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Newsflash: NGOs seek Eskom’s plans for complying with air quality standards

18 May 2016 at 7:49 am

Eskom's power stations emit a combination of SO2, NOx, particulate matter, mercury and other toxic pollutants.
Eskom's power stations emit a combination of SO2, NOx, particulate matter, mercury and other toxic pollutants.
Eskom's power stations emit a combination of SO2, NOx, particulate matter, mercury and other toxic pollutants.

Eskom’s power stations emit a combination of SO2, NOx, particulate matter, mercury and other toxic pollutants.

In late February 2015, despite intense civil society opposition, the Department of Environmental Affairs’ National Air Quality Officer largely approved Eskom’s applications to postpone compliance with the air pollution minimum emission standards that applied from 1 April 2015. These standards were then incorporated into Eskom’s licences.

Despite the reprieve granted to Eskom, even the postponed compliance with the air emission standards means that Eskom must act now to ensure that it has the relevant funds and approvals in place in time to start installation of the equipment necessary to limit the air pollution from its coal-fired power stations.

In circumstances where a coal-fired power station cannot meet these standards, the Centre and its partners groundWork and Earthlife Africa argue that that station should be decommissioned, largely because of the devastating health impacts of its air emissions, demonstrated even in studies Eskom itself commissioned. Several of Eskom’s power stations are reaching their end-of-life, having been commissioned in the 1960s and 1970s. However, Eskom recently indicated that it does not intend to decommission its stations, but will rather “renew” them. This makes compliance with the air emission standards even more important.

In order to ascertain Eskom’s plans to ensure such compliance, alternatively to decommission stations, the Centre addressed correspondence to Eskom on 25 April 2016:

  1. to ascertain each coal-fired power station’s latest plans to ensure compliance with:
    • the emission standards in the relevant atmospheric emission licences, and
    • in relation to periods not covered by the current licences, at least with the minimum emission standards;
  2. to request copies of these compliance plans and the latest decommissioning schedule and plans for each coal-fired power station; and
  3. to ascertain the decision-making timelines and mechanisms within Eskom’s board to ensure compliance with the licences and the standards, and the decommissioning schedule and plans.

More than two weeks later, instead of providing the information, Eskom required the Centre to submit a request for information under the Promotion of Access to Information Act. We have done so, and eagerly await Eskom’s response.

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