South Africa’s government has asked for leave to appeal parts of a High Court ruling that ordered it to act against air pollution caused by Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. and Sasol Ltd. in a key industrial zone.
Environmental Affairs Minister Barbara Creecy, in an affidavit filed with the court, questioned the ruling’s interpretation of a section of the Air Quality Control Act that she has a duty, rather than discretion, to prescribe rules to implement and enforce anti-pollution regulations.
In her ruling, Judge Colleen Collis said Creecy had “unreasonably delayed” passing the regulations.
The so-called Deadly Air case, brought to court in 2019 by groundWork, an environmental-rights organization, and Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action was seen as a key test of the government’s resolve to deal with some of the world’s worst air pollution.
The Highveld Priority Area, which includes much of northeastern Mpumalanga province and part of the central Gauteng region, is the site of 12 coal-fired Eskom power plants, and an oil refinery and coal-to-fuel plant owned by Sasol.
A Greenpeace study conducted in 2018 showed Mpumalanga had the worst nitrogen-dioxide emissions from power plants of any area globally.
Together Eskom and Sasol emit more than half of South Africa’s greenhouse gases. The country is the 13th biggest source of the climate-warning emissions, according to Global Carbon Atlas.
Eskom produces more than 80% of South Africa’s power from coal-fired plants.
The plants also emit sulfur dioxide, mercury and fine particulate matter that cause illnesses ranging from asthma to lung cancer and contribute to birth defects, strokes and heart attacks.