The history of oil extraction in Africa is one of greed, complicity, destruction of livelihoods and natural habitats, and human rights violations. This is perfectly illustrated by the Nigerian military government’s targeting of the Ogoni people, who were protesting the devastating environmental degradation caused by the Shell Petroleum Company’s oil pollution.
It is necessary for South Africans to act quickly, as there is a small window of opportunity to prevent a fossil fuel exploitation explosion in our ocean. By extending our fight for climate justice to opposing deep-sea oil and gas exploitation, we will serve the country, and the African continent as a whole, whilst we acknowledge the courageous fight of the Ogoni people and build on Ken Saro-Wiwa’s legacy.
It is within this context that the project aims to empower local ocean-dependent communities, ensuring fisher livelihoods, and their tools and knowledge are sustained, and communities are able to engage with decision-makers for the protection of our oceans for all, for ever.
This campaign will build on existing networks of small scale fishers and other coastal and ocean communities, as well as engaging with those civil society organizations working on climate change and the energy sector.
The Who Stole Our Oceans campaign is an environmental and social justice campaign launched by The Green Connection in 2020, in a bid to protect our oceans for future generations, with a particular emphasis on opposing offshore oil and gas exploration, is currently underway.
We have a long history of working with fishing communities to help them recognize and fight for their rights, we have worked with partner organizations on various projects, the Masifundise to ensure fisheries are ecologically sensitive in their activities, and WWF project for responsible fisheries.
We as The Green Connection, have been active over time in a number of ecojustice struggles. A crucial consideration in South Africa’s just energy transition must be to ascertain what benefits new renewable energy projects have to address the legacies of the injustice of the past. We have engaged with communities on the ground to see how they were experiencing the benefits of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP). Sadly, the story is not a happy one.
We work with other NGOs – South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), groundWork, Centre of Environmental Rights (CER), Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), Eastern Cape Environmental Network (ECEN) – to raise concerns and participate in various campaigns opposing fossil fuels. Together, our objective is for decision-makers to realise that oil and gas should not be an option for South Africa & to demand a just transition plan. Our studies reveal that the economics of oil and gas is not going to swing in South Africa’s favour, and that the methane emissions from twenty years or more of oil and gas exploration are not a climate-friendly solution.
Over the last year, COVID-19 was not only a health impact for civil society, but it also curtailed and restricted our constitutional rights to participate in democracy. And in this way, the voices of reason against oil and gas exploration are not being heard. We are determined to make sure that those affected have a say in the future of the country. We believe that the government is not doing enough. The timeline of events has been provided from the submission of comments to the Department of Mineral Resource & Energy (DMRE) to halt offshore oil and gas drilling to formal complaints written about karpowerships in Saldanha made by The Green Connection.
Pushback on Flawed EIAs:
The EIA application sought authorisation to conduct an exploration drilling programme (up to six deepwater wells) in Block ER236, offshore of the East Coast of South Africa.
SDCEA with the support of the Green Connection has taken the government to court to challenge the appeal decision of Minister of Environment, Hon. Barbara Creecy, who ruled that the drilling could go ahead. The appeal by civil society groups, against the initial approval, was rejected by the minister, giving the project the go-ahead. Further information on the appeal see could be found on the SDCEA website.
Block 11B/12B (south-west portion) that is offshore South of Mossel Bay and Knysna (Cape South Coast). The EIA was approved and the permission was given during or about October 2020. See for example https://www.businessinsider.co.za/luiperd-gas-hopes-total-2020-10.The oil rig drilling platform ship, the Deepsea Stavanger, arrived off Mossel Bay and proceeded to drill a new exploration well in the Luiperd prospect (near the previous Brulpadda exploration well and the ocean floor. In 2019 this exploration resulted in the Brulpadda gas discovery (previous attempts to drill an exploration well had been abandoned). The Green Connection protested and voiced their opposition in Mossel Bay.
Block 11B/12B in 2020 TEPSA applied for environmental authorisation to undertake additional exploration activities in this Block, east of the previously approved to drill the area (where the Brulpadda and subsequently the Luidperd exploration wells were drilled). Authorisation was being sought to drill a further ten exploration wells.
On 21 August 2021, the Green Connection submitted comments on the Draft Scoping Report, including its view that the public participation procedure was flawed. The comments also focussed on issues of concern relating to the planned oil spill modeling, the absence of an oil spill and blow-out contingency plan, climate change implications, and several key environmental and socio-economic aspects that had not been identified in the Draft Scoping Report.
