Environment groups have called for Victoria’s climate change and pollution laws to be fixed after a court found the EPA’s decision not to limit greenhouse gas emissions, or set proper restrictions on toxic pollution from power stations, was legally valid.
Independent charity Environment Victoria, represented by Environmental Justice Australia, launched legal action in September 2021, challenging the EPA’s decision about pollution licences for three Latrobe Valley coal-burning power stations.
The case was the first test of Victoria’s Climate Change Act (2017), and the first time pollution from Victorian coal-fired power stations had been challenged in court.
Environment Victoria argued in an October hearing the EPA failed to properly consider the law in making its decision on the amended licences, including on climate and air pollution.
However, today Justice James Gorton ruled the EPA didn’t act unlawfully in making its decision.
Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said:
“This is a very disappointing decision and makes us question whether Victoria’s climate change laws are up to the task,”
“If the Climate Change Act doesn’t require limits to pollution from coal power stations – the biggest single source of emissions in the state – then it’s not really doing what the community expects and needs to be fixed.
“While the Andrews government is building publicly owned renewables through a revived State Electricity Commission these private coal companies are getting away with profiting off pollution that damages our climate and makes people sick.”
“Our laws must reflect the fact that climate change is already here and hurting communities, and if they’re failing to rein in emissions from the biggest polluters, that’s a serious flaw in their design.
“If Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority isn’t actually protecting the environment and community from the most harmful forms of pollution then it’s failing to live up to its name.
“Victoria’s coal power stations are now slated for closure by 2035 but that’s still over a decade of toxic air pollution making people sick. Victoria currently allows coal power stations to release levels of toxic pollution that would be illegal in countries such as the US and China, and this result lets them keep getting away with it and harming community health.”
EJA senior specialist lawyer Charley Brumby-Rendell said:
“This case was the first test of Victoria’s new Climate Change Act, and the first time pollution from Victorian coal-fired power stations was challenged in court. If this decision stands then these laws are not up to scratch and must be fixed,”
“We’ll work with Environment Victoria to consider the decision carefully and work out the next step in the fight for clean air and environmental justice.
“For years, the community has fought for justice. The EPA’s failure to properly regulate pollution and emissions from coal-fired power stations puts polluters before people, and flies in the face of the action we need to protect community health.
“The communities who will be most impacted by coal pollution and climate change must be able to have a say. If this decision stands then our environment laws don’t give communities a real voice – and this must urgently be fixed.”
Media contact: Kathryn Lewis, [email protected]