Final Submission to the SELECT COMMITTEE ON LAND & ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS - 24 August 2004

To the: SELECT COMMITTEE ON LAND & ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS

From: groundWork, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Sasolburg Air Quality Monitoring Committee, Boipatong Environmental Working Group, Table View Residents Association, Steel Valley Crisis Committee, African Genesis Heritage Environmental Club, Highveld East Community Environmental Monitoring Association, Vuka Environment Dot, Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Partnership, Earthlife Africa Cape Town, Durban:

on proposed addition to the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill [B62B-2003]

The enactment of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Bill is a milestone in the fight for clean air in South Africa. The proposed amendments to the Bill are a result of the above civil society organisations requesting the Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism in February 2004, to hold back the Bill and request the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) to amend the Bill.

On Thursday 12 August, DEAT presented the amendments to the Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism as requested. However, the DEAT included additional clauses 26-28, which will allow for the incineration of hazardous waste. [See attachment 1]

Wording “controlled fuels”

Another word for “controlled fuels” is “alternative fuels” and another more detailed understanding is “hazardous waste”. It must be stated up front that the word alternative fuels has been used by industry to influence government to allow for the incineration of hazardous waste, under the guise of a fuel to be burnt in a combustor.

Policy

Government does not have a policy on hazardous waste being used as fuels or a policy on the process of combusting. There is no mention made of “controlled fuels or alternative fuels” in the White Paper on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management of March 2000. This policy informs the air quality legislation. The National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS), which is the implementation process of the IPWM is delayed on timeframes for deliverables which could inform section 26-28, such as: Development of waste manifest system that tracks the waste from “cradle to grave” – which was to be completed in December 2003.


Provincial and local government concerns

The incineration of waste has in the past been seriously contested by civil society and government has recognised these concerns. The Metsimaholo (Sasolburg) Municipal Council and the Free State Provincial government vetoed a proposal to incinerate hazardous waste in Sasolburg.


Health

There is a strong body of scientific evidence indicating the negative impact on health due to waste incineration. The contamination from incinerators can release as many as 190 toxic chemicals into the air and is not restricted to a specific locality. Studies have shown areas as far as 1600 km are impacted. These chemicals bioaccumulate and circulate in the food chain. Incinerators have been shown to cause health effects resulting in the disruption of the hormonal, immune and reproductive

Civil society requests and failure to respond by government

The cement industry has been lobbying government vigorously to allow them to burn hazardous waste in their cement kilns. Civil society organisations such as groundWork have addressed in writing community concerns to the various persons in government since 3 October 2002 to as recent as 19 February 2004. There has been no substantive reply response to any of the requests to work with government on policy for:

- Alternative fuels including tyres, hazardous waste, etc;

- Government’s position on cement kiln incineration;

- Government position on hazardous waste incineration.

The inclusion in the legislation of a process allowing (for the setting of emissions standards) for the use of controlled fuels in a combustion process effectively pre-empts debate on whether such fuels and combustion processes are appropriate, necessary and without negative environmental and health impacts.

Industries, such as the cement industry, have been calling for the “alternative fuels” aka/ “controlled fuels” and have lobbied government extensively, going as far as taking the Deputy Minister of Environment to Europe to view this technology - a technology which we have neither agreed to nor debated in the context of policy formulation and strategy yet we now find it included in our legislation.

Conclusion

While we do believe that section 27-28 can be applied so as to manage the burning of substances which may include hazardous waste and thereby ensure that these wastes are not indiscriminately burnt, it is our opinion that the debate is being removed from the real concern of appropriate waste management at an industrial level. This should be aimed at reducing waste production. What this section rather does, is allow for the debate on waste to be fudged, and fuels to be confused with the debate on waste management. It will allow for less stringent waste management regimes, and will encourage waste production. The inclusion of S 27- 28 could arguably lead to the growth and development of inappropriate and potentially dangerous combustion processes that will demand ever increasing supplies of potentially hazardous fuels (waste) inputs thereby encouraging waste production rather than waste minimization, which is contrary to the White Paper on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management of March 2000 (see section 1.1; 1.3; and 4.1).

Concern around waste incineration is a global phenomenon. Civil society in the USA is presently challenging the USA government policy in order to exclude hazardous waste incineration as renewable energy process (http://www.no-burn.org/action/usrenwabletter.html).

We believe that the inclusion of these sections in the amendments short-circuits an important public discussion on whether the incineration/combustion of hazardous waste is an appropriate strategy for South Africa. Guided by the recognition in the National Environmental Management Act 1998: 1. “That the law should establish procedures and institutions to facilitate and promote public participation in environmental governance; and the principles within the act which call for participation and environmental justice, we have repeatedly asked various senior figures in government for their process on developing a position on alternative (controlled) fuels, and sought meaningful participation in this process, but to date have not received a response from government on this issue.

Our concern must be understood in a positive light. While we agree with approach of government to regulate all fuels in the context of air quality, we cannot agree to the apparent inclusion of hazardous waste as this has taken place unilaterally and without any form of consultation. If we have misunderstood the situation and government intends to engage in a proper consultation process around the use of hazardous and other waste as fuel, we would welcome a categorical statement to this effect from government that would set out a process to be followed and provide appropriate opportunity for the participation of all stakeholders.

We thus, call on government to:

1. Exclude section 26-28 until a policy is defined on this issue;

2. Specifically state that hazardous waste from industrial process is clearly omitted; or

3. That “substances” is further defined in section 1 (1) to exclude hazardous waste and tyres from industrial processes.

[1] Attachment One

Part 4: Controlled fuels

Controlled fuels

26. (1) The Minister or MEC may, by notice in the Gazette, declare a substance or mixture of substances which, when used as a fuel in a combustion process, result in atmospheric emissions which through ambient concentrations, bioaccumulation, deposition or in any other way, present a threat to health or the environment or which the Minister or MEC reasonably believes present such a threat, as a controlled fuel.

(2) Before publishing a notice in terms of subsection (1) or any amendment to the notice, the Minister or MEC must –

(a) follow a consultative process in accordance with sections 53 and 54;

(b) apply the precautionary principle contained in section 2(4)(a)(vii) of the National Environmental Management Act;

(c) take into account the Republic’s obligations in terms of any applicable international agreement; and

(d) consider –

i. any sound scientific information; and

ii. any risk assessments.

(3) Subsection (2) need not be complied with if the notice is amended in a non-substantive way.

Use and prohibition of controlled fuels

27. (1) A notice contemplated in section 26(1) may –

(i) establish standards for the use of the controlled fuel in combustion processes;

(ii) establish standards for the manufacture or sale of the controlled fuel;

(iii) prohibit the manufacture, sale or use of the controlled fuel;

(iv) differentiate between different geographical areas;

(v) provide for the phasing in of its provisions; and

(vi) be amended.

Consequences of declaration

28. (1) No person may manufacture, sell or use a controlled fuel unless that manufacture, sale or use complies with the standards established in terms of section 27.

(2) No person may manufacture, sell or use a prohibited controlled fuel unless that manufacture, sale or use complies with any conditions of manufacture, sale or use established in terms of section 27.

(3) Subsections (1) and (2) apply –

(a) nationwide in respect of a substance or mixture of substances declared by the Minister; or

(b) in a relevant province only in respect of a substance or mixture of substances declared by the MEC responsible for air quality in that province.