Who Stole Our Oceans Campaign Story

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, Masifundise to ensure fisheries are ecologically sensitive in their activities, and WWF project for responsible fisheries.

Map showing Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration in South Africa (map stems from Petroleum Agency South Africa)

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), Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), 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.

Figure 1. Estimate of methane leakage rates in literature, with both bottom-up and top-down approaches. (from Scholes et al (2016).27)

Over the last two years, 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 Luiperd Gas Hopes Total 2020.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.

On 4th of July 2022, the Green Connection submitted comments on TEEPSA block 5/6/7 on the West Coast of South Africa. In our comments, we highlighted the risks of investing in more fossil fuel projects instead of transitioning to renewable energy with intensifying climate change issues.

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.