The project for a thermoelectric power plant complex in the Sepetiba Bay has generated criticism and concern among environmentalists and fishermen because the licensing of the first phase of the work was granted even without carrying out an Environmental Impact Study and Environmental Impact Report (EIA-Rima) . The situation violates legal obligations and even the understanding of Inea’s technical staff, responsible for the authorization, which classified the project, during the analysis process, as having “significant impact” and “high polluting potential”. This means, among other factors, that it can affect marine life, such as the endangered Guiana dolphin species, and mangroves, which will be suppressed.
The complex will supply energy to the Electric Energy Commercialization Chamber (CCEE), the result of a federal emergency auction, promoted by Aneel in October last year, as a result of the Brazilian water crisis, and can generate around R$3 billion per year for purchase of energy.
Rejected in South Africa for environmental problems
Founded in 2010 in Turkey, Kapowership bases its operations mainly in Asia and Africa, in countries such as Iraq, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Indonesia, Lebanon and Mozambique. In the Americas, it is only present in Cuba. Its operation consists of the production of energy through gas-powered plant ships, which are connected by transmission lines to, in this case, the National Integrated System. Last year, Kapoership won a similar auction in South Africa, but its project was rejected precisely because of environmental requirements.
According to the project presented for the Sepetiba Bay, Kapowerhip will install four ships of this type near Madeira Island, in Itaboraí, plus 14.7 kilometers of transmission lines and 36 towers, 7 of which in the water surface. The plant’s production capacity will be 560 megawatts (MW), and the contract provides for energy supply for 44 months, which can yield up to R$3 billion in annual revenues for the company.
As it is a federal contract, Ibama was originally supposed to license the project. However, on February 22, the IBAMA delegation was published so that Inea could carry out the proper environmental licensing. On the 8th, therefore, just two weeks after the agreement, Kapowership obtained the Integrated Environmental License (LAI) for the construction of transmission lines and towers. Now all that remains is the licensing of power plant vessels, as the company has decided to segment the licensing process.
The agility and simplification of licensing has drawn the attention of specialists and even technicians from Inea. As it is a large enterprise, the right thing would be to require an EIA-Rima, including for legal reasons. According to state legislation, any plant that generates energy above 10 MW must already submit an EIA-Rima. The same obligation is present in resolution 1/86 of the National Council for the Environment (Conama). Furthermore, the Atlantic Forest Law, also federal, cites the requirements for the case of suppression of restinga, Atlantic forest or mangrove areas, which will be the case of this enterprise.
Even so, the project – which was decreed as “strategic” by Governor Claudio Castro, at the end of December, which guarantees agility in its processing, despite a 2019 state decree defining that only projects with “positive environmental impact” could be classified as strategic — was licensed without the EIA-Rima requirement. To Inea, the company claimed that, as it is a new technology, there is no specific legislation or licensing tradition for this type of operation.
“It’s an ecological disaster. There are many factors that would justify, at the very least, a very in-depth study”, says Leonardo Flach, president of the Boto Cinza Institute, which monitors the environmental situation of that ecosystem. The plant will change the water, which greatly impacts marine life, and may affect fish that spawn nearby, and which are the livelihood of fishermen, such as sea bass and mullet, in addition to suppressing the mangrove swamp. The gray porpoises, for example, which are an endangered species, depend on a balanced fauna to survive, so they will also be affected.
A letter signed by Flach together with biologist Mario Soares from the Nucleus of Studies in Mangroves of the Faculty of Oceanography at Uerj and by the Science and Society Coalition was released to denounce what they called a “cattle passing through Rio de Janeiro”. Specialists cite that the “sad reality of Guanabara Bay has not served as an example” for the authorities, and highlight the environmental and social relevance of Sepetiba Bay.
Technical body admits “significant impact”
The understanding of environmental impact is shared not only by specialists, but also by Inea’s technical staff. On February 10, an opinion from the institute attached to the process stated that “The project in question is classified under code 28.06.09 – CE032 (Thermoelectric plant operation for the generation of electricity), with high polluting potential and exceptional size, classified, therefore, in Class 6C – Significant Impact”. Class 6c is precisely the highest category on the Inea’s environmental impact table.
On the other hand, the same Inea granted the LAI, on March 8, even without requiring in-depth studies. In the documentation process, to which O GLOBO had access, the only environmental data sent by Kapowership contained a summary document, contracted with the consultancy PH Mar, where the presence of Guiana dolphins in Sepetiba Bay is expressed, and information on the concern with audible noises due to the project.
“One of the areas where there is great concern is the fauna, mainly the Guiana dolphin, listed by the Ministry of the Environment as a threatened and vulnerable species on the Brazilian Fauna List of Endangered Species of Extinction (MMA Ordinance n.500 of 10/09/2019). Sepetiba Bay has ideal conditions for the survival of the species, where it houses the largest population ever recorded throughout its distribution, estimated at around 1000 individuals “, says the document.
In the LAI, Inea attached some conditions in relation to the management of fauna, but which deal with measures that contractors must take if animals die during the work, and a diagnosis of the current situation was not required. As for the flora, the work should cause the suppression of about 7 hectares of vegetation, so a need to replace 15 hectares of forest and eight hectares of mangroves was calculated.
As, for the time being, Kapoweship has only received a license for the transmission lines, only the construction of the towers is authorized. The operation of the ships still depends on another license. But, as, according to the contract, the company needs to start supplying energy to the federal government from May 1st, Inea technicians denounce that the process is being run over, and they fear that the new license will also be granted without the requirement of EIA-Rima.
President of Alerj’s Environment Commission, state deputy Gustavo Schmidt “emphasized the importance of the project for the State of Rio, and says that the Commission works to ensure that everything is done with maximum transparency and respect for Environmental Legislation.” In December of last year, he sent letters to Inea, IBAMA, MPF, Seas and PGJRJ requesting that the EIA-Rima be required, in addition to requesting a public hearing.
At the time, Inea replied that it had not yet analyzed the project because the case was a prerogative of Ibama. The federal authority, on the other hand, admitted federal competence in licensing but said that it would still delegate to Inea, which was accomplished in February.
When contacted, Aneel replied that it “receives, on a monthly basis, information on all aspects related to the execution of the work, including the stage of environmental licensing”, but replied that these questions must be answered by Inea and Ibama.
The Inea reported that the license issued is still subject to the issuance of an “Authorization for the Suppression of Vegetation”, which is still being analyzed by the agency, and that the work “has been declared as a public utility, for the purpose of intervention in the vegetation”.
Sought, Karpowership informed that “it meets the most rigorous Brazilian and international environmental requirements”, and that its operations are certified by international entities. According to the company, the ships are designed “exactly to minimize the environmental impact” and that the complex in Sepetiba Bay “has a substantially lower environmental impact than the construction and operation of a thermoelectric plant on land – a traditional and well-known alternative in Brazil”, and that it will produce enough energy to supply 3 million homes.
Regarding the licensing process, Karpowership informed that “it is complying with all the procedures requested by the authorities at the national and local level”, and that “it is preparing and providing all the necessary studies and requested by the environmental agency”.
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