Persons who proceed without the required authorisation for atmospheric emission activities will now be required to apply for retrospective authorisation and could be liable for a maximum administrative fine of up to R5 million. This is according to Sandra Gore, Director in the Environmental Practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, who says that this is one of a number of amendments to the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act (AQ) that came into force on 19 May 2014.

Gore explains, “Should a person apply for retrospective authorisation, the competent authorities aregiven wide discretion as to what should be required from the applicant.  This may include ceasing all operations until authorisation is granted and requiring such a party to take steps to remediate any adverse effect of the activity on the environment, including human health,” she notes.

Gore notes that the National Prosecuting Authority may still institute criminal prosecution for conducting activities unlawfully, despite payment of the administrative fine. 

“Criminal penalties under the AQA are a maximum fine and imprisonment of up to R5 million and/or 5 years for a first offence (or both).  The decision to issue a retrospective authorisation to an applicant may be deferred until the National Prosecuting Authority decides whether to prosecute and criminal proceedings have been finalised.”

“Parties who do not obtain the required authorisation can therefore be liable to pay up to R10 million in fines,” she adds.