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Environment department blocks another floa for gas-to-power…

Environment department blocks another floa for gas-to-power…

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A second floating power plant that converts gas to electricity has been denied permission to moor at Richards Bay.

Anchor Energys Nseleni Power Corporation was denied Environmental Authorisation (EA). The corporation planned to moor a 6,500MW Nseleni Independent Floating Power Plant, (NIFPP), at one of South Africa’s largest harbours.

This makes it the second unsuccessful application for authorisation on environmental grounds. In June, Karpowership, a Turkish energy company, was denied authorisation.

The NIFPP was rejected due to its potential impact on the ecosystem and the potential impacts it could have on local livelihoods.

The decision was welcomed by environmental organizations such as groundWork and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, (SDCEA), Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), and Natural Justice. According to them, several issues were raised in the refusal of the EA. They cited the negative impact that the mooring of the floating plant would have upon the area’s biodiversity and ecosystem.

Opposition to the authorisation was made by the organisations. They argued that organisms living in water bottoms would also be adversely affected if silt and other materials were removed.

Apart from this, it was believed not enough monitoring was done for estuarine birdlife prior to the application was made. Additionally, there were no mitigation actions put in place in order to alleviate the negative impacts that would be imposed upon the ecosystem and the residents of the area should the plant be present.

Nselenis was denied an environmental authorisation. Their Water Use Licence also was later denied.

According to the organizations, the refusal to issue a water license highlighted the fact that the dredging the seabed would have a serious impact on the environment. Piling (building a foundation), and other activities could also cause water flow problems. Additionally, the heated water from the plant could flow into the ocean, affecting marine life.

It was pointed out that the Mhlathuze and Richards Bay estuaries, as well as the Kabeljous estuaries, were not fully assessed when the application was denied.

The socioeconomic and environmental impacts of biodiversity loss on the economy were not assessed. Environmental activists also claim that the toxicity from dredging activities was not evaluated.

Another area of concern was the inadequacy of the community participation process for the application for the EA as well as the Water Use Licence. They claim neither the landowners nor fishing communities were consulted or notified about the plan.

Desmond DSa, SDCEAs, stated that best practice is moving to an energy source that does not harm people’s health.

We need a government that puts people at the center of development and allows them to have their say in technology, legislation, and policy that will bring people closer to their needs and improve their lives. DSa said that the planet is a sign that if we have the right systems in place, then everything is possible without using fossil fuels.

Talk to Daily MaverickDSa raised concerns regarding how companies approach communities offering jobs and using bullying tactics, such as threatening people who criticize environmental injustices.

DSa claimed that residents of communities weren’t getting jobs; instead, they were seeing their homes destroyed under the pretext for economic development.

According to the statement of environmental activists, the companies wanted to appeal against the refusal to grant the EA. Each denial must be responded to within 30 days of the decision date. Daily Maverick Anchor Energy declined to comment, but it stated that it could not at the moment.

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Richards Bay has at most six gas to power plant applications according to environmental groups. This includes the 450MW Karpowership (450MW), the 8,400MW Eskom Combined Cycle Power Plants, (CCPP), 450MW Phinda Power Plants, and the 2,000MW Richards Bay Gas-to Power Plant 2.

Karpowership, whose EA had been denied in June, appealed against that decision. It is currently awaiting the outcome.

After the Eskom-CCPP environmental authorisation had been issued on 23/12/2019, groundWork and SDCEA appealed against it in January 2020. The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment denied the appeal in October.

GroundWork and SDCEA, which were represented by Cullinan and Natural Justice, when they requested a review of the rejection by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment of April this year, are still waiting on an outcome.

Avena Jacklin is a senior climate and energy campaigner at groundWork Friends of Earth South Africa. She said that gas was not necessary.

The government must have the political will to, as public servants and in the public’s best interests, protect its common heritage for future generations by ensuring a just transition for all that is inclusive, democratic, and sustainable.

She said that the Department of Minerals and Energy in particular must act quickly to drastically reduce emissions by preventing new developments in fossil gas and coal and enabling investments for renewable energy, such as socially owned renewable energy. DM/OBP

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