Failure to report an environmental incident in terms of the national environmental legislation, or failure to respond to a directive in terms of an incident, are now offences liable on conviction to a maximum penalty of R1-million or a year in prison.
The National Environmental Laws Amendment Act applies to a number of environmental laws, giving enforcers, named Green Scorpions, more sting. Despite business opposition, the Act was passed by Parliament and has been assented to by the President.
The obligation on the Minister of Water and Environment to establish a national environmental advisory forum, has been removed, and replaced with a discretionary provision to establish any forum or advisory committee, reports the Chemicals and Allied Industries Association (CAIA).
Provision is now made for significant pollution or degradation that took place before the commencement of the Act, to be an offence. The forfeiture of assets contained in the National Environmental Management Act has been extended to all specific environmental acts, CAIA reminds the industry.
Jurisdiction to impose these penalties is assigned to magistrate’s courts. Should a directive issued in terms of the Act not be complied with, the national and provincial departments may apply to the courts for relief, which means that remedial measures can be undertaken at the direction of the court and the costs recovered from the polluter.