Exxaro
Earthlife Africa Johannesburg has asked the court to review the Department of Environmental Affairs’ decision to authorise the proposed Thabametsi power station.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg (ELA), represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), has also requested a review of the Minister of Environmental Affairs’ March 2016 decision to uphold the authorisation on appeal, pending a climate change impact assessment for the power station.

ELA instituted legal proceedings in the Pretoria High Court in March to set aside the environmental authorisation to the 1 200 MW Thabametsi coal-fired power station near Lephalale, in Limpopo.

The compulsory climate change impact assessment is now underway and is a first for a proposed coal-fired power station in South Africa.

Makoma Lekalakala, co-ordinator and senior programmes officer of the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Partnership of ELA says: “We hope that this litigation will send a strong message to government and to other prospective coal IPP projects, that climate change impacts – particularly of coal-fired power plants – can no longer be ignored.

“There are significant impacts to the environment and to human health, which must be assessed,” Lekalakala says.

CER Attorney, Nicole Loser comments: “ELA and CER have always maintained that the power station should not have been authorised in the absence of an assessment of the climate change impacts.”

She adds that the main basis for the court application is that the Minister, by requiring Thabametsi to undertake a climate change impact assessment, clearly agrees that a climate change impact assessment was necessary to properly assess the environmental impacts of the project.

Thabametsi is one of the two proposed coal-fired power stations to have submitted a bid in November last year under the Department of Energy’s coal-base load independent power producer procurement programme (CBIPPPP).

CER, on behalf of partner organisations groundWork, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance and ELA, is challenging the environmental authorisations issued to three of the proposed power stations – Thabametsi included.

The court papers highlight the significance of the impacts of climate change, particularly for a water-scarce country such as South Africa, where vulnerable and poor communities are likely to be worst affected.

Moreover, the need for a committed response from South Africa to these impacts, particularly in light of the country’s commitments made by signing the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Waterberg area, where the power station is proposed, is particularly afflicted by limited water availability.

The Waterberg has also been earmarked under the Infrastructure Development Act, as a catalyst for unlocking the northern mineral belt

Bobby Peek, director of environmental justice organisation groundWork, says: “Coal is an industry in decline and at risk. Our country has world-renowned capacity for renewable energy, such as solar and wind.”

“There is no need for new coal-fired power in South Africa – we will resist all new coal power plants and mines because authorising new coal developments is not in the best interests of South Africans,” says Peek

The court papers have been served on all the respondents and they have 15 days to give notice should they intend to oppose the application.