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Open for Comment: Draft Regulations for Implementing and Enforcing Priority Area Air Quality Management Plans

11 February 2022

On 11 February 2022, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, published her intention to introduce Regulations for Implementing and Enforcing Priority Area Air Quality Management Plans under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality 39 of 2004 (NEMAQA).

The draft Regulations are available here. The public has until 12 March 2022 in which to submit comments on these draft Regulations.

The following priority areas have been declared to date:

  1.  Vaal Triangle Air-Shed priority area; 
  2. Highveld Priority priority area; and 
  3. Waterberg-Bojanala priority area.

The explanatory memorandum for the proposed regulations provides as follows:

Despite concerted attempts to implement various emission control measures and tools in the areas declared as Priority Areas, including specific air quality management interventions to bring these areas into compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, emissions of certain pollutants continue to result in persistent non-compliance with these standards.

These Regulations set out the requirements necessary for implementing and enforcing approved Priority Area air quality management plans, including funding arrangements, measures to facilitate compliance with such plans, penalties for any contravention of or any failure to comply with such plans and regular review of such plans. Once implemented, the Regulations will provide for mandatory implementation of interventions; provide mechanisms for government to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the plans, as well as to activate enforcement measures where non-compliance is identified. They apply to all key stakeholders identified to be significant contributors to poor air quality in the respective air quality management plans, including listed activities, controlled emitters, mining operations and government stakeholders.

On their nature, these Regulations do not introduce new emission control tools or mandates, but rather coordinate the implementation of already regulated tools and functions. Implementation of the Regulations is thus not envisaged to result in additional cost to the regulated community and government.

The anticipated outcome of the Regulations is improved implementation of, and compliance with, Priority Area air quality management plans resulting in ambient air that complies with National Ambient Air Quality Standards with the concomitant reduction in negative public health impacts. The main beneficiaries of the effective implementation of the Regulations are the communities within the Priority Areas who will benefit from reduced medical costs and a reduced burden of upper respiratory disease, especially vulnerable groups such as the aged, children, and people with underlying health issues.”

See the Centre for Environmental Rights’ #DeadlyAir litigation which was launched to acknowledge that the poor ambient air quality in the Highveld Priority Area constitutes a violation of the right to an environment not harmful to health or well-being, and to order the government to promulgate regulations to give effect to the Highveld Air Quality Management Plan.