Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism - PDF

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					Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism For immediate release STATEMENT BY THE OFFICE OF MARTHINUS VAN SCHALKWYK, MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM, ON 3 DECEMBER 2008 APPEALS DECISION AGAINST THE ENVIRONMENTAL AUTHORISATIONS OF THE PROPOSED CONSTRUCTION OF THE FOLLOWING TRANSMISSION LINES AND THEIR ASSOCIATED INFRASTRUCTURE FROM THE PROPOSED MEDUPI POWER STATION (NEAR LEPHALALE): ONE 400kV LINE TO THE MARANG SUBSTATION NEAR RUSTENBURG AND TWO 400kV LINES TO THE DINALEDI SUBSTATION NEAR BRITS The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk, has considered the appeals lodged against the Department's Record of Decision of the proposed construction of the following transmission lines and their associated infrastructure from the proposed Medupi Power Station (near Lephalale): One 400kV line to the Marang Substation near Rustenburg and two 400 kV lines to the Dinaledi Substation near Brits. After evaluating all the appeals and relevant information submitted to him, the Minister has come to a decision, a copy of which is attached hereto. 1. INTRODUCTION In terms of section 22 of the Environment Conservation Act, 1989 (Act 73 of 1989) (ECA), read with the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations published in Government Notice No. R. 1182 of 5 September 1997, the Director-General of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) on 6 March 2008 and on 27 March 2008, acting under delegation in terms of section 33, authorised Eskom to proceed, respectively, with the construction of the following transmission lines and their associated infrastructure from the proposed Medupi Power Station near Lephalale: * One 400kV transmission line to the Marang Substation near Rustenburg; * Two 400kV transmission lines to the Dinaledi Substation near Brits. After the authorisations had been issued, one appeal was lodged against each authorisation issued by the DEAT. 2. BACKGROUND 2.1 South Africa’s increasing economic growth rate necessitated an expansion of Eskom’s generation \ capacity, hence the construction of the new Medupi Power Station near Lephalale on the Waterberg Coal Fields was recently commenced with. On commissioning of the first generation unit of Medupi during 2010, it will be essential for the necessary transmission infrastructure, namely the Medupi-Marang and the Medupi-Dinaledi lines, to be in place to evacuate the available power. Construction of these lines will take approximately two years to complete. Once completed, the lines will provide supplementary energy to meet the growing need in the Brits and Rustenburg areas. 2.2 These proposed developments will comprise of the following: 2.2.1 Medupi-Marang transmission line The Medupi-Marang transmission line consists of the construction of a 400kV transmission line of approximately 300km in length from the Medupi Substation near Lephalale (Limpopo Province) to the Marang Substation near Rustenburg (North West Province) as well as the construction of a 400kV transformer bay at the Medupi Substation and a 400kV feeder bay at the Marang Substation. 2.2.2 Medupi-Dinaledi transmission line The Medupi-Dinaledi transmission line consists of the construction of two 400kV transmission lines of approximately 350km in length between the Medupi Substation, the Spitskop Substation near Northam (Limpopo Province) and the Dinaledi Substation near Brits (North West Province) as well as the construction of two 400kV transformer bays at Medupi Substation, four 400kV feeder bays and two 400kV line turn innsI at Spitskop Substation, and two

