National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill: deliberation and voting


12 August 2004
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

This report was produced by kind courtesy of Contact Trust:

12 August 2004

Ms E Thabethe (ANC)

Documents handed out
Amendments agreed to Air Quality Bill

Expression of thanks by Andy Birkinshaw and Caroline Ntaopane

The Committee considered proposed amendments to the Bill. Only one new issue, emissions trading, was discussed, and the Department confirmed that space had been left in the Bill for potential future developments. It would not specifically dealt with now as it was not a priority. The Committee unanimously agreed to all amendments as well as the Bill as a whole. It will be debated in the National Assembly on 25 August 2004.

Caroline Ntaopane from the Sasolburg Air Quality Monitoring Committee, and Andy Birkinshaw from the Table View Residents Association, who had represented several NGOs in the public hearings and were observers to this meeting, were granted a special request to express their thanks to the Committee.

Mr P Lukey (Department) presented the re-written amendments. These emphasised the constitutional right to clean air and a healthy environment. Ms J Yawitch (Department confirmed that this clear link had been lacking. The relationship between poor air quality and poor human health needed to be emphasised.

Mr Lukey went through the amendments clause by clause. He then brought up the proposed inclusion of a new section about controlled fuels. This would allow the government to declare certain fuels to be controlled fuels, obliging the maintenance of clear standards when using named fuels. The Director-General had recommended that controlled fuels be added to the clause on controlled emitters, but they had decided to write a new section to deal with the issue.

Mr K Durr (ACDP) requested time to look through the amendments and ask questions before voting. The Chair responded that there had been ample time for questions the day before. After Committee assent, Mr Durr questioned Mr Lukey on the lack of a definition of noise. If there was no definition, it would be very difficult to identify and reduce it.

Mr Lukey agreed that a definition was useful, but remarked that definition was a difficult, highly technical procedure.

Mr Durr then asked about the relevance of international emissions trading to South Africa.

Mr Lukey responded that that was a relatively controversial issue. Clause 50 left space for developing it in the future, but it was not a priority now.

Mr G Oliphant (ANC) commented that the poorer people who would be most adversely affected by international emissions trading agreements, did not have a powerful political 'voice' to convey their concerns.

Mr Lukey remarked that that was precisely why there had been space left for development of the issue in the future. Mr Durr agreed with this and joked that that as the Committee had the full support of the ACDP on this issue, they could rest assured that the correct decision had been made.

In the absence of further comments, the Chair then proceeded with the voting process on the amendments and the Bill itself. The amendments and Bill were unanimously agreed to.

Caroline Ntaopane from the Sasolburg Air Quality Monitoring Committee, and Andy Birkinshaw from the Table View Residents Association were observers to this meeting but had especially requested the Chairperson to hear their expression of thanks to the Committee. They represented a consortium of NGOs which had contributed significantly in the public hearings process, and which also included GroundWork; South Durban Community Environmental Alliance; Boipatong Environmental Working Group; Steel Valley Crisis Committee; African Genesis Heritage Environmental Club; Highveld East Community Environmental Monitoring Association and Vuka Environment Dot Com.

Ms Ntaopane thanked the Committee and said that civil society considered the passing of this Bill as a milestone. She listed the positive amendments to the bill, namely the change of emphasis around the Minister's discretionary powers when turning 'may' into 'must'; the introduction of specific time frames; the clarification of the link between the air quality, health and constitutional rights. Her concerns were a perceived lack of clarity around exemptions, and too little focus on 'cumulative impacts', which were mentioned only in sections 9, 21 and 36.

The Chair reminded the Committee that there was a site visit planned for Tuesday 17 August to Milnerton, and that the debate in the National Assembly on the Bill would take place on 25 August 2004.

The meeting was adjourned.



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