Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) has welcomed a majority report of the Senate Environment and Communications Committee that highlights the health problems caused by burning coal and calls for a national plan to retire remaining coal-fired power stations.
The majority report, authored by the Greens, also recommends the establishment of a new authority to manage the transition for affected communities and a comprehensive and independent assessment of the health impacts of coal fired power stations.
Labor senators and Coalition senators on the committee produced separate reports.
The reports were tabled in the Senate on Wednesday evening – on the same day the last turbines were turned off at Hazelwood, Australia’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power station.
“The serious health impacts of coal-fired power stations have been ignored for decades in Australia,” said Nicola Rivers, EJA’s Director of Advocacy and Research.
“Asthma, lung cancer and respiratory illnesses are caused or made worse by the pollution that comes from coal-fired power stations.
“These toxic pollutants are breathed in every day by people who live close to power stations – and by people in capital cities many kilometres away.
“We are pleased a Senate committee report has acknowledged this and recommended clear steps to reduce power station pollution and move away from coal-fired power.
“The regulation of power stations in Victoria, Queensland, NSW and WA does not adequately protect people’s health, primarily because the regulations are not designed to protect human health, but to meet the needs of industry.
“The recommended comprehensive and independent assessment of the health impacts of coal-fired power stations should begin immediately.
“In Victoria’s Latrobe Valley – where three major coal-fired power stations still operate – and in Muswellbrook, NSW, where we hosted a community workshop last night, people are routinely exposed to fine particle pollution concentrations much higher than the national standards.
“There is an urgent need for a national plan to coordinate the transition away from coal-fired power and help affected communities through the time of change,” she said.