Greenpeace Urges National Air Quality Officer to deny Eskom’s Pollution Application

Activists build wall of petition signatures

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Feature story - October 16, 2014
Greenpeace activists, together with community members from the coalfields around Witbank, have rolled out a green carpet outside the Department of Environmental Affairs, urging the National Air Quality Officer to reject Eskom’s application for long-term postponements from complying with air quality legislation.

16 October 2014 Activists present 25,000 names to National Air Quality Officer

Greenpeace activists and members of coal-affected communities presented South Africa's National Air Quality Officer with a petition signed by 25,000 people. The petition calls on her to make the right decision and deny Eskom's pollution application.

Activists also constructed a wall of boxes containing the names of over 25 000 people who added their voices to the Greenpeace petition calling for Eskom’s application to be denied.

“Today we are rolling out the green carpet for the National Air Quality Officer because we believe that her decision to approve or deny Eskom’s application for long-term postponements from complying with air quality legislation is critically important," said Michael O’Brien-Onyeka, Executive Director of Greenpeace Africa.

"Greenpeace calls on Dr Mdluli to do the right thing and turn down Eskom’s application, thereby protecting people’s health and holding one of South Africa’s mega-polluters accountable.” 

Research shows that if Eskom’s coal power stations do not comply with the Minimum Emission Standards, this will cause up to 20 000 premature deaths.

The utility has applied for long-term postponements from complying with the Minimum Emission Standards, which will apply to almost all of its coal power stations. If this application is approved, it is thousands of people in the coalfields who will continue to bear the health burden of living in the shadows of coal power stations.

“We see Eskom’s application as a disgrace because they knew since 2010 that they had to meet the standards but they ignored this. So now that they see that the time has come to comply, they want more time so that they can continue to pollute,” said Nomcebo Makhubelo from the Mpumalanga Youth Against Climate Change group.

“Emalahleni has 12 Eskom power stations and for us Eskom is taking advantage of poor communities and this is not something that we can allow. The law should be above everyone and if the government does not take this into consideration then it simply means that if you have money like Eskom you can violate our constitutional rights,” said Makhubelo.

“We are urging the National Air Quality Officer to put people before profit. The reality is that coal kills, and the true cost of coal is destruction at every step. Eskom is essentially asking for a free ticket to pollute and kill, and we think that the answer should be a clear ‘No’. At a minimum, existing coal power stations must comply with the Minimum Emission Standards – which are still lower than those recommended by the World Health Organisation” added O’Brien-Onyeka.

With over 25 000 signatures to Greenpeace’s petition calling on Dr Mdluli to reject Eskom’s application, there is clearly a great deal of public support behind ensuring that Eskom complies with the law.

“Greenpeace believes that no-one should be above the law, not even Eskom. The constitution states that South Africans have the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, and we urge the National Air Quality officer not to overlook that” concluded O’Brien-Onyeka.