TIME IS UP FOR KARPOWERSHIPS IN SALDANHA BAY AND COEGA
Karpowership SA’s controversial gas-to-power powership projects proposed for the ports of Saldanha and Ngqura suffered further setbacks recently. After being refused environmental authorisation in 2021, Karpowership appealed to environmental Minister Barbara Creecy. The Minister decided to remit the matters back to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries (DFFE) so that various gaps and defects could be addressed by Karpowership. Karpowership subsequently submitted revised final Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports in January 2023. However, in the Saldanha application, Karpowership withdrew its final EIA report, and applied to the Minister for extension and condonation to submit a generic Environmental Management Programme (EMPr). This application was refused by DFFE. In Ngqura, DFFE refused to authorise the proposed project. Karpowership has appealed both refusal decisions.
Last week, The Green Connection and other eco-justice organisations submitted responding statements to Karpowership’s appeals, calling for the Minister to dismiss the appeals. According to The Green Connection’s Neville van Rooy, “The Karpowership saga has turned into a convoluted tale with many twists and turns. After nearly four (4) years of unsuccessfully attempting to obtain environmental authorisations for its powership projects, the Turkish-based company has failed to demonstrate its suitability as an emergency electricity solution for South Africa.”
“In their appeal response regarding Saldanha Bay, The Green Connection and Natural Justice argue that DFFE should have refused to consider Karpowership’s application for condonation and extension in terms of section 47C of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA). This is because the application had already lapsed (and was deemed ‘closed’ by DFFE) as a result of the final EIA report having been withdrawn without a prior extension having been granted in accordance with the NEMA EIA Regulations,” adds van Rooy.
In the Eastern Cape – where Karpowership is appealing against DFFE’s refusal to grant environmental authorisation for the powership project in the Ngqura port – The Green Connection, along with the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa Algoa Bay Branch (WESSA ABB) and Algoa Bay Ocean Stewards (ABOS), have also pushed back.
Among other things, the organisations raise concern about potential conflict between the Karpowership project and the port’s development plans (which already have environmental authorisation). The organisations point out that the Ngqura port is not an expansive development with unlimited space. As such, allocating port space for three vessels, on a permanent berthing basis for a 20-year period, could have detrimental knock-on effects on other developments both within the port and the Coega SEZ. Details of the port’s development plans, as well as the assertion made by Karpowership, in its appeal, that an agreement was reached with the Port Authority that the ships would have to be relocated to an alternative location after five to seven years, did not form part of the EIA documentation and public participation process. The organisations argue that this exclusion of material information was a fatal flaw in the EIA process.
“With all this back and forth with Karpowership, we are wasting precious time that could have been spent on bringing in more suitable, renewable electricity generation capacity. After four years, Karpowership has failed to provide a short-term solution to the electricity crisis. Given volatile international liquid natural gas prices, significant concerns also remain that the powerships could lead to exorbitant electricity tariffs. Furthermore, concerns remain that the operation of the powerships could harm the marine environment and juvenile fish nurseries in particular, which may in turn negatively impact small-scale fishers based in or near these areas who depend on fishing for their livelihoods,” concludes van Rooy.