Environmentalists take municipality to court

06 May 2015

Environmentalists have turned to the Durban High Court to force the eThekwini Municipality to release oil companies Engen and Sapref’s atmospheric emission licenses and compliance reports.

The Durban South Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (Veja)‚ represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER)‚ had initially requested the records under the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

However‚ the municipality denied the request on the basis that the records contained trade secrets and disclosure could put the two oil refineries at a disadvantage in commercial competition.

But CER attorney Nicole Löser said the licences‚ which govern the amount of pollution industries can emit in the atmosphere‚ and the compliance reports did not contain trade secrets or commercially sensitive information.

Last year‚ a report titled “Slow Poison: Air pollution‚ public health and failing government”‚ accused the government of turning a blind eye to dangerous levels of air pollution while several communities were inhaling toxic fumes.

The report‚ released by environmental justice organisation groundWork‚ found that the government was failing to identify and take action against industrial polluters.

Last year‚ the Vaal community won its court battle for the disclosure of ArcelorMittal South Africa’s environmental records. The eThekwini Municipality has to file opposing papers by May 14.


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