Readiness for UNFCCC COP25 conference: Department briefing; Impact of Air Quality in Durban South Basin: stakeholder input; with Minister

Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

27 November 2019
Chairperson: Mr F Xasa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on South Africa’s readiness for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference COP25 in Madrid, as well as by entities on the current air quality status in the Durban South Basin area.   

The DEFF indicated that South Africa was ready for the COP25 conference. The Minister provided a brief outline of the climate change resolution aspects that had been discussed at the 17th African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, which had guided the country’s COP 25 mandate. An important aspect of the climate change resolution was the decision to reaffirm the commitment of Africa to the implementation of the UNFCCC, its Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The Kyoto Protocol specifically raised concern because it was intended to differentiate responsibilities between developed and developing countries, and this was still an issue for Africa.

The eThekwini municipality briefed the Committee on the air quality status in the Durban South area, and the processes it employs to ensure good air quality. Air quality was carefully monitored and managed to enforce full compliance by industries in the area. This was done through independent audits and a requirement for industries to compile accountability emission reports.

The South Durban Community Environment Alliance [SDCEA] gave a presentation to raise the Committee’s awareness on the negligence and lack of interaction between industries and public officials, and the affected communities in the area. They highlighted several incidents that had taken place where the communities’ health had been affected by harmful chemical emissions from well known major companies. The fact that the Department of Health did not have any emergency plans for the surrounding communities was concerning. 

Engen said it had been compliant with the minimum emission standards, as well as the Atmospheric Emission Licence (AEL) requirements. It was taking the initiative to improve environmental performance, including investments in technology and equipment. It ensured compliance by having competent and qualified staff, as well as a leak detection and repair programme.

Members asked how the DEFF would resolve climate change issues, and ensure that the COP25 resolutions were sustainable and did not have a negative impact on the country. They also asked if South Africa would still pursue a green economy, regardless of the exit of other countries from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Committee members expressed concern at the general level of negligence of the eThekwini authorities and their lack of engagement with the affected communities. They questioned its role in fulfilling its obligations and responsibilities to ensure full compliance by local companies with air quality management standards. The actions of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in raising public awareness of the situation was commended. The Committee resolved to conduct an oversight visit to the Durban South basin to gain first hand insight into the challenges in the area. 

Meeting report

Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister: Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), said the delegation would be presenting the proposed mandate for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Madrid. The mandate was guided by the position of South Africa and Africa in the international forum. A climate change resolution had been passed two weeks back at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), and the full resolution from the conference would be provided to the Committee as soon as possible, since it was not attached to the presentation.

The Minister highlighted the important and relevant aspects of the climate change resolution which included, firstly, the acceptance of the scientific findings of the international community, especially from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which emphasised the change of the international warnings. The change was from the 2 degrees industrial guideline to the 1.5 degrees above industrial time’s guideline. The Minister explained that if South Africa goes above the 1.5 global average temperature, the country would experience severe consequences such as extreme weather conditions. Some contrary world leaders had denied the scientific findings.

The second important aspect of the climate change resolution was the decision to reaffirm the commitment of Africa in the implementation of the UNFCCC, its Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The Kyoto Protocol specifically raises concern because it is intended to differentiate responsibilities between developed and developing countries, and this was still an issue for Africa. Developed countries that produce harmful emissions are less affected by the result of the pollutants, whereas less resourced countries struggle with the problem of pollution and adaptation.

The third important aspect of the climate change resolution was the availability of financial resources and technical transfer to African countries in order to adapt and respond to climate change, with the consideration that African countries contribute about four percent of the world’s total gas emissions, but are the most affected by climate change, with few resources available. Loans had since been made available for African countries to use as financial assistance to respond to climate change, but this had been rejected by African countries because of existing debts. She said that some European countries had replenished the Climate Fund with $9.5 billion, which had been recognised and accepted by African countries. However, the $9.5 billion fell short of the targeted $100 billion.

The Minister added that COP25 was technical and that there had been recurring issues from previous COP conferences, and said that the seven technical areas in the mandate presentation would not all be resolved due to the existing complications.

DEFF: Mandate for UNFCCC Conference

Dr Tsakani Ngomane, Deputy Director General (DDG): Climate Change, Air Quality and Sustainable Development, DEFF, said the purpose of the presentation was to brief the Committee on the mandate approved by the Cabinet, that would serve as a basis for South Africa’s engagement at the UNFCCC COP25.

