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Major air polluters given a reprieve

Government has put stricter new regulations in place to curb air pollution - but given companies a reprieve from complying.

Government has put stricter new regulations in place to curb air pollution - but given companies a reprieve from complying.

Published Feb 25, 2015

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Cape Town – The government has told big polluters Sasol and Eskom it will not grant them exemp-tion from the new, stricter air pollution standards – but the two companies have been given extra time to meet the new standards.

The Sasol and Eskom plants were among 119 that were granted a reprieve by the Department of Environmental Affairs, which has allowed them to postpone complying with new air pollution standards until a later date, Environment Minister Edna Molewa said yesterday.

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Others companies included Anglo American Platinum, PPC, Shell, Chevron and Engen. The postponements are to give companies extra time to install equipment into plants to clean up the emissions they pump into the air.

The deadline for those not given a postponement is April. There is a second deadline for tougher emission standards in April 2020. There were 13 companies that were not granted postponements.

There are more than 1 000 plants in the country that are required to comply with emission standards, and most of them do meet the new standards.

 

Molewa said both Sasol and Eskom had applied for their plants to be completely exempt from the new air pollution standards, but their applications were turned down as the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act did not allow exemptions, only postponements.

Sasol launched legal action against the minister in 2013 to have the new air pollution laws overturned.

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Asked if the company was still pursuing legal action, Molewa said it was, but said this had “not stopped us working with them”. “In the Sasol case they’re asking the court to declare the emission standards null and void. We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” Molewa said.

The three pollution baddies, that can cause serious health issues, are particulate matter (soot), sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Postponements for meeting emission regulations for soot were not given beyond 2020.

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Most plants were already meeting the sulphur dioxide emission standards for 2015, but most had been given extensions on the 2020 deadline, in some cases so they could install the necessary clean-up equipment, and in others because the plants were reaching the end of their lives.

Most plants already complied with the 2020 standards for nitrogen oxides.

Molewa said the department had to try balance ensuring clean air without hampering socio-economic growth.

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Deputy director-general Judy Beaumont said giving postponements was a “transitionary mechanism”.

Chief director for air pollution Thuli Mdluli said some plants, such as Total, required an extension of just one year.

Asked if the exemptions indicated that South Africa was prepared to have lower air pollution standards than other countries, Molewa replied this was not the case.

“We are working towards compliance and good air quality. We are pushing hard,” Molewa said.

Cape Times

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