Minister grants reprieve to meet minimum emissions standards

Pretoria: The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, said on Tuesday the department had decided to grant several companies reprieve in order to meet minimum air emissions standards.

The department has processed 35 applications, including 16 from Eskom, Sasol, Anglo American, PPC and a number of refiners, for compliance with the minimum emission standards in terms of air quality laws.

Facilities that are not able to comply with the minimum emission standards for air quality in South Africa are able to apply for a postponement of the timeframe for compliance.

“The Section 21 Notice of the Air Quality Act presents an opportunity for any listed activity or industry to submit an application for the postponement of the compliance timeframes to the National Air Quality Office at the National Department of Environmental Affairs.

“Such postponement of the compliance timeframes may be granted for a period not exceeding five years. These postponements provide an opportunity for industry to take the necessary action and retrofit their plants to enable them to comply with the standards in the near future,” said the Minister during a briefing in Cape Town.

The companies applied for postponements to meet standards in terms of three pollutants, namely particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide and Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx).

Regarding particulate matter, postponements, where applicable, were only granted for the period between 2015 and 2020 and not beyond.

The Minister said postponements regarding sulphur dioxide were not necessary as emission reports indicated that most facilities are operating in compliance with the 2015 standards.

“For most plants, postponements were however granted from 2020 to enable the facilities to invest towards future compliance where possible and also because some plants are due to be decommissioned around those time lines,” said Minister Molewa.

She said a number of applicants requested postponements regarding compliance for NOx, which are not directly problem pollutants in South Africa, but deserve close monitoring.

“Careful analysis was conducted and postponements where feasible were granted, although in some specific cases it was found that most facilities already operate in compliance with the 2020 standards,” she said.

The Minister said the applicants were strictly required to submit compliance roadmaps that indicated when they envisaged to have completed their tasks regarding investments in pollution control technologies and they submitted this information.

The objects of the Air Quality Act are to protect the environment by providing reasonable measures for the protection and enhancement of the quality of air in the Republic; the prevention of air pollution and ecological degradation and securing ecologically sustainable development while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

It was also important for companies to comply with the Act to enhance the quality of ambient air for the sake of securing an environment that is not harmful to the health and well-being of people.

SOURCE: South African Official News