She provided the Committee with a brief background of the focus and mandate of the COP25 conference, stating that the focus was to advance the work on issues in order to facilitate the implementation of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. The mandate of COP25 included:

  • Completed work under Article 6 on guidance to cooperative approaches, rules and modalities, as well as the procedures of the mechanism and work programme on non-market approaches.
  • Conducting full reviews for the damage and losses linked to climate change, which includes the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Ensuring that the there was progress in the report formats under the modalities procedures and guidelines.
  • The preparation of the new and updated nationally determined contributions, with more ambitious targets. This was a focus area especially for South Africa.
  • Providing clarity on new long-term financial goals.

Dr Ngomane explained South Africa’s key position in alignment with the COP25 mandate. Firstly, the issue with the non-market cooperative approaches was ongoing because parties could not reach an agreement on the Katowice climate package. South Africa had strict rules that support development which were yet to be adopted at COP25, which would be a great achievement. Secondly, the reviewing for loss and damage according to the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) was recognised as a need by the Paris Agreement, and South Africa supported the further strengthening of the WIM, especially in regard to the differentiation of roles and responsibilities between developing and developed countries.

Regarding funding, South Africa supports the adaptation funding and encourages developed countries to contribute to the fund without any binding conditions. There was also support for the establishment of a suitable replenishment of the Climate Fund by developed countries and the Paris Agreement Board to comprise of parties.

The finalisation of the response measures forum was supported by South Africa, in line with mitigation mechanisms. Furthermore, the common reporting format was expected from parties as well as the formulation of tables, which was important for implementation and for enhancing transparency and outlining outcomes. She explained that proper report formats and tables reduced the risk of double reporting. 

Dr Ngomane touched on the transfer of technologies, specifically the Poznan strategic programme on technology transfer. She explained that there were still ongoing discussions about the programme and that there needed to be further clarification and strengthening of it. In addition, the programme was funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and enabled the provision of support for climate development and assisted with the technical needs and the development of pilot projects in developing countries. The progress report from the Paris Agreement should include some of the challenges facing the Poznan strategy programme. Poznan was an outcome of the COP14 GEF framework. 

She highlighted the intensive consultation process that had been followed to finalise the mandate position. Stakeholders had to be consulted and involved, which included the national delegation lead negotiator, Investor Group on Climate Change (IGCC)/National Committee on Climate Change (NCCC), and the national stakeholders from various private and public sector organsations. It had since been approved by the Cabinet on 20 November 2019.

Due to the technical nature of COP25, the technical delegation had been sent to Madrid where the conference was set to take place, and the political delegation would follow shortly.

eThekwini Air Quality Management

The Chairperson said that the Deputy Mayor of the eThekwini had sent an apology for the meeting, and that a new delegation had been appointed to present to the Committee.

Mr Bruce Dale, Air Quality Officer: eThekwini Municipality, said he would be discussing the air quality management in the eThekwini Municipality, and the intervention strategies of the municipality over the years, as well as its current monitoring and regulatory aspects that were related to air quality management.

He started with a brief background on the legislative mandate of the eThekwini Municipality, as well  as the municipality’s by laws. The air quality management plan (AQMP) had been approved and adopted in 2018, which provided strategic direction in terms of air quality management. The municipality had maintained good air quality around the city of Durban; all atmospheric emission licences (AELs) were processed electronically and the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries had assisted the department. The eThekwini Municipality had the highest number of processed AEL’s in the country.

The municipality had established seven specific goals for the AQMP:

  • Air quality was well maintained in accordance with the standards;
  • AQMP was properly implemented;
  • Proper facilitation of the AQMP;
  • Ensuring that the municipality had the necessary skills for implementation of the AQMP;
  • Ensuring that the municipality had the necessary systems and tools for implementation of the AQMP;
  • Ensuring that the AQMP was well supported by standards;
  • Transparency of air quality.

Mr Dale explained that the implementation plan was for five years and had to be updated thereafter every five years. In terms of air quality monitoring, the municipality had 15 air quality monitoring stations; a mobile air quality monitoring station; seven weather stations that assist the municipality with complaints and linking the complaints to the source of the emissions; as well as ten non-continuous bubbler stations which measure sulfur dioxide and smoke. A passive monitoring strategy also existed to measure benzene and other pollutants, and lastly, there was a dust management strategy which oversees dust-polluting industries.

