Environmental organisation Greenpeace Africa said on Monday that power utility Eskom was misleading the public and decision-makers by underestimating the health impacts of its coal-fired power stations, in a bid to avoid compliance with air-quality legislation.
Greenpeace was responding to the health impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis that Eskom compiled in support of its application for a postponement from complying with minimum emission standards (MES).
It is Eskom’s position that it would cost too much to comply with the MES, and that the costs of compliance outweighed the benefits, the environmental organisation said.
To respond to these claims, Greenpeace Africa commissioned international experts Dr Michael Holland and Dr Joseph Spadaro, who are specialised in health impact assessments and air pollution.
The experts undertook an independent review of Eskom’s report, following which Greenpeace Africa climate and energy senior campaign manager Melita Steele commented that Eskom was intentionally misleading the public.
She said that the independent review finds the opposite of what Eskom found; that the benefits of compliance would be far more significant than the costs. She added that Eskom’s methodology ignored international practice and substantially under-reported the health impacts of its power stations.
“The independent review found that the estimates of the benefits of Eskom’s compliance with MES should be greater by a factor of at least five.”
Greenpeace Africa said its review was necessitated by the air pollution crisis in Mpumalanga, the length of time that Eskom has had to comply, the flawed application for MES postponement and the thousands of premature deaths that will be caused if Eskom does not comply.