400kV feeder bays at Dinaledi Substation. 3. APPEALS 3.1 One appeal was lodged against the environmental authorisations by the DEAT, against each of the proposed transmission line projects. The appeals originated only from the area between the Medupi Power Station and the Spitskop Substation near Northam. In this area the three proposed lines will share the same corridor with two existing 400kV transmission lines which originate from the Matimba Power Station near Lephalale. 3.2 Although the Medupi-Marang line and the MedupiDinaledi lines are two separate projects and are the subjects of two individual authorisations by the DEAT, I decided to deal with the two appeals jointly for the following reasons: 3.2.1 For the major portion of their lengths - from Medupi to the existing Spitskop Substation near Northam - the three lines share the same corridor; 3.2.2 The appeals originated only from appellants located between Medupi and Spitskop, in other words, from that section of the route where the lines share the same corridor. No appeals were forthcoming from interested and affected parties situated in the areas south of Spitskop towards Marang and Dinaledi; and 3.2.3 With the exception of one minor item, the grounds of the appeals against both authorisations are identical. 3.3 The following emerged as the major grounds of appeal: 3.3.1 Inadequate public participation in the sense that the meetings arranged by Eskom’s consultants were “one way events” where very little opportunity was given for discussion of route alternatives; 3.3.2 Technological solutions proposed by the appellants were inadequately considered; 3.3.3 Insufficient information was provided to serve as a basis for the decision on the preferred route option; 3.3.4 The possible implementation of the “utility corridor” concept was ignored; 3.3.5 Unacceptable impacts on biodiversity in general and on certain bird species in particular; 3.3.6 The environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for these lines should have been integrated with the EIAs for the 765kV lines which are planned for construction during later phases of the provision of infrastructure for the Medupi Power Station; and 3.3.7 The independence of the environmental consultant is questioned in that the alternative proposed is a mere confirmation of the route preferred by Eskom. 4. DECISION 4.1 In reaching my decision on the appeals against the authorisation of these proposed transmission lines, I have taken the following into consideration: 4.1.1 The information contained in the project files (ref. 12/12/20/793 and 12/12/20/794, respectively); 4.1.2 The appeals submitted by the two appellants against the authorisation of the construction of the transmission lines between the proposed Medupi Power Station and the existing Marang and Dinaledi Substations; 4.1.3 The response of the applicant to the grounds of appeal and the appellants’ reply thereto; 4.1.4 The comments of the DEAT on the grounds of appeal, the applicant’s response and the appellants’ reply; 4.1.5 The urgent need for the establishment of these 400kV links to ensure the effective evacuation of power from the Medupi Power Station on commissioning of its first generation unit during 2010 to ensure a stable

supplementary supply of electricity to meet the growing needs in the Brits and Rustenburg areas. 4.2 Having considered the above information, I have concluded that the Director-General of the DEAT adequately considered the major anticipated environmental impacts of the proposed development and that the decisions to authorise these proposed developments were correct. In addition, the mitigation measures proposed in the environmental impact report (EIR) and the conditions contained in the two Records of Decision (RODs) adequately mitigate the impact of the transmission lines to acceptable levels. Therefore, in terms of section 35(4) of the ECA, I have decided to:

(a) Dismiss the appeals against the environmental authorisation granted by the Director-General of the DEAT for these two proposed transmission line developments; and (b) Confirm the authorisations issued by the DirectorGeneral of the DEAT on 6 March 2008 for the construction of the Medupi-Marang 400kV transmission line and on 27 March 2008 for the construction of the Medupi-Dinaledi 400kV transmission lines. 4.3 The reasons for my decision, inter alia, are as follows: 4.3.1 The need for these developments has been adequately demonstrated. 4.3.2 The grounds of appeal are not, in my view, sufficient to warrant the setting aside of the original decision. In justification of my view I shall briefly discuss each of the major grounds of appeal below: (a) The alleged deficiencies in the Public Participation Programme (PPP). I am satisfied that the PPP met the requirements of the EIA Regulations and created sufficient opportunity to propose and discuss route options. (b) Inadequate consideration of proposed technological solutions. The appellants’ proposal that high voltage direct current (HVDC) be considered for these lines is impractical. I am advised that the implementation of such technology over such a relative short distance is not viable. I also accept the statement in the EIR that in the detailed planning of the lines attention will be given, in consultation with land owners, to the most appropriate tower structures to be used on specific terrain types. (c) Insufficiency of the information provided for the route selection. The statement in the appeal that “no factual and objective evidence were (sic) ever presented during the PPP to confirm that the authorised route is in fact the most optimal route” is unfounded. I accept the comments submitted to me that all the reports on the specialist studies were available for perusal while the draft scoping report and EIR were made available for comment to all registered interested and affected parties (I&APs). The final route selection decision was based on this comprehensive base of information. (d) The “utility corridor” concept could have been implemented more comprehensively. By routing the Medupi-Marang and Medupi-Dinaledi lines between Medupi and Spitskop together with two existing 400kV lines a utility corridor will be created with its concomitant advantages of reduced impact on biodiversity and facilitation of maintenance. However, the DEAT has drawn my attention to the fact that transmission lines are fire sensitive. Consequently,