Mr Dale outlined the current air quality status of the municipality with reference to a map, and also the daily sulfur dioxide mean concentration levels from 1 January 2019 to 31 October. The graph displayed more stable conditions during the winter period, with less rainfall that the summer period. However, the total yearly pollutants were in compliance with the national standard. The municipality had been trying to find ways of solving the pollution in the South Durban basin, but there had been challenges due to the poor town planning, especially since there were residential areas near the petroleum industries. The daily particulate matter, which was a concern to the municipality, was seasonal as it exceeded standard levels during May and September. Most exceedances were from the Ganges station.

Mr Dale provided a list of the pollution sources in the eThekwini Municipality. He also briefed the Committee on the regulatory systems of the municipality, including the AELs which were mostly located in the South Durban basin. The municipality ensured compliance by means of avoiding within the facilities. In addition most of the facilities were found to be compliant, and those that were not compliant were given pre-compliance notices. There had been incidents where facilities had to be closed or their licences withdrawn due to non-compliance. Some facilities had been found to be operating illegally and had since been fined by the municipality.

The National Atmospheric Emission Inventory System (NAEIS) audits were prepared on 15 December and were sent over to different industries to report on their emissions, and this report was required within three months. The information submitted was used to develop the AQMP, as well as to improve and address areas of concern. Besides the municipality, there was a support centre where all complaints were handled and managed. The municipality had implemented various AQMP sub-projects and improvement projects, such as the reduction of the paper and pulp sector and the improvement of the flaring system.

Another identified project was the PPT study -- phasing out dirty fuels as well as the installation and upgrading of tank farms Regulatory interventions had been imposed by the municipality to industries that had an impact on the environment in the eThekwini city. The regulations include leak detection and repair programmes, reporting on greenhouse gases, etc.

Mr Dale provided the Committee with a list of stakeholders engaged and the occurrence of the engagements -- whether monthly, annually or quarterly. He also mentioned that eThekwini had not received any capital budget to improve the municipality’s monitoring systems and replace antique technology and analysers. The municipality was looking to improve its air quality by replacing the old analysers to produce more reliable data that was sustainable. The replacement of analysers was part of the municipality’s three year plan. The municipality had changed its future plans to improve air quality, as well as other projects which would assist the municipality to achieve its air quality plans.

GroundWork: Toxic Emission Incident

Ms Shanice Firmin, Environmental Project Officer: Development, Infrastructure and Climate Change, said she was from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, and that the presentation would be in Groundwork’s slot. She would be presenting on an incident that occurred on 16 August 2019 involving Safripol, where toxic emissions affected the surrounding community. Safripol did temporarily provide a mobile clinic, but failed to pay for the medication of those affected.

Sadly, the incident was not Safripol’s first incident, but similarly the industry’s pollution had affected a nearby secondary school where learners and staff were sent home. The industry had released a chemical known as ‘Dowtherm,’ which causes respiratory health problems and skin irritation.

The exposure to the harmful industrial emissions had resulted in a series of prolonged symptoms. 1 700 people had fallen sick from the inhalation of the toxic fumes. Engagements with the eThekwini Health department had not been useful since there had been no assistance. There were no emergency plans from the department, even though they had been requested for the past ten years. The community had never been addressed about the issue.

Ms Firmin highlighted that Safripol had previously had a good neighborly agreement which would ensure environmental safety in the surrounding community. The agreement had since failed to be met by Safripol.

The eThekwini Health Department had not addressed the communities since the incident. However, the provincial Department of Health and the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs had since visited the Safripol premises, but had not addressed the community.

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)

Mr Bongani Mthembu, Air Quality Officer: SDCEA, said the organisation does extensive work and research to ensure that valid information is presented. He also emphasised the importance of the presence of public officials at meetings. He said the work performed by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) complements the work done by the public institutions and government. NGOs were not in opposition to the government.

