Retiring Hazelwood, Australia’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power station, will have immediate health benefits for the local community in the Latrobe Valley, says Environmental Justice Australia in the wake of the power station operator’s announcement that it will close next year.
Environmental Justice Australia worked closely with Voices of the Valley to investigate the deaths from the Hazelwood mine fire pollution and is campaigning for national clean air laws.
95% of air pollution in the Latrobe Valley is from burning coal. It has been estimated that the air pollution from Hazelwood alone causes 18 premature deaths a year locally. The pollution emitted from coal-fired power stations causes and worsens asthma, respiratory problems and cancer, especially in children and the elderly.
“For too long, the health costs of generating Victoria’s electricity from brown coal have been unfairly dumped on the people of the Latrobe Valley, with the townships of Traralgon, Moe and Morwell home to Australia’s four most polluting coal-fired power stations,” said Nicola Rivers, lawyer with Environmental Justice Australia.
Collectively, the Hazelwood, Yallourn and Loy Yang A and B power stations emit more than 4 million kilograms of dangerous fine particle pollution (PM2.5), 79 million kilograms of nitrous oxides and 122 million kilograms of sulfur dioxide each year.
“Every tonne of pollution that is avoided will result in immediate health benefits such as lower asthma rates and fewer hospital visits. The entire Valley’s population of 125,000 will benefit once Hazelwood retires and clean energy like solar and wind take its place.”
“Ultimately, if we continue to use coal to generate electricity we will continue to create toxic pollution which kills Australians,” stated Ms Rivers. “There is no technology that can be applied to coal to avoid that. The only way to prevent deaths and disease is to move to renewable energy sources as a priority.”
“The people of the Latrobe Valley should not have to sacrifice their health, and the health of their families, for jobs. The Andrews and Turnbull governments must assist the transition to clean renewable energy in power station communities like the Latrobe Valley to ensure these health benefits are not accompanied by unemployment and social and economic disadvantage.”