Environment Victoria launched a landmark legal action last year against the Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and three energy companies for failing to limit pollution from coal-burning power stations – the case will commence today in the Victorian Supreme Court.
Today’s Supreme Court case will be the first test of Victoria’s key climate legislation, the Climate Change Act 2017. It will also be the first to challenge the regulation of air pollution from Victoria’s coal-burning power stations.
Environment Victoria will argue that in amending three licences to power stations in the Latrobe Valley, the EPA failed to properly consider the law in making its decision on the amended licences, including on climate and air pollution.
“We have nation leading climate change legislation in Victoria that was put in place in 2017, but we believe the EPA ignored it when they amended these power station licences,” said Environment Victoria’s Policy and Advocacy Manager Bronya Lipski.
“The EPA is supposed to protect the public from environmental pollution but they’ve completely failed on the biggest environmental challenge of all – climate change.
“Coal-burning power stations are the biggest single source of climate pollution in Victoria, responsible for 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The three Latrobe Valley power stations pump out about 112,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere each day.
“While the EPA fines Victorians for dumping litter (and rightly so!), it’s been allowing these power stations to dump millions of tonnes of pollution into the air we breathe.
“Coal-fired power stations are the biggest single source of the air pollution most toxic to human health, including sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) fine particle pollution (PM2.5) and mercury.”
“A study in 2020 found that pollution from Victorian coal-burning power stations causes an estimated 205 premature deaths, 259 low birth-weight babies, and 4376 asthma symptoms in children each year.
“But currently the EPA is letting these power stations emit toxic pollution at levels that wouldn’t be allowed in the United States, Europe or China.”
“We believe the EPA has failed to protect the health of the community and the environment so we’re putting the matter before a judge to decide,” she said.
Environment Victoria is represented by leading public interest legal organisation, Environmental Justice Australia (EJA).
“This landmark case will be the first test of Victoria’s key climate change legislation, and the first to challenge the regulation of air pollution from Victoria’s coal-burning power stations,” EJA Senior Specialist Lawyer Charley Brumby-Rendell said.
“It’s vital that our laws are applied as intended – to protect community health and our environment. It is in the public interest that the EPA are held accountable, and their decisions are tested in court.
“If the case is successful, it could lead to much stronger pollution limits on power stations and reduce the health burden that coal-burning power stations have on our communities. And, it could set vital legal precedents with long-lasting impacts.”