there is a limit to the number of lines that can be included in one such corridor as too many lines in one corridor may cause a system collapse when veld fires occur. Therefore, I accept that in the implementation of the utility corridor concept, care should be taken to retain a balance between the environmental advantage and risk to the transmission system. (e) Unacceptable impacts on biodiversity in general and on certain bird species in particular. It is acknowledged in the EIR that the impact of the lines on biodiversity will be significant, regardless of whether an eastern or western alignment is followed. However, the sensitivity analysis done during the scoping phase of the EIA indicated that environmental sensitivity for this development gradually decreases towards the west. Additionally, the fact that the lines will be placed in an existing corridor with existing 400kV lines will soften the impact on vegetation and no new access or service roads need to be constructed. Furthermore, the specialist ornithological studies showed that the impact on avifauna will be higher should the lines be constructed along an eastern corridor. Therefore, although there will be an impact on the flora and fauna in the area, I am satisfied that care has been taken to ensure that a route will be followed which will cause the least disruption to the ecosystems that will be traversed. (f) The EIAs for the Medupi-Marang and Medupi-Dinaledi lines should have been integrated with the EIA for the 765kV transmission lines. I am aware of the studies undertaken by Eskom to ensure the effective integration of the proposed Medupi Power Station into the national transmission network and concur that planning in this regard must be integrated as far as possible. In view thereof, I accept that the awarding of priority to the planning and the assessment of the environmental impact of the MedupiMarang and Medupi-Dinaledi lines is determined by the phased commissioning of the generation units of the Medupi Power Station and the electricity needs, in the short term, of the Brits and Rustenburg areas. Hence, the establishment of the Medupi-Marang and the MedupiDinaledi lines is of a higher priority than the 765kV transmission lines. The planning of the former lines can therefore not be delayed to be integrated with the planning of the 765kV lines, which will be needed at a later stage to evacuate power to the Epsilon Substation near Potchefstroom. (g) The independence of Eskom’s environmental assessment practitioner (EAP) is questioned. I am advised and accept that the independence of PBA International (SA), Eskom’s EAP, is above suspicion. The information contained in the EIR was independently evaluated and corroborated by the DEAT and the recommendations made by the EAP were considered to be well-balanced and objective. Therefore, I am satisfied that a well-informed and sound decision was taken on this development proposal. (h) Lines along the authorised route will be longer and will cause more pollution due to greater power losses I have noted that due to its increased length (15km), the power losses from the lines along the authorised route will cause an increase of approximately 0,003% in pollution from the power station and that for the sector such an increase is regarded as insignificant. (i) Decisions on the establishment of transmission infrastructure associated with the Medupi Power Station are being taken incrementally The fact that the development of the Medupi-Marang and

Medupi–Dinaledi transmission lines precedes the planning and the establishment of other transmission lines in the area and, consequently, may influence decisions on the routing of those lines, may be perceived as incremental decision making. However, the current approach is dictated by the enormity of the Medupi Power Station which, due to its extended construction period, will need transmission facilities at different intervals. (j) Undue consideration was given to avoiding undermined areas I accept the information provided to me by the DEAT regarding the consequences of the construction of transmission lines over undermined areas. Not only does it place a high degree of risk on such lines as well as on the integrity of transmission systems, it also impacts on the operation of a mine due to restrictions on blasting, for instanceI. 4.4 The reasons set out above are not exhaustive and should not be construed as such and I reserve the right to provide comprehensive reasons for the decision should this become necessary.


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