Court rules South African coal power station to be illegal

A coal-fired power station in South Africa has been refused approval over environmental and air pollution concerns.

In an order dated May 27 handed down today, the High Court in Pretoria declared that the environmental approval for the planned Khanyisa coal-fired power station has expired.

The ruling came as a result of a legal challenge to the project’s environmental authorisation by environmental justice group groundWork, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights.

GroundWork launched the litigation against ACWA Power in 2017.

It sought to set aside the environmental approval for the plant on the basis that ACWA had failed to assess the projects climate change impact.

Stopping the coal power station project means that:

  • 75.9 million tonnes of greenhouses gases will never be emitted into the atmosphere
  • Significant air pollution that would have harmed the health of residents has been avoided
  • Pollution from the toxic coal ash dump will never leak into the water resources
  • The South African public has been spared from the unnecessary expenditure of R6.73 billion in comparison to a least-cost electricity system.

Thomas Mnguni, campaigner at groundWork said: ‘The high levels of toxic air in the Mpumalanga Highveld are a scourge that impacts peoples health on a daily basis.

‘Had Khanyisa been able to proceed, it would have exacerbated the already toxic air pollution in the Highveld, impacted negatively on the peoples health and their lives in the surrounding communities and further exposing school kids in the nearby Landau school to the dangerous level of toxic emissions from the plant and ash We simply cant have more coal plants in the Highveld.’

CER attorney Michelle Koyama added: ‘The successful legal challenges against the Khanyisa project are further testimony to the strength of public interest litigation and civil society opposition in opposing dangerous and risky new coal projects. Our courts will uphold the requirement for regulatory approvals to meet the requirements of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.’



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