The Turkish-owned Karpowership fleet has been ‘struck’ by three potentially devastating ‘torpedo explosions’ after officials in Barbara Creecy’s national Department of Environmental Affairs suspended the approvals process or refused to authorise all three of the company’s gas-to-electricity proposals.
Now, short of urgent court appeals or political interventions to sweep environmental laws aside under cover of the new State of Disaster electricity regulations, the controversial Turkish plan may be dead in the water. The plan, estimated to have a price tag of around R220-billion, involves mooring up to nine Karpowership vessels in three local harbours (Richards Bay, Coega and Saldanha Bay) for the next two decades to provide “emergency power” supplies amid the national power supply collapse.
Creecy’s department confirmed late on Friday, 10 March that:
- the Coega harbour application has been refused in its entirety.
- the Richards Bay harbour application has been withdrawn for now by Karpowership’s environmental consultants (though Creecy’s department regards the application as “closed”.)
- the Saldanha Bay application has been suspended after complaints that Karpowership environmental consultants submitted “misleading” information to Creecy’s department in its attempt to gain approval.
In a written statement, Creecy’s department said: “All information relevant to each of the (three) applications was thoroughly assessed in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.”
Neither Karpowership nor Minister Gwede Mantashe’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy have responded to the latest bombshell announcement.
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment noted that Minister Creecy had remitted all three projects back to the “competent authority” in August so that the “various gaps in the information and procedural defects in relation to the public participation process” could be reconsidered and re-adjudicated.
Karpowership had resubmitted all three EIA applications on 9 January for decision-making.
However, Karpowership’s environmental consultant Hantie Plomp had written to the department on 2 March, asking that the revised Richards Bay EIA report be withdrawn for now. “The withdrawal is based on an urgent application by the (consultant) for condonation to comply with regulatory timeframes in terms of Section 47C of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema) submitted to Minister Creecy on 24 February, 2023.”
Regarding the Saldanha application, the environment department had received a formal complaint from the Green Connection environmental group “alleging suspected non-compliance” with EIA Regulations.
“As a result, the application has been suspended by the competent authority so that the veracity of the allegations can be probed. Letters have been issued to the environmental assessment practitioner for Karpowership-SA and to The Green Connection. The decision on this application will be based on the outcome of the investigation.”
Significantly, the environmental authorisation for Coega was “refused” in its entirety on 7 March.
The full reasons for refusing the Coega application are here.