The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), groundWork and Friends of the Earth South Africa, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), have approached the Pretoria High Court to review and set aside an environmental authorisation granted for Phinda Power’s proposed 320MW gas-to-power plant, proposed for the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (IDZ).
This latest challenge to proposed gas-to-power projects in Richards Bay comes after the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment dismissed groundWork’s appeal against the decision to grant environmental authorisation for the Phinda Power project in November 2021.
“We launched this review in light of the serious and avoidable environmental and climate impacts of gas power, while much cleaner renewable technologies exist that could meet South Africa’s energy needs sooner and more cheaply,” says Desmond D’Sa, Office Co-ordinator at SDCEA.
“These concerns are pivotal given the growing climate crisis, and the State’s obligation to give effect to Section 24 of our Bill of Rights that grants us a right to an environment that is not harmful to our health and wellbeing.”
It is proposed that the gas to power plant initially operates using Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) as a fuel source before, transitioning to natural gas once supply is made available in Richards Bay via imported Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).
“Contrary to gas proponents’ suggestion that gas is cleaner than coal, methane (which escapes into the atmosphere at the different levels in the supply chain), has far greater potential for global warming than carbon dioxide emitted through the burning of coal. In addition, the plummeting prices of renewable energy and the high price of gas means that gas is no longer a viable investment, and any gas infrastructure risks becoming a stranded asset. Relying on gas puts our energy supply at risk,” says Avena Jacklin, Climate and Energy Justice Campaign Manager at groundWork.
The call for review by groundWork and SDCEA argues that the original environmental impact assessment (EIA) failed to consider all feasible and reasonable alternatives and that the Minister’s reliance on the inclusion of gas power in the Integrated Resource Plan 2019 (IRP 2019) does not exclude the consideration of alternatives, as required under NEMA and EIA regulations.
On 11 May 2022, the groups also launched legal proceedings to set aside an amendment to the environmental approval for another gas to power plant, RB2, in Richards Bay.