Mr Mthembu began by giving an insight into incidents that had occurred in the Durban South Basin from 2000 to June 2018, which included fires and explosions. He emphasised that there were no emergency plans for the communities in South Durban. People in the communities had no information on what to do during an incident, especially since industries that released harmful gases in the air were located in or near residential areas and still did not have emergency plans for the surrounding communities. Funds had been allocated by the national disaster department, but no disaster management plan had been drafted.

The SDCEA had developed a temporary emergency plan for communities since the city of Durban did not have one. However, the municipality and the national disaster department had come up with an emergency plan in 2015 which was similar to the emergency plan that had been drafted by the SDCEA. This was a disgrace and insult to the SDCEA, because there had been no acknowledgment of the SDCEA emergency plan.

Mr Mthembu provided a list of industries that had had major accidents, including Sapref and Engen, and the fires of IVS, KZN Oil, SpillTech and Transnet.

The SDCEA used a budget system to determine harmful gases emitted by industries so that they had knowledge of the impact on surrounding communities. The system was also used by the eThekwini municipality. The bucket system revealed through the air monitoring results, that there were high benzene pollution results in June 2018.

Mr Mthembu highlighted that there were no meaningful air monitoring stakeholder forums. He explained that the following was requested from the municipality:

 

  • Joint stakeholder air quality monitoring meetings;
  • Chemical reduction plans for industries;
  • Feedback should be provided to communities;
  • Inclusivity in incident investigations;
  • Access to the provincial government.

Only a few air quality monitoring stations were fully functional. The stations had not been properly maintained. There was no access to trade permits; the South African Air Quality Information System (SAAQIS) website was deceiving on issues and challenges faced by the industry. There needed to be continuous benzene monitoring throughout the year.

Engen Oil presentation

Mr Yusa Hassan, Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Engen, said the presentation would cover Engen’s management system and environmental emission controls, as well as figures on the performance of the organisation.

Engen was compliant and was a level two Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) contributor. Mr Hassan also provided a value chain. which included the refinery stage, transportation moves and customers. With regard to job creation, Engen had 2 638 South African employees out of 3 357. He highlighted that 91% of the South African employees were from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

Engen had a 20 hour assistance line for any complaints, an online tool to monitor and evaluate compliance, with regular reviews. Its 2018 emissions data was awaited and being verified by Price WaterhouseCoopers (PWC), and the used laboratories are all acredited by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS).

Engen engages with stakeholders and the community through the Engen community stakeholder forum. At the South Durban Basin Refinery, it had 700 employees. All of its South African sites hold valid AELs, and compliance was reported annually to local authorities. In accordance with the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act 39 of 2004, there were regular monthly engagements with authorities.

Engen has been compliant with the minimum emission standards requirements, as well as the AEL requirements. Mr Hassan concluded by mentioning that Engen was taking the initiative to improve environmental performance, including investments in technology and equipment. It ensured compliance by having competent and qualified staff, as well as a leak detection and repair programme.

Discussion

DEFF Presentation (UNFCCC)

Ms H Winkler (DA) asked the Minister if there had been any communication and interaction with other departments, such as Trade and Industry and Energy, as well as how the climate change issues would be resolved, considering that there were other forms of pollution, not just air pollution. She also enquired on the drafting progress of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the international transition funding benefits (loan) for South Africa, and how this transition would affect the green economy. In addition, she requested clarity on the methodology issue of contention, which was discussed as a key contribution to the upcoming COP25.

Minister Creecy replied that there would be an integrated process the following year that would involve stakeholder departments, and said the NDC covered all carbon gas emissions that were determined in a vigorous manner. She explained that decisions were made by the Cabinet, not the Department, especially with matters concerning the whole country.

The Minister further explained that the recent Climate Summit was aimed at encouraging countries to increase their respective NDC’s, but a large carbon-emission polluting country wished to exit the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This was a challenge, because this country was the largest carbon emission contributor.

She assured the Committee that there was high commitment to the NDC, and further discussions on tackling issues would be evaluated.

She expressed great disappointment at the absence of the Committee from the Plastics Colloquium the previous week, where every stakeholder had been present and collective commitments were made and plastic pollution was discussed.

Dr Ngomane clarified that the funding was in the form of a grant, not a loan, simply because loans brought a financial burden to communities. She said that various projects had been funded by the Department.

The Minister added that the grant funding had been received, and it had supported various renewable energy projects in rural communities by providing low emission stoves. A list of existing projects would be made available to the Committee.

