US Ex-Im Bank May Fund Giant Coal Plants in South Africa, India

The United States Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) is currently preparing for decisions regarding Ex-Im Bank financing of what would be two of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants.

Both the Kusile project (proposed in South Africa) and the Sasan project (proposed in India) are facing increasing controversy in communities located near each plant in addition to growing pressure from US citizens, who are concerned with how taxpayer money is being invested.

"The nature of climate science tells us that what happens in other countries very much affects the rest of the planet," said John Coequyt with the Sierra Club’s International Campaign. "Instead of financing dirty power projects abroad, the Export-Import Bank should be positioning US companies to lead in a competitive clean technology market that can create thousands more jobs in the US."

Today marks a comment deadline for the Environmental Impact Assessment on the Kusile project, a coal plant proposed by the South African Utility, Eskom. At nearly 5,000 MW of output, the plant would be one of the largest coal plants in the world, and would be one of the single largest point sources of climate disrupting pollution on Earth.

US citizens submitted nearly 7,500 public comments in opposition to our government’s contribution to this dirty project and its environmental impacts. The Kusile project would annually emit more than 150% of the annual carbon emissions from projects supported by the Ex-Im Bank in 2009.

While failing to adhere to a Congressional mandate to significantly increase renewable energy financing, the Ex-Im Bank’s Board of Directors also recently voted to support the Sasan coal project in India, one of nine "Ultra Mega Power Plants" being pursued by the Indian government.

Sasan, slated to produce 3,960 MW, is controlled by Sasan Power Ltd, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, owned by Anil Ambani one of the world’s richest men. Local communities in India are actively protesting the Sasan project, as it will displace 6,000 people, and emit between 26-27 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.

In 2004, the Ex-Im Bank adopted so-called global environmental standards, and in 2009 the bank adopted a carbon policy.

If the Ex-Im Bank proceeds with funding the Kusile and Sasan projects, US taxpayer dollars will be tripling the annual carbon emissions from projects supported by the Export Import Bank in 2009. According to a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, more than 95% of Ex-Im’s energy portfolio is based on fossil fuels, and in 2009 Ex-Im Bank financing for renewable energy was less than .5% of the agency’s total financing.

"South Africa has vast, untapped renewable energy potential, yet finance institutions continue to pursue funding these dirty, outdated projects that will further poison South African communities’ air, land, and water in the vicinity of the plant" said Bobby Peek, Executive Director of groundWork, in South Africa, "It’s time to invest the future of these South African communities, and that means funding clean renewable energy, instead of building dirty coal plants in the name of low income South Africans".

"The US Ex-Im Bank is restraining economic and environmental progress by subsidizing dirty, dangerous, and outdated fossil fuel projects," added Doug Norlen from Pacific Environment. "The Ex-Im Bank’s ongoing fossil fuel binge indicates a clear unwillingness of the agency to adhere to Congressional climate change directives and systemic bias towards financing fossil fuel projects."

While funding the project with US tax dollars presents a strategic misstep for American business, it also represents significant health and environmental impacts in South Africa. Pollutants proven to cause and contribute to serious cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses such as heart disease and asthma, as well as neurological and developmental disorders, will directly impact the surrounding communities. In addition to acknowledging the high levels of toxic pollutants that would be produced by this proposed facility, the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project cited high significance impacts on water–an added challenge in an environment already strained for water supply.

The US Ex-Im Bank Board is expected to take up a due diligence vote on Kusile in early September. The decision to whether or not to finance these projects will send a direct signal to fossil fuel industries and other lenders about the future of clean energy technology and the role of fossil fuels in development. With controversy brewing, and opposition growing, the decision will be closely followed by all sides.

Additional information is available at the link below.

(Visited 51,147 times, 1 visits today)

Post Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *