Environmental Management Laws First Amendment Bill [B13D-2012]: Adoption, Air-Quality Public hearings: Department's report back

Water and Sanitation

18 June 2013
Chairperson: Mr J De Lange (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was taken through the final set of changes to the Environmental Management Laws First Amendment Bill, and unanimously agreed to all changes, and adopted the Bill. Many of the amendments were technical in nature. A new definition was inserted for ‘biodiversity sector’. A new section 87A was added into the principal Act, which clarified who would be competent and issuing authority. Clause 20 was removed.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) reported back on the public hearings and stakeholders meetings on the amendments to the Air Quality Act minimum emission standards. A full set of documentation containing reports on findings of studies, explanation of the previous amendments to the Act and reports on stakeholder workshops was also tabled. The National Framework would be binding, and the South African Bureau of Standards would in future be asked to establish standards for the identified hazard. Ongoing issues were listed as including coal to liquid, hot dip galvanising, drying activities in the cement industry, and burning grounds (explosives). In the petrochemical sector, the matters around combustion installations; and refinery processes were also listed as on-going. The matters in which there was general agreement by stakeholders were listed, as well as those where no agreement had been reached, which were essentially the emissions measurements for the storage and handling of ore and coal, special arrangement requirements, caustic soda processes, and production of chemical fertilisers. It was noted that the bubble approach for the Petrochemical industry was removed.

Members urged the DEA to take a strong stance against refineries, who would be likely to resist regulation, asked how the DEA monitored compliance, who would attend to enforcement in practical terms and what the consequences of non-compliance would be. They wondered if an annual report would be sufficient, pointing out that this would only be given at the end of a year, after there had already been damage to the environment. Members noted that during the public hearings, two consistent concerns were raised, one relating to burning of coal in the townships, and the other the dust from the mines. Members urged the DEA to pay visits to mining towns to see exactly to what extent the residents were affected by dust and to pay urgent attention to curbing the problem. DEA assured the Committee that although these issues were not covered by the present amendments, it did have policy in place, and was following strategies, and the Committee asked for a specific report setting out the regulations, what had been done to date and what was planned for both issues. They asked if capacity now existed at the Bureau of Standards, questioned what role the national government would have in terms of the regulations, since the municipalities played a substantial role, and asked for a report on the current legislative position for regulation of air quality, to consider whether further amendments were needed to enable a better role for the national government.

Meeting report

National Environmental Management Laws First Amendment Bill: Presentation of final amendments and consideration
The Chairperson stated that the Committee must now go through the final version of the amendments to the National Environmental Management Laws First Amendment Bill (the Bill) and noted that, since there was a quorum, they must then vote on the Bill.

The first change was to clause 1, where the definition of “biodiversity sector” had been amended (see attached document for full details). Members asked why the definition was being narrowed now to only include “indigenous resources” but not all resources. They accepted the change.

The next major amendment related to the addition of a new section 87A into the principal Act. It was explained that the Act dealt with who would be a competent and issuing authority. This had now been clarified by the new insertion. Members unanimously accepted the change.

Members also unanimously accepted the third change (see attached presentation) referring to the replacement of the numbers in the heading

The Committee agreed that the fourth amendment listed was purely technical, and had no objection.

The removal of clause 20 was unanimously accepted

The removal of paragraph (L) from clause 30 was accepted unanimously.

Members were in agreement with the new itemisation of clause 36.

In the new wording for section 38, Members also agreed unanimously with the substitution of the word “and” with “or.

Finally, Members accepted the new wording of the Long Title, which reflected all the changes to the Bill.

Members voted unanimously to adopt the Bill.

Air Quality Public Hearings: Listed activities and associated Minimum Emission Standards: Department of Environmental Affairs report back
Ms Judy Beaumont, Deputy Director-General: Climate Change, Department of Environmental Affairs, tabled the documentation relating to the public hearings on the Air Quality Act Minimum Emission Standards, and the proposed amendments to the Air Quality Act.  She noted that the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) had previously consulted and presented a report with its finding. It had also provided an explanation of the previous amendments to the Act, input on some of the issues raised by stakeholders, a set of legal opinions and the DEA’s response to those, and the minutes of the multi-stakeholder workshop.

Dr Thuli Mdluli, Chief Director, Department of Environmental Affairs, presented the briefing (see attached presentation) word for word. She noted that full details of the issues covered in this briefing were provided in the attached set of documents.

Dr Mdluli explained that the National Framework was binding. In respect of section of the National Framework, she noted that the relevant Minister would request the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) to establish standards for the identified hazard. However, she also noted that the SABS had not been part of the process in the previous and current year.

