Environmental justice groups groundWork and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), represented by the Center for Environmental Rights (CER), are challenging an amendment to an environmental permit for another floating gas-to-power plant project in Richards Bay.
CER has applied to the High Court in Pretoria to challenge the new environmental clearance granted to Richards Bay Gas to Power Plant 2 (RB2) in the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone.
This new legal challenge follows last month’s announcement that groundWork and the SDCEA, backed by activist organization Natural Justice and represented by attorneys Cullinan and Associates, have been granted a court date for the landmark litigation launched in 2021 against environmental approval from Eskom’s proposed 3,000 MW gas-power plant. This is the first challenge of its kind in South Africa.
The latest challenge calls on the government to consider scientific evidence of greenhouse gas emissions emitted over the life cycle of gas as a fossil fuel and to recognize the serious potential climate change impacts of the RB2 project.
This challenge joins several other objections to gas port (as proposed by the gas industry) at Richards Bay IDZ and KwaZulu-Natal Port.
According to the CER statement, the groups have taken to the High Court in Pretoria to consider Environment Minister Barbara Creecy’s refusal of certain grounds of appeal brought in 2021, given the environmental impact regulations that govern the request for amendment under consideration.
They request an assessment of all the impacts associated with the proposed change, the advantages and disadvantages associated with the proposed change, and measures to ensure the avoidance, management and mitigation of the impacts associated with this proposed change to be included in a report. . In this case, the proposed modifications to the gas-to-electric power plant lead to climate impacts.
“To achieve the objective of the EIA regulations, the assessment of all impacts, advantages and disadvantages must take into account the circumstances at the time of the request for amendment, including environmental, political and legal developments which disadvantage the project previously permitted,” read the CER statement.
The parties have 16 days from April 25 to oppose the case and provide the records that were before Minister Creecy when she made her decision.
The 400MW gas-to-power plant, which received environmental clearance in 2016 for a closed-cycle gas turbine – provided activity begins within five years of clearance – has been idle for years. The project resurfaced in December 2020 with a request to modify the plant’s schedule, technology and fuel usage – through an environmental clearance amendment process.
Avena Jacklin, head of GroundWork’s climate and energy justice campaign, said the organization has, through objections and appeals, underscored the urgent need to comprehensively assess the climate impacts that such a project will have.
“We have repeatedly stressed to the project developer and the Ministry of Forests, Fisheries and the Environment that gas contributes to climate change as much as coal (and more than coal over a 20-year period), and therefore should not be considered a clean product. or sustainable fossil fuel or electricity source.
“Natural gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps 86 times more heat than CO2 over a period of 20 years – this is now, in 2022, an established scientific and statistical fact,” said Jacklin.
According to the SDCEA, civil society has been repeatedly harmed by the department, which does not stand up to the energy sector and its emissions-intensive activities.
SDCEA coordinator Desmond D’Sa said severe and extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and extreme due to climate change.
“The heavy rains that have caused such destruction in KZN over the past two weeks can be expected to happen again in the future, and with increasing frequency.
“We want to see the department charged and mandated to give effect to the constitutional environmental law of Section 24, and apply its spirit to applications where climate impacts are caused or exacerbated,” D’Sa said. DM/OBP