On 7 April 2021, the Green Connection’s attorneys wrote to the EIA consultants pointing out that the time period for submitting an EIA report had expired, and that in terms of the EIA Regulations the competent authority will deem the application as having lapsed. On 15 April 2021 TEPSA issued a letter confirming that the EIA application had been postponed/withdrawn.
Block 1 Off the West Coast of South Africa –TOSACO has applied for environmental authorisation to conduct exploration activities in Block 1. It seeks to reprocess existing seismic data and to conduct a new 3D seismic survey in a specific area of the Block. The application does not seek environmental authorisation to drill any exploration wells at this stage (in which case TOSACO says it will either conduct a new EIA or apply for an amendment of any authorisation granted). The Green Connection submitted comments on the Draft Scoping Report on 29 April 2021 and subsequently submitted comments on the draft EIA report on 4 October 2021. We have raised legal, procedural, and substantive issues relating to the EIA relating to (among other things) no acoustic modeling having been conducted for the proposed 3D seismic survey, information gaps and scientific uncertainty relating to the marine ecosystem and potential impacts of the 3D seismic survey on marine fauna, as well as climate change concerns relating to future potential future exploration drilling, production and use of any fossil fuels discovered.
The Green Connection is keeping an eye on this block which the media reports, it is being backed by some American billionaire. No formal processes have started but local communities are not happy.
At the moment in South Africa, there is little demand for gas. It is therefore unclear, given the climate crisis, why companies would want to come here to invest in oil and gas. The Green Connection would rather South Africa attracts investment from companies that could support a sustainable future through socially-just renewable energy projects.
The government has also embarked on a number of steps to force South Africa into a gas-dependent energy sector. There are plans for infrastructure and there are plans for domestic gas exploration and extraction. And on top of this, there is also new legislation on the cards to further force gas down South Africa’s throats. In 2001, the gas amendment bill was tabled for parliament to approve. The Green Connection made written submissions and will make a public presentation in November 2021 this will depend on the parliament programme. In 2020, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) with NERSA’s concurrence published a Section 34 determination to procure new electricity generation capacity to meet short-term emergency needs.
The request for proposals (RFP) was issued in August 2020, and the closing date was set for October. At the last minute, the closing date was extended.
The Green Connection has expressed alarm at the manner in which the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPP) was carried out. In the weeks that followed, energy experts in the country expressed concern that these expensive karpowerships were not in South Africa’s best interests. These issues relate to the price of electricity tied to dollar/rand exchange and international price. The climate issue of mooring ships for 20 years.
When it comes to procedure, a number of dots appear to show that this deal is not above board and one of the losing bidders has challenged the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy accusing them of corruption.
The karpowerships were initially granted an exemption under the EIA regulations in December 2020 but the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment intervened and reversed that exception, forcing the karpowerships to undertake an EIA.
Karpower has applied to moor power ships in our waters for twenty years.
Coastal communities in Saldanha, Gqberha working with the Green Connection attempted to participate in the EIA. The Green Connection believed that the process was so flawed that we put in a complaint to the DFFE. Communities did not feel that they had been meaningfully consulted and said so in their submissions to the Karpower EIA.
On the 24th of June 2021, the DFFE suspended the EIA pending the investigation of the GC complaint. The DFFE lifted the suspension on the EIA process, and soon thereafter refused environmental authorisation to Karpowerships. Karpower opted to appeal the DFFE decisions and the Green Connection and other coastal communities and NGO’s Centre of environmental rights responded to the karpower appeal. We are now waiting for the minister of environment to make her decision.
The Karpowerships received an exemption from having to follow the local content obligations – this exemption was only granted on 15 December. Interestingly, if the original deadline had not been extended, the karpowerships would have been excluded from proceeding in the bid process. On the 15th of March the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) invited members of the public and stakeholders to make oral presentations online on various Karpowership licenses. We responded to NERSA’s attempt to sideline Karpower public participation process.
Community groups along the coast, who are dependent on fishing for a sustainable livelihood, have objected, but have effectively been ignored. In the Western Cape, the Langebaan fishing communities and the Saldanha along with Eastern Cape Environmental Network were part of a group that wrote to the Energy and Minerals Committee in Parliament to ask for further investigation. However, the parliament committee failed in their constitutional duty by ignored the letter written by 13 environmental groups. We heard nothing from parliament.
On the 30th of May, fifteen organisations wrote to the speaker of parliament, asking for an investigation. On the 23rd of June 2021, the speakers’ office responded. Although claiming that the DMRE was investigating the matter, it is now September and we have heard nothing official. the closing date for financial closure (the deadline by which the Karpower needs to have their permits and other paperwork in place was the end of July 2021, this was extended to the end of September 2021 so why is parliament dragging its heels?
