The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority has recommended stricter and more consistent pollution licences for the state’s five coal-fired power stations following a review of toxic pollution from power stations.
Environmental Justice Australia sparked the review 12 months ago by asking the EPA to investigate pollution reports from the five NSW power stations that appeared to be in error.
The report confirms the concerns raised in EJA’s complaint to the EPA and recommends sweeping changes to the Environment Protection Licences (EPLs) held by electricity generators.
The EPA proposes standardised EPLs so all five power stations have more consistent emission limits and obligations, as well as more consistent arrangements for monitoring and reporting air pollution.
At present Delta Electricity’s Vales Point power station is licenced to emit concentrations of fine particle pollution that are twice the level permitted for the Eraring power station just 25 kilometres away, while Vales Point’s mercury concentration limits are five times higher than Eraring’s.
“To date there has been no rhyme or reason to the EPA’s approach to licencing toxic pollution from power stations,” said EJA researcher Dr James Whelan.
“The power stations all have very different emission limits and all their licence limits are much weaker than those set by environmental regulators in the United States, Europe and China.
“Liddell is licenced to burn coal with twice the sulfur content of coal burnt at Eraring or Vales Point, suggesting these limits are set for available coal, not to protect health or the environment.
“By implementing the recommendations in this report, the EPA will begin to hold power generators to account for the toxic pollution they emit and provide some impetus for pollution control.”
Dr Ben Ewald, a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia, said sulfur dioxide and toxic fine particles travelled long distances.
“Around 17% of Sydney’s fine particle pollution comes from a coal fired power station, even though the nearest one is 100 kilometres away.
“What is shocking to me is that Mt Piper power station has no reporting limit requirement for sulfur dioxide, no limit on the sulfur content of the coal burned, and the nearby town of Lithgow has no EPA ambient air monitoring, so the local community has no idea what it is exposed to,” Dr Ewald said.
EJA and representatives of community groups from the Hunter Valley and Central Coast met with senior EPA officials on Thursday 3 May to follow up on these and other air pollution concerns.
NSW EPA report on review of emissions from power stations
EJA report Toxic and Terminal on problems with power stations and their pollution licences
It’s important that the EPA implements the 13 recommendations of its review. Pollution licences should be much stronger and more consistent. They should require pollution reduction and reward companies that do the right thing. Please take a moment to email the CEO of the NSW EPA, Anissa Levy, urging her to implement these changes and take this opportunity to clean up the air for communities near the power stations by setting much stricter pollution limits (as the EPA has power to do). And make sure you ask her what the timeframe for action will be. We’d love to see any responses you receive.
Together, we can reduce air pollution in Australia and enjoy healthier communities!