Sasol’s appeal of the National Air Quality Officer’s (NAQO’s) July 11 refusal to approve an alternative approach for measuring the sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions from the 17 coal boilers at the group’s Secunda complex, in Mpumalanga, is being strongly opposed by shareholder activism organisation Just Share.
Sasol lodged an appeal with Environment Minister Barbara Creecy on July 30, after the NAQO declined its application to have the boilers’ SO2 emissions regulated, from April 1, 2025 onwards, using a load-based emission limit rather than the prevailing concentration-based emissions limit used for setting Minimum Emission Standards (MES).
Just Share disputes Sasol’s claim that this alternative approach, which involves turning boilers off rather than introducing technology to limit SO2 emissions, would double the reductions in SO2 emissions compared to the MES’s concentration-based regulation, claiming the opposite is true.
“Sasol’s attempts to persuade the Minister that it should be regulated according to a system that Sasol prefers, rather than the one set out in law, should be rejected,” Just Share climate change engagement director Robyn Hugo asserts.
She notes, too, the law’s stipulation that no facility can operate in non-compliance with the MES beyond March 31, 2025.
The organisation argues that granting Sasol’s application would violate the Constitution, the National Environmental Management Act, the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, and the 2017 National Framework for Air Quality Management in the Republic of South Africa.
Therefore, Just Share argues that the NAQO’s decision should be upheld, and Sasol’s appeal dismissed.
In a recent interview with Engineering News, president and CEO Fleetwood Grobler acknowledged that Sasol’s recent R36-billion impairment of Secunda assumed that the JSE-listed group would prevail in its appeal of the NAQO’s decision to decline its application.
Should the appeal fail, Grobler said the consequences would be “dire”, as it would result in the “phased shutdown” of Secunda, with significant economic consequences.
Just Share acknowledges that Sasol’s appeal makes much of Secunda’s important position in the South African economy “but does not explain why this position should mean that it can operate outside of the country’s legal framework”.
“In essence, Sasol is asking the Minister to excuse it from complying with the law.
“However, it would be neither appropriate nor lawful to provide Sasol with any special treatment in deciding this application,” Hugo argues.