South African Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, announced on Tuesday that several local firms have been awarded a reprieve for complying with the minimum emissions standards in terms of air quality laws, fin24 reported.

Molewa said that Eskom was among the reprieved who applied for temporary exemptions as they could not meet the deadlines to cut emissions set out by the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act.

“We received 37 applications from a range of facilities, namely Eskom, Sasol, Anglo American Platinum, PPC, and a number of refiners”, Molewa said. “Of these we have processed 35 applications and are still awaiting additional documentation from two applicants.

The new law states that firms can submit applications to have their deadline postponed for ‘their plants to meet current air quality standards by April 1 2015, and stricter standards for "new plants" by April 1 2020’.

Eskom submitted exemptions for 16 of its power plants to meet standards in terms of three pollutants - particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

The national air quality officer Thuli Mdluli said that “for PM all were declined for 2020, but in some of the plants - in three - we granted for 2015 only for PM. For SO2 they were operating in compliance - all of them - for the 2015 standards so we granted for 2020 for sulphur dioxide.”

Some of the stations are still in the process of putting in [place] low NOx burners so they were granted [postponements] from 2015 to 2020.”

The exemptions were granted to allow the applicants to install the correct technology and operate their plants efficiently to reduce the emissions of the three pollutants in order to comply with the standards.