The issue of coal to liquid was an ongoing issue. There was general agreement by stakeholders on the issue of co-processing, co-feeding and multifuel combustion. There was also agreement on the Common Stack Requirements, the issue of Averaging Periods for continuous emission monitoring and periodic emission measurement. There was also general consent around the addition of reciprocating engines, the drying and calcining processes.

Stakeholders agreed upon re-categorisation of the aluminium sector. They also agreed upon the issue of lead smelting.

Other ongoing issues were listed as hot dip galvanising, drying activities in the cement industry, and burning grounds (explosives). In the petrochemical sector, the matters around combustion installations; fluid-catalytic-cracking unit (FCCU) processors and SRU were also listed as on-going.

In relation to storage and handling of ore and coal, Dr Mdluli noted that the emission measurement requirements were not agreed on. Similarly, there was no agreement on the special arrangement requirement for total organic compounc (TOC) on alternative fuel resources (AFRs), or the issue of caustic soda processes, or issues around production of chemical fertilisers. However, there had been agreement on the production handling and use of acids.

The bubble approach for the Petrochemical industry was removed.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) stated that she was worried about the refineries, and would like the Committee to take a strong stand against them. She maintained that they were the worst polluters and warned the DEA to be careful of them since they would undoubtedly defend themselves against regulation.

Dr Mdluli responded that in fact the refineries were willing to change and comply with the regulations, but there would likely be resistance from some sectors.

Mr F Rodgers (DA) wanted more insight on what was acceptable and what was not acceptable, when monitoring companies for compliance. He also asked how, once legislation was in place, both the Department and the Committee would ensure that this law was enforced, who would be attending to the enforcement in practical terms and what the consequences of non-compliance would be.

Dr Mdluli responded that after the necessary legislation was enacted, atmospheric permits would be issued in relation to all of the activities in those industries where the emissions limits had been set. This would force industries to report what their admissions had been for the year, by submitting reports to the respective authorities. The enforcement and licensing processes were linked. Addition powers of enforcement were set out in previous legislation and court precedents that had decided upon many issues that could be of potential concern.

The Chairperson stated that during the hearings in the last week, there had been two main concerns, one of which was the burning of coal in the townships, and secondly the dust from the mines. He wanted to know if these had been sufficiently covered in the current Bill.

Ms C Zikalala agreed that these were very important issues that must be addressed.

Dr Mdluli responded that although these specific topics were not covered in the present Bill, there were strategies in place to address these problems and hopefully the DEA would have a solution in the near future.

The Chairperson agreed that the strategies were good, and also accepted that enforcement was a difficult issue, but he maintained that this was not enough. He accepted what had been said but wanted to see a definite policy in place.

Ms Beaumont conceded that the Chairperson had valid concerns, but said that the type of regulations that were being requested would require a whole collection of agreements across multiple committees. She stated that there was definite policy in place.

The Chairperson asked the DEA to produce a “package” of information on the regulations around coal burning and mine dust, with a statement by the Department as to exactly what it intended to do, before the end of the year, and outlining what it had already done in this year on these matters.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) expressed her concern that it took a long time to formulate regulations, and urged officials from the DEA to visit the towns and see to what extent the residents there were suffering because of the prevalence of mine dust.

Mr S Huang (ANC) and Ms Zikalala agreed with Ms Bhengu.

Dr Mdluli responded that DEA officials had visited the mines and that the regulations had been put together and were ready to be processed.

Ms J Manganye (ANC) wanted to know how the issue of standards was being addressed by the DEA, if the SABS had limited in-house technical expertise to set standards.

Dr Mdluli responded that this was no longer a problem. Those members of the committee who had not had sufficient expertise or experience had been replaced by others who were better able to deal with the issues.

Mr Rodgers asked who was responsible for the reports and assessments that industries had to submit, asked why the reports were only submitted at the end of the year, and why they were limited to once a year, after the damage had effectively already been caused to the environment.

Dr Mdluli responded that the licensing authorities - Metros, the Provinces and District Municipalities – were responsible for ensuring that industries submitted their reports, and for issuing the licenses and permits in the area.

The Chairperson asked if the national government had a role, in terms of the regulations.

Dr Mdluli stated that it would if the regulations were passed in their proposed form.

Ms Beaumont noted that air quality was included under Schedule 4B of the South African Constitution and that it was decided that municipalities needed to play a significant role in regulating air quality, but this was changing over time.

The Chairperson stated that this power could be removed, as this was already possible under the Constitution. There was still confusion on the matter. He requested the DEA to draft a report considering the legality of the current framework of air quality regulation, so that the Committee could assess how best to move forward, and consider whether the national government should play a bigger role in regulating air quality. Air quality should be a much greater concern in the future.

The meeting was adjourned.


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