Reply by Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs B Sonjica on questions posed in the National Assembly for written reply
10 Jul 2009
Question No 440
Ms H N Ndude (Cope) to ask the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs:
(1) Whether the industries that were responsible for 80 percent of national industrial emissions in the Vaal Triangle and the Highveld area of Mpumalanga have now become fully compliant with the statutory requirements for such emissions; if not, why not; if so, which of the companies that were being monitored have fully complied;
(2) Whether any action will be taken against companies that are still not on compliance; if not, why not; if so, (a) against which companies and (b) what action?
The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs answers:
(1) The industries in the Vaal and Highveld areas are responsible for a significant proportion of the country’s industrial emissions. This was one of the deciding factors for the declaration of these areas as the two national priority areas, in terms of Section 18 of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (No. 39 of 2004).
The Vaal Airshed Priority Area was declared on 21 April 2006. Following the declaration a comprehensive priority area air quality management plan was drafted. A detailed baseline assessment was undertaken to understand the nature of the air pollution problem in the area.
This involved the development of an extensive emissions inventory of all sources of air pollution in the Vaal area. The major contributors to air pollution in the area included industrial emissions, emissions from domestic sources, emissions from motor vehicles, emissions from biomass burning and emissions from mining operations. A dispersion modelling assessment was undertaken to further understand the relative contribution from each of these sources.
The baseline assessment helped to inform the intervention strategies, which were developed in a participatory manner, to address the identified air pollution hot-spots within the Vaal. This process culminated in the publication of the Vaal Airshed Priority Area Air Quality Management Plan on 28 May 2009. The process of implementing the air quality management plan has recently commenced.
The department is currently in the process of drafting the listed activities and associated minimum emission standards, as required in terms of Section 21 of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act. The identified activities and associated standards are still subject to final public review and comment. The final Section 21 notice is expected to be published as a regulation in September 2009.
The notice will specify the required measurement and reporting requirements to demonstrate compliance. The current air quality legislation, Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (No 45. of 1965), does not make provision for emission standards, merely emission guidelines. As such, there is currently no mechanism to assess compliance or non-compliance. This was identified as one of the major shortcomings of the old air quality legislation and has been addressed in the drafting of the new air quality legislation. The new air quality legislation is currently scheduled to enter into full effect in September 2009.
(2) In the absence of legally binding emission standards it is difficult to respond to this question, however, the Department will not hesitate to act against companies that fail to operate in an environmentally responsible manner. There are a number of legal instruments that can be applied in cases of wilful or negligent damage to the environment.
In preparation for the transition to the new air quality legislation the department has undertaken a number of projects. One such project was the Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (APPA) registration certificate review project, where the registration certificates of 72 companies were reviewed. The 72 companies reviewed were estimated to account for around 80 percent of the industrial emissions in South Africa. The six sectors targeted included, coal-fired power generation, petro-chemical refineries, iron and steel, ferroalloys, pulp and paper and primary aluminium. 24 of the 72 companies are located in either the Vaal or Highveld regions.
In parallel with the initiative run by the Chief Directorate: Air Quality Management and Climate Change, has been a compliance and enforcement programme co-ordinated by the Chief Directorate: Regulatory Services. Areas of overlap between the two programmes were the Iron and Steel and Ferroalloy sectors (Operation Ferro) and the Petro-Chemical Refineries (Project Refinery).
Companies have taken cognisance of the concerns raised in the inspection reports and many have responded by committing to the implementation of measures to address these impacts, including longer term steps that require a significant amount of capital. Certain positive actions have also been taken by a number of the companies following the inspections; for example, ArcelorMittal Vanderbijlpark works decided to shut down and decommissions one of its coke oven batteries following the findings of the compliance inspection undertaken in November 2008. The department has identified a few companies that it feels further action is required in order to ensure the implementation of shorter term measures and is in the process of deciding the type of action required given the challenges highlighted above.
Issued by: Department of Water and Environmental Affairs
10 July 2009
Issued by: Department of Environmental Affairs
10 Jul 2009
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