Civil society prepares for battle after takeover of Tosaco Energy…

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The Green Connection has filed an appeal against permission granted to Tosaco Energy by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to carry out seismic blasting in Block 1, Alexander Bay in Hondeklip Bay off the coast of the West Coast.

It comes just months after environmental groups and communities won interim bans prohibiting Shell from carrying out a seismic survey off the Wild Coast and Searcher Geodata from carrying out a seismic survey off the West Coast.

Last month, Oceans Not Oil (ONO), an organization fighting against offshore oil and gas exploration, called on NGOs to submit appeals after Tosaco Energy won permission to carry out the seismic survey.

ONO co-founder Janet Solomon said the clearance made no sense in terms of climate change and greenhouse gas emission reduction timetables.

The Green Connection said on Monday that Tosaco Energy received permission from the DMRE to proceed with seismic blasting in Block 1 despite calls from communities for better public consultation.

Last week, following submissions from small-scale fishermen in Alexander Bay, Port Nolloth, Kleinsee, Hondeklip Bay and Komaggas, The Green Connection appealed the clearance.

Green Connection’s community outreach coordinator, Neville van Rooy, who recently visited several communities in the Northern Cape, said these communities face similar issues to those that led to the Shell and Searcher projects being banned.

“First, there is a similar lack of meaningful consultation with those who would be affected. In interactions in Kleinsee and Hondeklip Bay this week, communities said they had clearly requested that Tosaco’s consultants, Environmental Impact Management Services, return to conduct appropriate consultations at more appropriate times.

“The fact that most fishermen were not available to attend the meetings should have been an indication that they face many limitations and challenges, which should have been taken into account,” Van Rooy said.

Van Rooy said that because many fishermen do not have internet access and cannot have consultations on Zoom, they were excluded from participating in the environmental impact assessment process.

“That’s why the communities believe that this approval is not only unacceptable but also illegal. At the present time, as the Shell and Searcher cases demonstrate, Tosaco and all those who have the idea of ​​exploiting offshore oil and gas in South Africa must know that proper consultation with the population is not non-negotiable.

“Equitable and effective participation in decision-making, as required by the National Environmental Management Act, must be ensured,” Van Rooy said.

He said The Green Connection also questioned the legality of the environmental clearance because, during the pre-application phase, Environmental Impact Management Services and the South African Petroleum Agency decided that two studies would suffice, without giving the relevant stakeholders the opportunity to comment on this decision.

“However, if we consider the judge’s finding in the Searcher interim injunction judgment, applicants who wish to conduct seismic testing are required to consult meaningfully with small-scale fishers and ocean-dependent fishing communities to their livelihoods and culture, and cannot rely solely on desk studies to understand the impacts of seismic testing operations, especially as there is a growing body of scientific evidence exposing the negative impacts on marine life and ecosystems.

Van Rooy said that in addition to the procedural issues of granting permission, it is clear that seismic surveys cause direct and indirect physical harm to marine species and ecosystems.

“The Green Connection also submits that, based on the expert advice received, the mitigation measures proposed by Tosaco would not effectively prevent the likely damage caused.

“And since seismic activities involve strong explosions [from airguns] in the ocean, The Green Connection sees the lack of relevant acoustic modeling for this area as another fatal flaw in the assessment. Evidence shows that marine species will be affected, even fatally injured as a result of the seismic survey.

He said The Green Connection believes that because it underestimated the potential scope, scope and magnitude of the impacts of the proposed seismic blasting, Environmental Impact Management Services and Tosaco did not sufficiently consider the effects on the artisanal fishing sector.

“For example, according to Environmental Impact Management Services, small-scale fishing activities take place much closer to shore than they actually are. However, the reality is that some anglers venture much further offshore to reach fish stocks.

“The assessment also underestimates the effects of seismic surveys on the behavior of fish, especially hake and snoek, in the 3D seismic survey area. As a result, it also underestimates the potential impact on catch rates and the ripple effect these impacts would have on small-scale fishers and communities who depend on fishing for their livelihoods and culture,” did he declare.

Samantha Cloete from Kleinsee said: “We have seen a drop in snoek stock… which I think is a result of offshore oil and gas projects happening in our oceans. This, along with the lack of meaningful public engagement with the local communities that will be affected, are some of the main reasons we are rejecting Tosaco’s request to explore our ocean for more oil and gas.

Cloete said they want inclusive and socially appropriate projects that are part of just transition and respond to climate crises.

“We want wind and solar energy. Not only do these have economic potential, but they will also not harm our environment,” she said.

Community activist Andy Pienaar of the Kobush Development Association said he was shocked and disappointed that the government had given the green light to Tosaco.

“We are also disappointed that the consultant did not explain the document in our languages ​​and in a way that ensured that we understood the information. This was something we had previously specifically requested, in addition to asking that they acknowledge and acknowledge the indigenous and local knowledge of people here.

Pienaar said the lived experience and reality of their communities had to be taken into account and should have been part of the nomination.

“But there is no evidence of that in this cut-and-paste document, as it does not include contributions from local small-scale fishermen, nor contributions from our community elders. It’s very disappointing.

“We hope that the authorization will be overturned on appeal and that there will be other opportunities for our voices to be heard. However, as things stand, we are extremely unhappy with this whole process,” Pienaar said.

Dawie Markus, a concerned citizen from Hondeklip Bay, said: “What they call consultation is not what we consider consultation, where they force decisions down our throats.

“As small-scale fishers, we are concerned about the potential negative impacts on our ocean and our environment. We were completely blindsided by the approval of this project because we know little or nothing about it.

“But what we do know is that seismic testing in our ocean will harm marine life and the marine ecosystem and therefore likely affect our livelihoods, for us here on the west coast. We cannot allow the government to impose such bad decisions on us. » DM/OBP

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