All three Karpowership ‘emergency plans’ back on the table for late approval
All three of the 20-year Karpowership ‘emergency power’ plans have come bubbling back to the surface for belated government approval — despite perceptions that they may be on the point of sinking.
Last month, the national Department of Environmental Affairs issued a series of incremental announcements which gave the impression that the controversial proposals for floating gas-power plants in three South African harbours had struck the rocks.
The department said at the time that environmental approval for the Coega harbour power ship plan had been refused in toto because of opposition from the Transnet harbour authority, which had competing plans for the harbour space proposed by the Turkish-based Karadeniz group.
Approval for the power ship plan for Saldanha Bay was also in jeopardy after The Green Connection environmental group lodged complaints alleging that Karpowership’s environmental consultants, Triplo4, deliberately sought to “mislead” the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) during the environmental approval process.
The third proposal, in Richards Bay harbour, was also in doubt after Triplo4 withdrew from the approval process, citing an “administrative error” during the submission of its environmental authorisation application.
Now it has emerged that all three plans are potentially back on the table for final approval following last-minute legal appeals or requests for extra time by the Turkish-controlled consortium.
The DFFE confirmed on Thursday that it had rejected objections from The Green Connection and was now considering a request for extra time from Karpowership to lodge a new application for environmental approval.
If this request for extra time was refused, Karpowership would have to lodge a new application for approval. If its request for extra time was granted, “the process will continue as per the conditions of approval”.
The department said that, in response to allegations from The Green Connection, it had also received further representations from Karpowership’s consultants.
After perusing the records and “interrogating” submissions from Green Connection, “no evidence could be found that supported the allegations”, the department stated.
Regarding Richards Bay harbour, DFFE spokesperson Peter Mbelengwa said his department had also received an extra-time request from Karpowership to “address challenges identified with the public review of the [environmental impact assessment] report and to ensure that all identified interested and affected parties have an opportunity to review and comment on the report”.
This request for extra time had been granted on 3 May, giving Triplo4 another month to submit a final report to the department.
The situation regarding the rejected Coega harbour application is less clear.
On 7 April, Karpowership attorney Adam Gunn wrote to DFFE Minister Barbara Creecy requesting condonation of extra time to appeal against the department’s decision to refuse permission for the Coega power ship plan.
Stiff opposition expected
Gunn’s letter does not disclose the basis of Karpowership’s appeal. Behind the scenes, however, the Turkish company and Transnet appear to be in discussions over a possible new site for power ships in Coega.
Nevertheless, Karpowership and the DFFE are expected to encounter further stiff legal and public opposition from several quarters.
The Green Connection spokesperson, Liz McDaid, told Our Burning Planet that the group was waiting for official clarity from Creecy’s department, but remained “confident” that the Karpowership plan for Saldanha had been withdrawn.
The Green Connection was also consulting with its legal team on how to take the issue forward.
“We believe this is an open-and-shut case. We are not accepting the department’s decision to dismiss our objections,” she said.
In its official complaint to the department, The Green Connection alleged that Karpowership consultants had sought to “fraudulently present other persons’ comments and views as those of small-scale fishers” during a public consultation meeting in Saldanha Bay.
“All of the attendees at the meeting titled ‘small-scale fisheries engagement’ on 3 October 2022 clearly identified themselves as being directors, owners or officials in the aquaculture industry on the attendance register, with the exception of one person who comes from the commercial pelagic sector.
“None of them are small-scale fishers or interim relief fishers permitted to fish in the Saldanha Bay or Langebaan area. Yet the consultants got them to fill in statements confirming that they were small-scale fishers. Even these participants themselves indicated on the form that they signed that they were actually from the aquaculture sector/pelagic commercial sector.
“It is difficult to understand why these persons were involved in a focus group that claimed to represent the small-scale sector when they were actually not in a position to do this,” The Green Connection stated in its complaint to DFFE.
Karpowership, for its part, on Thursday reiterated its determination to pursue its plans, stating in response to questions: “South Africa remains central to our operations, and we are committed to contributing towards an energy solution that enables inclusive economic growth.” DM/OBP
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