Judgment reserved in dispute over KZN gas plant



04-08-2022
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Durban — Civil society organisations for climate change are hopeful that their plea to oppose the construction of an Eskom gas power plant in Richards Bay will be approved.



This comes as the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and groundWork, supported by Natural Justice, represented by Cullinan and Associates, challenged an Eskom proposed power plant in the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday.



In December 2019, Eskom Holdings was granted environmental authorisation to develop the power plant, which had not yet begun.



Recently, civil society organisations asked the court to declare the authorisation unlawful and to set it aside.



According to groundWork, advocates Andrea Gabriel SC and Ian Learmonth, who were speaking on behalf of the civil society organisation, argued that the proposed gas to power plant’s climate impacts were not adequately considered in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). They said that alternative energy sources, including renewables, were not considered.



A groups of people were staging a protest during the court case, against the power plant in Westville, outside the Eskom Holdings offices and in Richards Bay. | Supplied



“Arguments were also heard about the need and desirability of the plant,” said groundWork.



“While the EIA suggested that the gas plant would support the onboarding process of renewable energy, expert evidence by RMI showed this claim to be erroneous. The report confirmed there was no need for gas plants to be built this decade.”



The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, and Eskom are also said to have presented their arguments arguing that deference should be given to the decisions made by the government and that the public participation process met the minimum requirements of the EIA Regulations.



The court adjourned and judgment was reserved.



During the court case, two protests against the power plant took place in Westville, outside the Eskom Holdings offices, and in Richards Bay.



A groups of people were staging a protest during the court case, against the power plant in Westville, outside the Eskom Holdings offices and in Richards Bay. | Supplied



Natural Justice, Southern Africa Hub Director Delme Cupido, said Eskom’s plans would have significant implications for the climate crisis, for the people of Richards Bay and the public at large.



“They have a right to have their voices heard about the future of the only home they have: Earth.



“They have a right to a government which hears their concerns, considers all options to meet their needs, and respects their future. The applicants made their case today, and they made it well,” said Cupido.



A groups of people were staging a protest during the court case, against the power plant in Westville, outside the Eskom Holdings offices and in Richards Bay. | Supplied



GroundWork and Friends of the Earth South Africa spokesperson Avena Jacklin said they were looking forward to the judge’s decision, as people were also watching the landmark case closely to see how climate-related decisions were made.



“Industry continues to push dirty fossil gas as a ‘transitionary fuel’ despite growing evidence it is not needed to meet energy requirements. They continue to use outdated approaches to development that do not take into account dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, the climate crisis, the inclusion of people in decision making and impacts on future generations,” said Jacklin.



SDCEA senior project officer Tanica Naidoo said: “The SDCEA attended the Pretoria High Court on August 2 for the Eskom court case as the First Applicant. The day was full of twists and turns, but the applicants’ arguments were compelling. Humanity and the environment will always be one. The proposed power plant is at odds with both.”



Meanwhile, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said the utility was aware the matter was the subject of a court case: “Eskom might be limited in what it can say,” he said.

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