
The WCBBA, during a media briefing on July 7, said many communities were in support of the projects, because of the business and work opportunities that it could offer and most importantly the additional supply of electricity it would generate.
“Environmentalists must not bully businesses out of opportunities. These projects can help get our economy back on foot and create jobs,” said WCBBA head of secretariat Theunisen Andrews.
ECMBC chairperson Unathi Sonti added that energy security ought to be government’s priority right now.
He described the DFFE’s rejection assertions as “uninformed and short-sighted”, adding that Karpowership had met all the necessary stringent environmental requirements.
The WCBBA and ECMBC agree that the environment must be protected, but also believes in serving objectives of greater society, such as access to electricity, jobs and business opportunities.
The WCBBA moreover mentioned that environmental organisations had cited that the powerships and its resultant noise pollution would negatively impact on the marine environment, but the organisation said no studies to this effect had been done globally as far as it was aware.
The organisation has requested the relevant environmental organisations to submit studies that they base their views on.
In the meantime, the WCBBA and other organisations will progress with their appeal against the decision of the DFFE.