GEORGE NEWS - The Western Cape High Court has reviewed and set aside the Environmental Authorisation granted to Eskom by the Minister of Environmental Affairs to construct a main transmission station at Geelhoutboom, to be known as Narina (Blanco) MTS Substation.
The authorisation was granted on 15 May 2017 and set aside on Thursday 17 October. This was confirmed to George Herald by André Swart of Stadler & Swart Attorneys, who represented Geelhoutboom Estates.
In February 2018 Geelhoutboom Estates launched an application in the Western Cape High Court for the review and setting aside of the Environmental Authorisation that was granted. The minister, the chief director and Eskom were cited as respondents.
Swart explained to the George Herald that throughout the application process, Geelhoutboom Estates repeatedly objected to the lack of material information and the failure by Eskom to consider all reasonable and feasible alternatives.
According to him, in terms of the applicable Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations, Eskom was obliged to identify, describe, locate and assess all individual listed activities.
This, Swart said, necessitated detailed information in respect of each individual listed activity. In its court papers, Geelhoutboom Estates criticised Eskom's approach of only describing the project in general terms and assessing only the corridor in which the listed activities were to be undertaken, instead of listing each activity individually.
This "corridor approach" made it impossible for Eskom's environmental assessment practitioner to do any assessment of the listed activities as required in terms of the EIA Regulations, Swart said.
This resulted in the minister granting Eskom an Environmental Authorisation in which it is acknowledged, in specific terms, that material information in respect of the authorised activities was not available at the time of the approval.
Initially, all three respondents opposed the Geelhoutboom application, but were, according to Swart, eventually constrained to concede Geelhoutboom Estates' review application and withdrew their opposition.
The Western Cape High Court ordered the minister and the chief director to pay the legal costs of Geelhoutboom Estates.
Swart is of the opinion that, in the long run, Eskom will either have to abandon the project as a whole, or substantively redo the entire application process.
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