Eskom Asks for Exemption from Air Quality Rules
BYLINE: Kristen van Schie
JOHANNESBURG: Eskom is asking for exemption from strict new air quality standards, saying its power station emissions do not harm human health.
The new standards controlling the levels of particulate matter, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted by power stations will come into play in 2015, with revised and even stricter standards for 2020.
The rules will apply to Eskom's 20 coal and liquid fuel power stations. But the company says it will not meet these standards on time, and is asking for postponements and even exemptions for many of its stations.
Last year the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs' "Green Scorpions" found that Eskom had the highest rate of breaking the country's environmental laws of any organ of state - but it could not be prosecuted because it was a government body.
The National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Report, released in November, said the department had started criminal proceedings against Eskom several times since 2009, but the National Prosecuting Authority had declined to prosecute because the environmental legislation absolved organs of state of criminal liability. This section of legislation was to be reviewed and amended.
Nine of Eskom's stations are expected to meet all the 2015 requirements, three may need more time and eight will not have met at least one of the standards. For these stations, Eskom is asking for exemption.
The 2020 requirements will be even harder to meet. Seven stations will need exemption for at least one of the pollutants, including the delayed Medupi power station. It is seeking exemption for its sulphur dioxide emission levels. Only three stations will meet all of the 2020 standards. Eight power stations will not meet any of the 2020 standards on time and most of these are in Mpumalanga, falling within the country's air pollution hot spot in the highveld.
Eskom says it will cost R210 billion to bring all its power stations up to standard. The new technology to control sulphur dioxide emissions will also need more water - an estimated extra 70 billion litres a year.
It also says its power stations do not affect residents' health because of the high smoke stacks. …