Earlier, we were asking why the offshore companies are pushing to drill and threaten our oceans when there is no demand. But the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is now on record saying that with the karpowerships it needed gas for twenty years and they envisage that local gas will be used in the future.
In other words, the government appears to be creating artificial demand for offshore oil and gas. And as the prices for the RMIPPP are higher than the alternatives –the people of South Africa will have to pay for higher electricity prices for twenty years, with generations of South Africans bearing the brunt of this irrational and illogical decision.
Karpowerships applied to the national energy regulator for a license to generate electricity. Green Connection submitted written comments and made oral presentations at the public hearings. This electricity generation license has since been granted. The Green Connection has requested reasons from NERSA, and has been advised that reasons will be provided once the ‘confidentiality process’ with Karpowerships has been concluded. On the 29th of October 2021, NERSA provided its reasons why they decided to grant Karpower their 3 generational licenses. Stating that IRP 2019 identified risks of loadshedding and there was a need to procure 2000 to 3000MW of energy.
On 25 April 2022, The Green Connection launched an application in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria seeking to review and set aside the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA) decision to grant three electricity generation licenses to the Karpowership SA companies.
The Green Connection held its first-ever international Oceans Tribunal on the 21 – 22 of September its aim was to give a platform to coastal communities to express their concerns regarding the negative impacts offshore oil and gas will pose to their livelihoods. That is when the announcement was made by NERSA about Karpowership license being approved. The coastal communities clearly stated that they do not want Karpowerships nor oil and gas as their livelihoods depend on oceans for living. The DMRE gave all the emergency power bidders including Karpower an extension to reach financial close by the 30 of January 2022 where the initial deadline was 31 July 2021.
The Green Connection has a Legacy programme that was created to equip activists with advocacy skills to enable them to fight for their environmental and socio-economic rights. The 2021 Legacy group completed their training in October 2021 and have been involved in various projects in their communities.
The Green Connection will continue to challenge the Karpowerships and other projects that could damage marine ecosystems and exacerbate climate change. Poor and vulnerable communities along the coast depend on the ocean for their livelihoods, the tourism industry, and all of us depend on the ocean for oxygen. The destruction of our heritage and life support system for short-term greed by a few, will not be tolerated.
On Sunday morning, (21 November 2021), before the crack of dawn, nearly 200 concerned environmental defenders took to the Waterfront to get a glimpse of Shell’s seismic testing vessel, Amazon Warrior, as it made its way into Cape Town harbour. The vessel travelled down the West coast of Africa, on its way to the Wild Coast, to conduct seismic surveys for an estimated five (5) months. The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead Liziwe McDaid says, “We were expecting a small contingent of about fifteen (15) or so people to show up to protest against this ship, commissioned by Shell to conduct seismic testing off the Wild Coast, but these numbers, this early on a precious Sunday morning, demonstrates that people are adamant that they want change.”
In partnership with environmental organizations we opposed Shell seismic surveys off the Wild Coast. On the 30th of November the Green Connection with partners submitted their objection of Shell’s seismic surveys to SLR consulting. Green organizations and activists took legal actions against Shell seismic surveys and won the court interdict on the 28th of December 2021.
After winning the court case against Shell seismic surveys on the Wild Coast the Department of Mineral Energy and Resources said Searcher the holder of a Reconnaissance Permit would undertake 2D and 3D seismic surveys off the West Coast. Small-scale fishers with the support of Green Connection headed back to court in a bid to stop seismic surveys off the West Coast followed by a nationwide protest which was held on the 23rd of January 2022. Civil society demanded the survey to be stopped as the livelihoods of fishers, those in agriculture, and tourism would be impacted by offshore oil and gas exploration. Searcher Geodata filed an urgent court interdict to reverse the court order made on the 7th of February 2022 to halt blasting off the West Coast. On the 14th of February the court order to stop blasting remained. West Coast small-scale fishers and civil society went back to court again on the 24th of February for the hearing against Searcher and the interim interdict continued. The court ruled against Searcher on the 1st of March as they failed to consult small-scale fishers, indigenous communities and other affected groups and failed to construct an environmental impact assessment. Sustaining The Wild Coast Judgement.
– How much oil and gas companies are producing
– How much unconventional oil and gas they are producing (i.e. fracking, tar sands, coalbed methane, extra heavy oil, ultra deepwater and Arctic)
– How big oil and gas companies’ expansion plans are
– How big their unconventional expansion plans are
– How much they’re spending on exploration
– What their fossil fuel share of revenue is
– How many pipeline kilometers they’re developing
– How much LNG terminal capacity they’re developing
– In which Reputational Risk Projects the companies are involved.
For more information.