Dr Ngomane’s response to the transparency framework was that the framework was specifically related to the reporting format that needed to be adhered to. South Africa was embarking on creating an electronic system for reporting through extensive consultation. The framework ensured transparency, and this was evident in the national greenhouse gas inventory, which had to be reported to the UNFCCC.

Ms S Mbatha (ANC) requested documentation from the previously attended conferences so that the Committee could familiarise themselves with past occurrences. She said that invitations had been received from the Minister regarding the Plastics Colloquium, and asked the Department about the attendance logistics for the COP25 conference.

The Chairperson responded to Ms Mbatha’s question by stating that the logistics would be decided on by Parliament, not the Minister. 

Ms Winkler asked for further clarity on how the loans would place a financial burden on communities. She mentioned that South Africa ranked 14th in the contribution of carbon dioxide, and creating a greener economy should not be overlooked simply because the country was not the biggest carbon gas contributor. She also asked the Minister if South Africa would still pursue a green economy regardless of the exit of other countries from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The Minister replied that a report of the previously attended COP conference would be made available to the Committee, and emphasised that the Committee should be concerned with the exiting of the particular country from the Paris Agreement. However, other countries’ climate change obligations should not be halted because of this, especially South Africa’s. She asked the Committee to consider the implications that the carbon gas emissions had for Africa, especially if the largest carbon gas emitter had left the Agreement. 

She assured the Committee that South Africa was committed to fulfilling its Kyoto Protocol obligations and the Paris Accord. The evidence could be seen in the increase of the previous year’s Integrated Resource Plan, from four percent to 34 percent in the current year. 

The Minister responded on the community’s financial burden question by mentioning that individual communities, organisations and the Department could not borrow money externally -- money could be borrowed externally only by the National Treasury. Grant funding was requested, instead of a loan, because South Africa and other African countries were already in sovereign debt, therefore if more money was borrowed to deal with climate change, the debt would increase. 

Ms T Modise (ANC, North West) Chairperson of the Select Committee on Land Reform, Environment, Minerals Resources and Energy, said that there would be ongoing engagements by Members on the issues of COP25. She wished the Minister and the selected delegation luck on the negotiations on behalf of the country. Resolutions must be implemented. 

The Chairperson thanked the Minister and the Department, and excused them from the meeting.

Discussion

eThekwini 

The Chairperson explained the reason for the eThekwini municipality being present at the meeting was an exercise of authority that the Committee had. She said that Committee Members had every right to question the delegation that had been sent to present to the Committee, especially if the intended purpose of the presentation had not been fulfilled. She emphasised the importance of the presence of a public figure -- in the case, it was supposed to have been the Deputy Mayor of the eThekwini municipality.

Ms Winkler asked about the frequency of stakeholder engagements, how the money collected from fines was used, how much was used for the environmental clean ups, whether there was an oversight role played, what was being done about dumping near the old airport, how reliable emissions data was, and if there was an independent auditor checking the quality of the emissions data for relevance.

Mr Modise asked how the fines were regulated, what the criteria for pollution regulations were, and want to know how many facilities there were without licences.

eThekwini’s response

Mr Dale replied that the stakeholder engagements state that the meetings are held to assess performance and address complaints, and usually have an independent chairperson who chairs the meetings and various stakeholders. He explained that the municipality regulates through waste licenses, but these are mostly atmospheric emission licences or scheduled trade permits, to encourage community participation. However, it had come to the municipality’s attention that some community members and organisations did not attend some industry meetings because of they were not in agreement with the information or did not feel that the process was completely inclusive, which was a concern to the municipality. The stakeholder engagements occurred mostly quarterly for external stakeholders and monthly with authorities. The municipality did not have sufficient resources to hold meetings daily with stakeholders.  

He said that larger industries were usually the biggest contributors of pollution because of complex chemical processes. Regarding the issue of fines, there was never unused money that returned to the municipality. More action was being done by the municipality to reduce the dumping of waste, and there had been regulations for dumping. All the information produced in the presentation was based on valid data -- invalid data would not be included in reports since the data was verified beforehand, and invalid data was removed.

