Changes to environmental legislation….
sent to clients 10 Oct….. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has published for comment a whole series of amendments to the cluster of laws generally referred to as the NEMA laws, or South Africa’s national environmental legislation.
The changes affect mining and quarrying, the industrial and manufacturing sectors and relationships of the many sectors with local authorities on licensing.
The draft Bill refers to the overarching National Environmental Management Act; the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act; National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act; the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act; the National Environmental Management: Integrated Coastal Management Act and the National Environmental Management: Waste Act.
Piggy bank for closures
In the case of National Environmental Management Act a number of changes are proposed, perhaps the most notable being ” to provide clarity to the definition of “financial provision” that an applicant or holder of an environmental authorisation relating to mining activities must set aside financial provision for progressive mitigation, mine closure and the management of post closure environmental impacts”.
NEMA generally provides that if environmental harm is authorised by law, such as a permit issued under any environmental law, the relevant operator is obliged to minimise and rectify such harm. Where a person fails to take reasonable measures to minimise or rectify effects of environmental pollution or degradation, the relevant authority may itself take such measures, and recover costs from the responsible operator. Failed mining operations apparently have presented government with little option but to use taxpayer’s money.
With the recent amendment to provide for liability for historical pollution any operator occupying land may also be liable in future for remediation costs under the NEMA: Waste Act equally and this is notwithstanding that the activity is authorised by permit. All five laws are designed to intertwine, the Management Act amendments say.
Mineral Resources only
Other changes under the National Environmental Management Act provide clarity that “the Minister responsible for mineral resources is also responsible for listed or specified activities that is or Is directly related to prospecting, exploration, extraction or primary processing of a mineral or petroleum resource.” Various other changes are proposed which should be read by parties affected.
The changes under the NEM: Protected Areas Act are relatively minor providing for the chief financial officer of the SANParks to be on the board; various new offences in marine protected areas and to clarify certain offences and procedures.
Again under the NEM: Biodiversity Act changes are proposed on board representation to include technical experts; steps, actions or methods to be undertaken to either control or eradicate listed invasive species and, importantly, to ensure that MECs in the provinces “must follow a consultation process when exercising legal powers” under the Act.
Air quality ; Who licences what
Under the NEM: Air Quality Act the issue of who does what is clarified for municipalities on listed unlawful activities and the proposals provide clarity on the issue of a provincial department responsible for environmental affairs is the licensing authority where a listed activity falls within the boundaries of more than one metropolitan municipality or more than one district municipality and to deal with appeal processes.
Other articles in this category or as background
NEMA: Waste Bill passed – ParlyReportSA
Environmental pace hots up – ParlyReportSATougher rules ahead with new evironmental Bill – ParlyReportCoastal environment bill proposals clearer – ParlyReport