Law firm Webber Wentzel says that, in light of the current restrictions on movement of people in South Africa to curb the spread of Covid-19, various timeframes around environmental applications and others have been extended.
Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy on March 31 published new Disaster Management Act regulations. These regulations aim to ensure fair processes around licensing, public participation and appeals, reporting requirements and the provision of waste management services during the lockdown period.
The Minister extended the timeframes applicable in terms of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema), the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations, and in the National Environmental Management: Waste (Nemwa) and Air Quality Acts (Nemaqa), specifically.
The legislated timeframes are extended by the number of days of the duration of the lockdown period, including any extensions to such duration, with effect from March 27 until the termination of the lockdown, which is initially set for April 16.
The timeframes that have been extended by the Minister include those for EIAs, as well as the consultation and notification procedures around it, and the timeframes specified in the Nemwa and Nemaqa Acts relating to licences and environmental authorisations.
Particularly, the National Atmospheric Emissions regulations and the National Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting regulations prescribe a reporting deadline of March 31 each calendar year.
However, the date for the report submission is now set for April 30 this year.
“The directions further provide that where any of the licensing authorities, competent authorities or appeal authorities affected by these directions has publicly indicated that a different arrangement applies, such an arrangement will prevail over any arrangement indicated in these directions.
“The Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning has been the first to issue a circular and notice to extend the timeframes applicable in terms of Nema and the EIA Regulations affected by the lockdown period,” says Webber Wentzel.
The law firm concludes that, to the extent that this notice differs from the directions in any manner, it will preside in the Western Cape.
The extensions granted under the directions provide some much-needed clarity in light of the unprecedented disruptions posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.