The municipality was trying to strengthen compliance, as well as dedicating a compliance section for dealing with compliance. Air quality was a national requirement and should be adopted by council, which was how the municipality secured capital funding for the replacement and maintenance of equipment and analyzers. The municipality had challenges with supply chain management, which was an issue that could be improved nationwide.

Mr Dale responded to Ms Mbatha’s question by stating that 20 staff members were involved in air quality management, both regulatory and monitoring. The province did not have an air quality officer. However, the Department did advise other municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal. Every industry had a responsibility to monitor the emissions from every source. Bylaws were in place to regulate emissions within the province.

The Chairperson expressed satisfaction with the presentation, but mentioned that if Committee Members were not satisfied, a visit to the municipality could be organised for them to seek more clarity and ask more questions.

Discussion

GroundWork

Ms Mbatha expressed unhappiness with the current situation in Durban. She told Ms Firmin that the wrong entity had been approached -- the eThekwini municipality should be held responsible for the issues, not the Department of Health, especially since proclamations from the Department of Health had been distributed to all municipalities. She advised the SDCEA to return to the municipality and the Labour Department, and request that Safripol be shut down, not only because of its impact in the surrounding communities, but because the company was also a health hazard for the workers. She added that the surrounding communities should be compensated by the company, and for this to happen, specific documents needed to be submitted to the Compensation Commissioner. She expressed great disappointment at the eThekwini municipality’s lack of action in the matter.

Ms A Weber (DA) asked what extensive actions SDCEA had taken to ensure that Safripol was shut down and to enforce compliance. 

Ms N Gantsho (ANC) suggested that SDCEA draft a petition with all the signatures from the surrounding community members, and send it to the eThekwini municipality. She agreed with fellow Members that Safripol should be shut down, and that the Committee could assist where possible.

Ms T Mchunu (ANC) thanked SDCEA for raising the awareness of the Committee. She said that Safripol should be held responsible for the situation, and agreed that a petition should be drafted. The Committee had to ensure that the law was enforced and that a meeting was held to engage with the affected surrounding communities. She expressed concern and disappointment that the eThekwini municipality had not mentioned the issue of Safripol in the air quality presentation, which was dishonest. 

Mr Modise asked what the responses of the municipality and other higher authorities that were approached, had been when the issues were raised. He said a meeting should be facilitated with Safripol for further clarity on the issues raised.

The Chairperson said that according to the Parliamentary programme, the Committee was supposed to go to eThekwini. However, the oversight visit would be scheduled for January. He also advised that petitions should only be drafted when all other options had been exhausted.

Response

Mr Dale responded that the presentation had been based on ambient air quality, and would therefore not have included the issues discussed by the SDCEA in their presentation on Safripol. He explained that the municipality’s response to issues in the community followed a procedure. The municipality had conducted investigations into Safripol, and had requested the company to provide a health risk assessment, a root cause analysis, and data that showed the impact the company had in the community. The root cause analysis had found that there were leaking valves at Safripol, and these were closed. Independent assessors had been called in to assist. He added that the health unit could not communicate directly with the municipality, but information had been received from the communications department. The municipality had no issue over communicating and engaging with other stakeholders, but a workshop would need to be organised for feedback on the issue.

The Chairperson emphasised on the importance of holding people accountable, and for active communication with the community. A progress report should be presented upon the Committee’s arrival for the oversight visit. Issues should be dealt with accordingly by the eThekwini municipality. 

Discussion

Engen and SDCEA

Ms Winkler asked the SDCEA if there was any noted evidence in the emissions reports from the municipality and the SAAQI website, and if the contradictions in the emission reports would be sent to the Committee. 

She asked Engen about their corporate social investment (CSI) contribution to the environment, for portfolio evidence that proved that the community stakeholder engagements occurred, the organisation’s chemical reduction plan and time frame, as well as its track record on environmental fallout and how it managed to resolve the issues. She also wanted to know how many employees were from the local communities.  

Ms Mbatha asked the SDCEA if any environmental assessment processes were conducted in the province. If not, the health of the communities was at risk. Industries should be pressured to engage, if they did not communicate or engage with the communities. She also suggested that the SDCEA get an “Approve Inspection of Authority,” to check the level of chemicals in communities’ environment. If companies were found to emit high levels of chemicals, the authority had the right to take the companies to court.

