Eskom resists enforcement while new evidence on deaths caused by Kendal’s pollution emerge

Kendal Power Station

Photo: CER

29 April 2020 - Presenting shocking new expert findings on the health effects of the ongoing violations by Eskom’s Kendal Power Station to the Environment Minister, environmental justice organisations groundWork, Earthlife Africa, and the Vukani Environmental Movement have asked her to take immediate action to stop the toxic pollution from Kendal.

Kendal power station, near the N12 highway, nestled between Johannesburg and eMalahleni, is located within the Highveld Priority Area – declared as such by government in 2007 due to the high levels of air pollution and resultant dangerous health impacts.

In a letter prepared by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), the organisations provided the Minister with copies of damning reports by U.S. experts Dr Ron Sahu and Dr Andy Gray, and urged her not to back down from the firm justifications for enforcement action against Eskom in the compliance notice issued to Eskom by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) in December 2019.

Government action against Eskom

The compliance notice for Kendal requires that Eskom:

DEFF’s stern notice records that Eskom’s response to the July 2019 pre-compliance notice[1] contained “a gross misrepresentation of the facts”; was “not… a true reflection of what is occurring on site”; and that its “previous experience with Eskom’s action plans is that it has failed to produce the required outcomes”.[2]

Instead of complying, Eskom filed an objection to the compliance notice, which is currently suspended, pending the Minister’s decision to confirm, modify or cancel it.[3]

Expert reports

Coal plant expert Dr Sahu reviewed Kendal’s emission reports from April 2016 through March 2020. Key findings from his analysis include the following:

Dr Sahu recommends that Kendal power station either shut down or that all units be rapidly retrofitted with properly-designed fabric filters to effectively control PM emissions and improve regional air quality and public health.

Air pollution research expert Dr Gray analysed Kendal’s emissions data for the period January 2018 to October 2019 to model the air quality and health impacts from this power station. The main findings from this analysis include the following:

Confirm the compliance notice, activists ask the Minister

In making her decision to confirm, modify, or cancel Kendal’s compliance notice, the Minister must give effect to the relevant provisions in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, the National Environmental Management Act, and the Air Quality Act, among other legislation.

“As the Department recognises, there is no reason to trust Eskom’s promises.  Eskom is not above the law. Holding Eskom to account for their rampant pollution is a matter of life and death for those of us living on the Highveld. We call upon the Minister to prove that she and her Department will stand up for people’s rights. The compliance notice must be enforced,” says Thomas Mnguni, Community Campaigner at groundWork.

Promise Mabilo, Coordinator of Vukani Environmental Movement points out: “The pollution from Kendal, and the way it affects our lungs and hearts, makes those of us who live in and around eMalahleni even more vulnerable to the coronavirus. We need government to defend our Constitutional rights. That is exactly why we have brought the “Deadly Air case.”

Timothy Lloyd, attorney at the CER, states that “there is not only a Constitutional duty imposed upon the Minister to protect people in the Highveld from Kendal’s harmful emissions, but there is also a heightened duty imposed by the Constitution to effectively protect children in the area, who are more vulnerable to the health impacts caused by air pollution, There must be consequences for Kendal power station’s blatant non-compliance with its AEL.”

Given the Minister’s legal obligations, the expert evidence, and the dire health impacts of Kendal’s unlawful pollution, the Minister is obliged, at the very least, to confirm the compliance notice. This means that all of Kendal’s non-compliant units should be shut down, and that any plan of action to ensure that Eskom will comply with its AEL must be prepared or reviewed by truly independent specialists.

 

NOTES:

[1] DEFF has refused to make this available following a Promotion of Access to Information Act request.
[2] In response to media about the compliance notice, Eskom has claimed that:

[3] DEFF also refused CER’s request under the Promotion of Access to Information Act for a copy of Eskom’s objections. This is undemocratic withholding of information that is in the public interest.

 

CONTACTS:

Lerato Balendran, CER Head of Communications, lbalendran@cer.org; +27790717442;
Tsepang Molefe, groundWork Media Campaigner, media@groundwork.org.za, +27649009963.