A Critical Evaluation of the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) Section 24G: Retrospective Environmental Authorisation

Du Toit, Jessica (2016-03)

Thesis (MPA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: After the publication of groundbreaking texts such as “Silent Spring” (Rachel Carson, 1962), “The Tragedy of the Commons” (Garrett Hardin, 1968), and “The Population Bomb” (Paul Ehrlich, 1970), environmental issues came to the forefront of society’s concern. In response, many governments began enacting strong environmental protection laws. South Africa is no exception, with the promulgation of the Environment Conservation Act (ECA), Act 73 of 1989, and subsequently the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), Act 107 of 1998. Despite thorough environmental framework legislation, non-compliance with environmental law remains common in South Africa. The controversial Section 24G of NEMA, entitled “Consequences of unlawful commencement of activity” attempts to address environmental non-compliance. S 24G allows individuals and companies who illegally commenced with an environmental activity prior to obtaining the necessary environmental authorisations to apply for retrospective authorisation. The provision made for ex post facto (after the fact) environmental authorisation by s 24G is controversial, and a number of concerned individuals and environmental organisations have contested it. Concerns surrounding s 24G include the perception that s 24G leads to guaranteed environmental authorisation, and that s 24G can be used to save time by bypassing the traditional Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process. S 24G has been misused by companies who simply budget for the administrative fine and commence with illegal activities. In addition, many have argued that the administrative fine associated with s 24G is too low to constitute an effective deterrent. The purpose of this research is to investigate whether s 24G is an effective deterrent to prevent non-compliance with environmental law. Past research, as well as information obtained from the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEA&DP) is used to analyse trends in s 24G applications and make recommendations for improving the deterrence potential of this legislation. The findings of this research show that despite a consistent increase in the average administrative fine, the number of s 24G applications received by DEA&DP increases every year. However, it is argued that the number of s 24G applications received does not necessarily reflect an increase in environmental non-compliance, but an improved detection of environmental crimes. Most s 24G applications arise from ignorance. Therefore, although s 24G should be amended to increase its effectiveness as a deterrent, ignorance of environmental laws and regulations should be improved through compliance promotion.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Nadat innoverende tekste soos “Silent Spring” (Rachel Carson, 1962), “The Tragedy of the Commons” (Garrett Hardin, 1968), en “The Population Bomb” (Paul Ehrlich, 1970) gepubliseer is, het omgewingskwessies na die voorpunt van die samelewing se aandag gekom. In reaksie hierop het baie regerings sterk omgewingswette begin toepass. Suid-Afrika is geen uitsondering, met die promulgering van die Omgewingsbewaaringswet (OBW), Wet 73 van 1989, en daarna die Nasionale Omgewingsbestuurswet (NOBW), Wet 107 van 1998. Ten spyte van deeglike omgewings raamwerkwetgewing, bly nie-nakoming van die omgewingswet algemeen in Suid-Afrika. Die omstrede Artikel 24G van NOBW, getiteld “Consequences of unlawful commencement of activity” poog om omgewings nie-nakoming aan te spreek. Volgens a 24G kan individue en maatskappye wat onwettig begin met 'n omgewings aktiwiteit voor die verkryging van die nodige omgewingsmagtigings aansoek doen vir terugwerkende magtiging. Die voorsiening wat gemaak is vir ex post facto (na die feit) omgewingsmagtiging deur a 24G is omstrede, en 'n aantal besorgde individue en omgewings organisasies het dit betwis. Bekommernisse omliggend a 24G sluit in die persepsie dat a 24G lei tot gewaarborgde omgewingsmagtiging, en dat a 24G gebruik kan word om tyd te spaar deur om die tradisionele Omgewingsimpakstudie (OIS) proses te vermy. A 24G was al misbruik deur maatskappye wat net begroot vir die administratiewe boete en dan begin met onwettige aktiwiteite. Baie mense het ook al aangevoer dat die administratiewe boete wat verband is met a 24G te laag is om 'n doeltreffende afskrikmiddel te wees. Die doel van hierdie navorsing is om te ondersoek of a 24G 'n doeltreffende afskrikmiddel vir nie-nakoming van die omgewings reg is. Vorige navorsing, sowel as inligting wat verkry is van die Wes-Kaapse Departement van Omgewingsake en Stellenbosch University Ontwikkelingsbeplanning (DOS&OB) is gebruik om tendense in a 24G aansoeke te ontleed en aanbevelings te maak vir die verbetering van die afskrikking potensiaal van hierdie wetgewing. Die bevindinge van hierdie navorsing toon dat ten spyte van 'n konsekwente toename in die gemiddelde administratiewe boete, verhoog die aantal a 24G aansoeke wat deur die DOS&OB ontvang is elke jaar. Dit word egter aangevoer dat die getal a 24G aansoeke wat ontvang is nie noodwendig 'n toename in die omgewings nie-nakoming beteken nie, maar eerder 'n beter opsporing van omgewings misdade. Die meeste a 24G aansoeke kom van onkunde. Daarom, alhoewel a 24G gewysig moet word om ‘n meer doeltreffende afskrikmiddel te wees, moet onkunde van omgewingswette en regulasies verbeter word deur voldoening bevordering.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98805
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