Karpowership refused environmental approvals for S.Africa projects

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JOHANNESBURG, June 24 (Reuters) - Karpowership has been refused environmental approvals for three gas-to-power projects in South Africa for reasons including that it did not comply with public participation rules, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment said on Thursday.

Turkey's Karpowership was a major winner in a 2,000 megawatt (MW) government emergency power tender designed to help ease crippling electricity outages in Africa's most industrialised nation. Delays in plugging the power shortfall could prolong national power cuts costing a weak economy billions of dollars and undermining investment.

Three of Karpowership's floating natural gas power stations - with a combined capacity of roughly 1,200 MW - were selected among preferred bidders in March.

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But since then the tender has been challenged in court by a company that lost out, and environmental activists have expressed opposition to the Karpowership projects. read more

"The Competent Authority in the Department has decided, after due consideration of all relevant information ... to refuse the applications for the environmental authorisations," the environment department said in a statement.

Among factors why the authorisations were not granted, the department said the potential environmental impact of the Karpowership projects could not be properly evaluated because of the lack of a proper underwater noise study and "significant gaps and limitations" with other assessments.

A Karpowership spokesperson said the company would appeal the decision and was confident of success.

"Karpowership SA conducted a robust public participation process, met all South Africa's stringent environmental requirements and is confident that it will win the appeal," the spokesperson said in a statement, adding it was the victim of a "misinformation campaign".

The environment department previously told Reuters that Environment Minister Barbara Creecy was not involved in the decision-making process for the approvals.

She is the designated appeal authority, however.

Environmental groups welcomed the decision to refuse approvals.

"This shows community voices matter, ... it cannot be that projects that compromise livelihoods get approved," said Liziwe McDaid, strategic lead for the environmental justice group Green Connection.

Oyster farmers and small-scale fishermen say the Karpowership projects could harm their livelihoods. read more

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Reporting by Alexander Winning

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