She asked Engen why occupational health and safety officers were not mentioned in the presentation -- only an environmental specialist had been  mentioned -- especially since the company released highly toxic chemicals into the environment. The safety and health of the communities and employees should be a priority.

Ms Mchunu asked Engen about the proximity of the refinery basin to residential areas, and if it was aware of what had been presented by SDCEA relating to the incidents that had occurred. Had it played a role in trying to resolve the issues in the environment and to ensure safety?

She also expressed concern over the health issues in the communities, especially the increase in cancer due to the industry’s emissions. She enquired about the impact of the health risks on the National Health Insurance (NHI). Did Engen allow NGOs to participate in the stakeholder engagement forums? What were the criteria for participating?

Ms Gantsho referred to anomalies in Engen’s employment statistics, and asked what training was offered to promote workers to new positions at Engen, instead of them remaining as petrol attendants. 

Mr Modise also commented on the inconsistency in the employment figures, and the availability of an environmental specialist at Engen. He enquired about the atmospheric emissions contribution by Engen in the community and if the company had assessed its contribution to the emissions, if not, why had it not done so, and when would it perform assessments? The presentation had not mentioned anything about social responsibility except employment and job creation. This was significant, considering the status that Engen had nationally.

Response

Mr Dale commented that the eThekwini municipality was monitoring compliance. Although the AEL was expiring, a renewal application had been submitted. The licence would include stricter standards which would be implemented for improvement programmes to resolve issues, and new standards would apply to both Engen and SAPREF. 

Mr Hassan replied that Engen was aware of its location near residential areas, although the refinery had been constructed before there were residential areas nearby. It was for this reason that Engen closely monitored its environmental emissions because of the residential areas, and the company had tried to minimise emissions. The incidents listed in the SDCEA presentation had indeed occurred, but the industry had conducted investigations into the issues and ensured there were preventive measures to avoid similar occurrences.

Ms Unathi Magida, Head: Transformation and Stakeholder Engagement, Engen, said the company ensured sustainable social responsibility. It focused mainly on investing in education, especially mathematics and science. It also provided computer literacy to young people to increase their chance of getting employment. Engen spends around R7 million per annum on education, and has ten trusts in different schools in the Durban South area, through financial support and the provision of materials. With regard to disaster management, it provides support to repair schools destroyed during floods and storms in the area, as well as enterprise development for small to medium size companies.

She said the Engen Stakeholder Engagement Forum was multi-faceted. An independent audit had been conducted on the effectiveness of the stakeholder forum in the communities, and future capacity building would ensure the effectiveness of the forums.  

Ms Salome Peu, Manager: Environmental Health and Safety, Engen, said that due to time constraints and the agenda of the meeting, some of the information requested by Committee Members had not been prepared ahead of time. Regular audits were performed by the company to ensure compliance. She assured the Committee that the major issues were being dealt with. Its resolutions include the health hazards, the training of people to respond to environmental issues, and emergency preparedness.

Regarding the employees, she explained that the Durban South refinery had a total of 700 employees, and there were regional offices where there were environmental specialists. Industrial hygienists had been hired to help Engen understand the health hazards to which employees could be exposed.

Ms Winkler commented that Engen’s efforts were commendable. However, apart from its educational projects, what was the monetary value of its CSI initiatives and chemical reduction plan?

Mr Mthembu asked if the Engen education programmes have conditions attached to them such as working for the company. He said that communities had been requesting a medical clinic for asthma, especially since the refinery emitted more chemicals during the night, and asked if Engen took responsibility for the petrol trucks after they left the premises of the refinery.

Mr Hassan responded that Engen did not take advantage by releasing emissions specifically during the night. The trucks were taken accountability for, and compliance was ensured for all trucks, as well as their roadworthiness.

Ms Magida responded on the monetary value of Engen’s CSI  expenditure by stating that the company spends around R18 million to R22 million in the Durban South basin. An integrated report would be sent upon request to the Committee on the different CSI monetary allocations and projects. The total CSI expenditure was R36 million nationally. The company did go beyond the monetary value, considering the history of the country. 

The Chairperson said an oversight visit to Durban South basin would be organised for Members to question the company and the eThekwini municipality properly. He emphasised that the NGOs played a part in raising awareness among the public and Parliamentarians. He encouraged Engen to engage with the communities.

The meeting was adjourned.  

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