Eskom to Be Charged With Misleading Regulator Over Pollution
(Bloomberg) -- Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., South Africa’s biggest polluter, said it will be charged with supplying misleading information to a government air quality officer, exceeding emission limits at the Kendal coal-fired power plant and breaching its Atmospheric Emission License.
The 4,116-megawatt facility had its pollution abatement equipment damaged during a 2018 strike and has since been the subject of a series of orders from the environment department mainly relating to the emission of particulate matter, which causes respiratory disease. Eskom said the case will be heard on Jan. 28.
Kendal’s problems have driven air pollution from the utility to a 20-year high. Eskom accounts for two-fifths of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions and a host of other pollutants including sulfur dioxide. The department has already ordered the partial closure of the plant so that remedial action can be taken.
“If the court actually follows the law and punishes the company for this violation, that would be a landmark,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst for the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, an independent research body. “Eskom has violated and ignored emission control requirements and deadlines with impunity so any step towards holding the company accountable would be a significant step forward.”
Eskom has in the past argued that closing Kendal would add to the country’s power supply woes. The utility produces almost all of South Africa’s electricity and is intermittently unable to meet demand, resulting in widespread power outages.
Kendal is the world’s largest indirect dry-cooled power plant, according to Eskom’s website. A dry-cooled facility uses less water than conventional wet-cooled coal-fired power plant.
The case was earlier reported by the Daily Maverick news website, which said the supply of misleading data is a criminal offense and that an Eskom internal probe found that Kendal regularly emitted 10 times more particulate matter than it is permitted to.
That pollution caused as many as 274 early deaths between the beginning of 2018 and October 2019, according to a report commissioned by Cape Town’s Centre for Environmental Rights, a group of lawyers that represents environmental activists.
“The fact that govt has acted on evidence of criminal conduct sends an important message to Eskom’s other stations,” said Timothy Lloyd, an attorney at the center.
The environment department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
While South Africa is a signatory to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the government is already subject to a legal challenge that will be heard in May over its alleged failure to curb pollution by Eskom and petrochemical company Sasol Ltd.
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