Delta Electricity, the only company to have publicly declared an interest in buying AGL’s 46-year-old Liddell plant, has earned a ‘bad neighbour’ reputation by letting toxic coal dust from its Vales Point power station billow across nearby communities, Environmental Justice Australia said today.
EJA has grave concerns about the prospect of Delta Electricity purchasing Liddell in the Hunter Valley and the Loy Yang B power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.
“If Delta is allowed to purchase these two ageing and inefficient power stations, it will lock in this bad neighbour, which has demonstrated a disregard for community health and environmental regulations, as an energy player for decades to come,” said EJA’s Dr James Whelan.
“As we reported in Toxic and terminal, our recent stocktake of Australia’s major east coast power stations, Delta Electricity appears to be under-reporting to the National Pollutant Inventory and it still dumps coal from open trucks, letting the toxic coal dust blanket the surrounding suburbs.
“Delta’s Vales Point facility on the NSW central coast is the last coal-fired power station in Australia not to deliver coal on closed conveyors.
“On a hot, dry, windy day in February this year we visited Vales Point, Delta’s only coal-fired power plant, and observed a fleet of trucks dumping coal beside the power station.
“Coal dust was pouring off the pile and blowing onto the surrounding community.
“We immediately lodged a pollution complaint with EPA NSW, requesting an investigation.
“The EPA told us a new underground conveyor system was due to be operational at Vales Point by the end of April.
“Delta has provided several assurances that this extraordinary practice would be discontinued, but seven months later residents in nearby suburbs continue to be cloaked by toxic dust.
“Power station operators Engie and AGL have announced their intentions to transition from coal to renewable energy,” Dr Whelan said.
“This could signal the beginning of a planned national transition – or a fire sale where decrepit power generators are sold off to rogue operators with smaller reputations to defend.
“AGL, which plans to close Liddell in 2022, has presented Australian governments with a great opportunity to improve community health.
“Retiring Liddell would have an immediate and significant health benefit in the Hunter Valley, an air pollution hot spot where deadly fine particle pollution exceeds the national standard every year.”
Liddell is Australia’s oldest power station and emits more than 50 million kilograms of 30 toxic substances each year – substances that cause and contribute to asthma, lung cancer, heart attacks, stroke, respiratory disease, headaches and nausea in nearby communities.