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Environmental groups urge U.S. Ex-Im Bank to vote no on financing massive coal plant in South Africa

Posted Jan. 13, 2011 / Posted by: Kelly Trout

For Immediate Release

Contact:

In the U.S.:  Kelly Trout, +1 202-222-0722, ktrout@foe.org

In South Africa: Siziwe Khanyile, +27 73-83-08173, siziwe@groundwork.org.za

Environmental groups urge U.S. Ex-Im Bank to vote no on financing massive coal plant in South Africa

Activists gather outside Ex-Im to voice concerns about project 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Environmental and social justice groups demonstrated in front of the U.S. Export-Import Bank today, urging Ex-Im’s board of directors to vote against a proposal to finance the construction of a 4,800 megawatt coal plant in South Africa.

Demonstrating groups included Friends of the Earth U.S., the Sierra Club, Jubilee USA Network, groundWork/Friends of the Earth South Africa, the Durban Centre for Civil Society, KwaZulu-Natal Climate Justice Now! chapter and Pacific Environment.

The coal project, named Kusile, belongs to South Africa’s state-owned power utility, Eskom. If financed, it would create what could be the third-largest coal plant in the world, spewing 36.8 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the air annually, as well as dangerous toxins and heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury. With over $80 billion in foreign debt, one of the world's highest current account deficits, and a projected Eskom cash shortfall of $25 billion over the next seven years, South Africa's financing of Kusile would exacerbate already severe economic tensions.

Moreover, this plant would provide little to no economic benefit to South Africa’s impoverished residents. Most benefits will go to multinational corporations, which already pay some of the world’s lowest electricity rates due to apartheid-era special pricing deals that are subsidized by inflated rates on the poor. Electricity costs for the poor are already skyrocketing, and they would likely go up further a result of this project.

Friends of the Earth U.S. International Policy Campaigner Karen Orenstein:

“In the New Year, the Export-Import Bank should resolve to end its fossil fuel binge and reject the massive Kusile coal plant in South Africa. Widely opposed by South African civil society, this mega- polluter would be especially harmful for South Africa's poor, displace and sicken the local population, and worsen the climate crisis. This is not something to look forward to in 2011.” 

groundWork/Friends of the Earth South Africa Project Officer Siziwe Khanyile:

“The Kusile power plant is located in an area that the Department of Environment has declared an air quality priority area, which means that the air quality is already compromised. The development of Kusile will affect residents, particularly the already vulnerable poor in terms of health, water and air quality. South African civil society does not support this project as the costs to the community outweigh the benefits.”

Sierra Club Associate Washington Representative Justin Guay:

"Deutsche Bank calls the U.S. coal industry a 'dead man walking.' The EPA is coming after it, insurance companies won't insure it, and banks won't finance it—except, that is, for the Export-Import Bank. It's time that the Bank listened to the market, rejected the Kusile coal power project, and began paving the way for American business to compete in the industries of the future rather than shackling dynamic emerging economies with the remnants of a dying industry."   

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