The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries said in a statement that “after due consideration of all relevant information” it had decided to refuse all three applications from Karpowership for environmental authorisation – based on the inadequacy of the environmental impact assessment and public consultation process.
Daily Maverick and amaBhungane have also brought to light several other questionable aspects around the floating powerships deal over the past few months, including dodgy exemptions in the approval process that are now being investigated by the Green Scorpions, along with separate allegations of corrupt procedures made by a rival power bidder.
Quite apart from the climate change and other environmental impacts associated with the Turkish proposal to moor several gas-burning powerships in Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay and Ngqura harbours, a senior CSIR engineer has estimated that the gas-to-electricity project could cost taxpayers more than R200-billion over 20 years.
The department has advised Karpowership that it can lodge an appeal against the decision, but with barely a month left before it is required to reach financial closure for the Eskom emergency power procurement deal, it seems unlikely that the Turkish company and its environmental consultants can remedy the faults in the hastily prepared environmental impact assessment (EIA) that has now failed to pass muster.
But Karpowership has not thrown in the towel.
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, Karpowership claimed the Environment Department had “allowed a misinformation campaign funded by special interests” to derail the deal.
The company said it had conducted a “robust public participation process”, “met all South Africa’s stringent environmental requirements” and it remained “confident that it will win the appeal against this decision”.
The department clearly saw things differently, however, saying the EIA failed to meet the “minimum requirements” for proper public participation and it had also failed to conduct adequate studies on underwater noise impacts in the three harbours.
Sabelo Malaza, the department’s chief director for integrated environmental authorisations, also voiced concern that prior to submitting a final EIA report to his department, Karpowership’s environmental consultants, Triplo4, made significant changes to the report which were not communicated to stakeholders.
Several documents had also been removed from the Triplo4 website and only restored for public access after a series of complaints from interested and affected parties.
This is a developing story and will be updated for the next edition. DM/OBP