Kenyan Activists Celebrate Halt to Coal Plant in World Heritage Town video player.

NAIROBI - A Kenyan court has halted construction of what would be the country's first coal plant.  The National Environment Tribunal found the process of awarding a license for the plant was irregular and lacked effective public participation.  Environmentalists had gone to court opposing the plant, which they said is unnecessary.

The plan to build a coal-burning power plant in Lamu County on the Kenyan coast hit a snag Tuesday when the court ordered a fresh environmental impact assessment study on the project.

Judges effectively blocked the decision by Kenya’s Environmental Management Authority to issue a license to the Amu Power Company, which wants to build the 150 megawatt plant.

FILE - A general view of Lamu's resort town (June 19, 2019) where life has changed little over the centuries.
FILE - A general view of Lamu's resort town (June 19, 2019) where life has changed little over the centuries.

Environmentalists filed a challenge to the license in October 2016.  During court arguments, the appellants highlighted climate change, health concerns, and a lack of nationwide public input about the project.

Justice Mohammed Balala said officials who approved the plant did not consider the national impact it could have.

“It was still imperative that such study consider the wider view beyond the project area, where the nature of the project meant its impact could potentially extend beyond the geographical location of Lamu County as was alleged in the submissions.  This is the reason for nationwide as opposed to localized participation,” he said.

Vae Buno Vae has been fishing around Lamu for 35 years, but now he’s afraid fishing as a livelihood is about to vanish. November 26, 2014. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
FILE - Vae Buno Vae, seen here in a Nov. 26, 2014, photo, is a fisherman in Lamu. Fishermen in the town are afraid for their livelihoods should the coal plant materialize.

Proponents of the project argue that coal is an inexpensive power option that would attract investors.  

But activists say there is no reason for Kenya to have a coal-fired power plant since the country has renewable sources of energy that it could use without harming the environment.

Most of Kenya's electricity is generated by renewable sources such as water and wind energy.

At a news conference last week, a Kenyan government spokesman said those questioning the suitability and viability of the coal plant were misinformed.