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Activist faults US envoy for backing Lamu coal project

Monday July 8 2019

Coal plant protests

Protesters express disapproval for the Lamu coal plant project during a Greenpeace and environmental activists' demonstration in Nairobi County on June 12, 2019. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DAVID MUCHUI
By DAVID MUCHUI
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A climate activist has faulted the United States Ambassador to Kenya Mr Kyle McCarter for his recent tweets that seemed to endorse the Sh200 billion Lamu coal power project.

In a statement, Mr Mithika Mwenda, the executive director of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (Pacja), said the sentiments by Mr McCarter were a smack in the face of the recent ruling by the National Environment Tribunal that cancelled the licence issued to the project's investor.

The envoy had, in a series of tweets, stated that Kenya needs coal-fire power as it is “the cleanest least costly option” while terming critics of the project as “highly paid protesters”.

But Mr Mwenda raised concerns that Mr McCarter’s statements were likely to intimidate the environment tribunal.

“…as we wait to see whether AMU Power and Nema will appeal within 30 days after the ruling as advised by the Tribunal, we can only wish that Kyle McCarter was not intimidating an independent institution to serve his partisan interest which we all know – President Trump’s climate-denial diplomacy…” Mr Mwenda, who has been leading protests against the project.

RIGHTS

He lamented that the US was standing against those facing environmental and human rights oppression.

“…That a US government official appointed by the President himself would appear to belittle arguably the most independent judiciary in Africa, and champion implementation of a project that clearly will leave voiceless people more troubled than they have been, with more debts than they can manage, cannot be fathomed,” he added.

The climate justice campaigner said Kenya has a lot of unexploited potential in wind, solar and geothermal which are safer.

“What interest does the US have in the coal-fired project? How will the economy grow if the Kenyan taxpayer is going to be subjected to hugely unsustainable debts, even before we can start producing power?” Mr Mwenda posed.

The organisation called on the US government to come clean in its interest in a coal-powered plant in Kenya.

CLEAN ENERGY

“…Out of our total energy (in Kenya), 70 percent is green. We generate 534 megawatts (MW) from geothermal, and by 2022 we will be producing 1,119MW. Our total geothermal potential is 10,000MW. We have not exploited wind and solar energy. The 365 turbines in Lake Turkana have a potential of 310MW,” he stated.

The National Environment Tribunal stopped the construction of the Sh200 billion coal plant after it found that the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) issued an environmental impact assessment licence without following the law.

The coal plant was expected to 1,050 megawatt of power.