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A Coal Loan Under Fire

“At a time when South Africa and its neighbors experience rolling blackouts, providing an additional, greener source of energy is vital to contributing to economic growth in Africa,” Meeks wrote.

The letter was signed by six other Democratic CBC Members: Reps. Donald Payne (N.J.), Bobby Rush (Ill.), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), William Lacy Clay (Mo.), Maxine Waters (Calif.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas). In addition, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) also signed.

Aides for Kerry and Meeks did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

The Sierra Club, human rights advocates and other nonprofit organizations say the final word has yet to be uttered on the multibillion-dollar South African loan package. Environmental advocates say they are particularly concerned about the plant’s potential to pollute nearby towns Onverwacht and Marapong.

Michael Stulman, a spokesman for Africa Action, called the loan “disappointing,” writing in an e-mail that South Africa’s impoverished majority will now find themselves stuck with the bill for the Eskom plant.

“The truth is that commercial industries will receive the lion’s share of this loan and now the burden is on poor communities in South Africa,” Stulman wrote. “There will be [a] 127 percent electricity price increase for poor people over the next four years. That’s not going to reduce poverty.”

With the loan paperwork signed, Stulman’s group will pivot to renewing demands for more transparency at U.S.-backed lending institutions like the World Bank. If the U.S. is not able to exert its considerable leverage with the groups, Stulman said that Members should consider cutting off the money supply from U.S. taxpayers.

“Given that the Government of South Africa and the World Bank managed to persuade many Members of Congress that this loan would be beneficial to South Africans, we simply ask U.S. Congress to demand accountability,” Stulman wrote. “Until there is a formal energy policy in place that would prohibit loans from the World Bank for fossil fuel based projects, we oppose [any] future general capital increase from the U.S. Congress.”

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